Karen Walters


Canship Ugland Ltd.
St. John's, NL

Why did Karen choose this career area?

Karen grew up in St. John’s, and her knowledge of marine careers was limited to seeing ships tied up in the harbour. She attended an all-girls high school and did very well in all subjects. However, when she went to university she felt lost in the big classes and got disappointing grades. After a time, Karen decided to take a break from university and work fulltime.

After12 years working in retail, Karen became a District Manager for a large, national company. Although she had considerable responsibility, she wanted greater challenges. After some soul searching, she sought career advice and enrolled in a nautical program.

What’s Karen’s educational background?

Karen completed Marine Institute’s Nautical Science program. She enjoyed the courses and completed work terms on Maersk ships. After graduation, Karen earned a Bachelor of Maritime Studies from Marine Institute and a Ship Superintendence Diploma from Lloyd’s Maritime in London, UK.

What’s Karen’s job all about?

As a Nautical Science graduate, Karen worked as a 4th officer on the Great Lakes with Canada Shipping Lines. She worked aboard a bulk carrier and learned a lot about this type of vessel.

For family reasons, Karen wanted to spend more time at home; so she looked around for a shore-based job. In doing so, she was able to draw on her educational credentials, her watch-keeping mate level Transport Canada ticket, and her significant management skills. Karen was hired as assistant superintendent by Atlantic Towing, a company servicing the offshore from St. John’s. Because of experience in that kind of position, Karen was able to move to similar employment with Canship.

After a time, Karen was promoted to superintendent; her responsibility is for the bulk carrier Umiak. She is one of five superintendents in the St. John’s office, and she is the only female. Karen reports to the Fleet Manager.

Karen has full responsibility for day-to-day operational aspects of the Umiak in terms of budgets and contract performance requirements. She is the ship’s primary contact. The vessel sails between Quebec and Voisey’s Bay, and Karen frequently flies out to join the ship in one of her ports of call. When on board, she inspects the work being done, and she plays an active role when the vessel is undergoing repairs. Karen also meets with the ship’s owners as required.

Karen says that most superintendents have a chief engineer’s ticket. She credits her career success to her management experience, her sea time on a bulk carrier, and her ability to work with others. Karen offers strong shore support to the Umiak crew and makes sure she gets them whatever they need to get the job done.

What are Karen’s working conditions like?

Regular office hours are 9-5, Monday to Friday. However, Karen works flexible hours because she wears a cell phone 24/7. She’s always available when needed, and some days are long. Karen lives her work in that she is always connected.

What benefits are associated with Karen’s job?

The range for superintendent starting salaries is $75,000 -120,000. The money is great, working on shore is perfect for Karen at this stage of her life, and the duties are exciting. Karen enjoys travel within Canada and the job variety – and she still gets to spend at least a bit of time onboard ships.

What’s exciting or cool about Karen’s career area?

Karen is thrilled that going back to school worked out so well. Her education has really paid off, and she is using all the skills she gained from retail management.

With her little boy to pick up every afternoon at daycare, Karen is grateful that her career took this path to a job on shore. It’s excellent.

What advice would Karen give to people considering a marine transportation career?

Karen advises people to be open to new careers, to do what they enjoy, and to get the necessary education to take them where they want to be. In her experience, there’s no better way to get there than by ship.