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Reflections from the One Ocean Expedition

A little over a month after setting sail from Ishigaki, Japan, on October 7 for a five-day voyage to the Philippines aboard the Statsraad Lehmkuhl as part of the One Ocean Expedition, our ten Odfjell'ers have since returned, waxing lyrical about their time at sea.

From left: Mary Ann Teoc, Bryan Anderson, Zayber Araya, Anette Kristine Tennes, Silje Helene Johnsen, Kristoffer Ramstad, Michelle Loeffler, Rodrigo Menegatti, Mephokazi Bhengu and Gabrielle Mattos Dias Michel. Photo by André Marton Pedersen/Statsraad Lehmkuhl.

Unsurprisingly, they learned a lot and had some great experiences during their stay on board one of the world's biggest and most beautiful tall ships, which is still sailing the world, spreading the word about the importance of ocean sustainability.

Some of our coworkers, like Mary Ann Teoc, Quality Controller Fleet Performance at Odfjell Management Philippines Inc, were simply amazed to stand on the original floors of a 108-year-old ship, while others were forced out of their comfort zones by sleeping in hammocks 1.5 meters off the ground or overcoming their fear of heights by climbing the tall masts.

Climbing the mast

The 108-year tall ship Statsraad Lehmkuhl is an impressive sight in Philippine waters

When people from diverse backgrounds interact, it fosters an ideal learning atmosphere

With 75 participants from 16 countries and four continents representing the marine value chain, the leg presented a melting pot of viewpoints, which Gabrielle Mattos Dias Michel, 2nd Officer of Odfjell's São Paulo subsidiary Flumar, now back aboard chemical tanker Flumar Brasil, was appreciative of.

She has asked to share her leadership course takeaways with her fellow sailors since she believes the teachings apply to any work team, including those at sea.

"I would highlight the experience of traveling, of living with people from a different culture, a different background than ours, and how this helps us to be more empathetic, tolerant of differences, and human," adds Gabrielle.

She was surprised that the sailboat rocked and pitched more than the tankers she usually sails, turning even the most experienced sailors green in the face in the first few hours.

"Diversity is something that is hyped and positive, but we don't often see the actual work that is required behind it," says Michelle Loeffler, Marine Superintendent at Odfjell Management AS, who also learned a lot about the policies at the other participating companies on the Maritime Bergen-organized leg, pointing to the supporting systems that exist for women at sea, for example.

We've caught Michelle and Business Analyst Silje Helene Johnsen as they are getting ready to give a presentation at a conference about their experience with One Ocean. "I quickly noticed that it's difficult to capture this experience where you were completely socially shut off from the outside world in this bubble exercise,” Michelle says of the challenge they faced in their preparations, going on to note that they nevertheless learned great things that could very well be implemented at Odfjell, such as a model of a team-building buddy system and an emotion-based leadership style.

The 75 sailors came from 16 countries and four continents, a wide range of maritime professions, age from 16 to 66, and a 45-55% gender balance.

Lesson on leading with emotion resonates

The particular takeaway from the leadership seminars onboard by professor Olav Kjellevold Olsen that emotional intelligence could be positively valued within the organization has clearly struck a chord with our colleagues.

According to Kristoffer Ramstad, Manager of Fleet Performance, it entails leaders being aware of their employees’ values, listening to them, and striving to understand, recognize, and include feelings in every goal-oriented arrangement, resulting in trust among colleagues and a resilient organization. In summary:

“If you can lead emotionally to include and to enable trust, you will get more productive workers.”

Leadership session with professor Olav Kjellevold Olsen.

Photos by André Marton Pedersen.

Rodrigo Menegatti, Operation Manager at Flumar, was moved by the leadership training and spent his first few days back at Flumar discussing how the experience had affected him: Listening to and trusting his subordinates and leaders in his personal and professional life, paving the way for greater trust in the workplace, and laying the foundation for more ideas and solutions for everyday chores, all of which are critical to breaking down silos among peers.

“I will take the lessons into my life with my family and also in the office with my coworkers. If we can efficiently form teams with strangers on Statsraad Lehmkuhl, we should be able to do it with colleagues in our department and across departments worldwide.”

The value of disconnecting

In addition to picking up helpful information on how to be better leaders and learning from peers from around the globe, there was also a benefit of learning the worth of being offline.

“It was so good being face-to-face and having direct talks without interference from emails, phone calls, and social media. We had deeper discussions. I'm more present, more available, more focused, and more curious because I'm not distracted,” shares Kristoffer of his time onboard with limited access to his phone and the internet.

This is a sentiment that was shared by Rodrigo as well. After being advised by a more experienced peer aboard One Ocean to refrain from reading emails immediately upon awakening, he anticipates striking a better balance between his job and his family in Brazil.

The unconventional course went beyond lectures and included four-hour shifts to man the ship's watch under supervision from its 20-strong crew.

Newfound passion and dynamism

Mephokazi Bhengu, a Commercial Assistant at Odfjell Mazibuko South Africa who was also profoundly impacted by the experience, expresses it well when she says:

"I literally came back a new person because now my view to life is completely different."

Since their return, the group appears to have undergone significant change, both on a personal and professional level, and they are eager to motivate their coworkers at Odfjell with fresh and innovative energy and ideas. We can anticipate great things from them as we continue to follow along on their journey. Rodrigo concludes that: 

"This was a unique group from various areas of the company, and we were really privileged to have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Odfjell has developed some strong leaders for the organization's future. The onboard chemistry, positive energy, and good collaboration; everyone was inspired by each other."

To read more about the expedition and our team, click here. The leg from Ishigaki to Manila was organized by the Norway-based maritime organizations Maritime Bergen, Bergen Shipowners’ Association, Norwegian Shipowners’ Association and Maritimt Forum. Here is their video summary of an eventful and very different week: 


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