Team Spotlight: Shipmaster Nicola Williams

Shipmaster Nicola Williams was recently recruited by Green Marine UK to skipper the Damen 2610 Twin Axe crew transfer vessel – Green Storm.

Having operated workboat vessels across UK windfarms since 2016, Nicola’s passion for seafaring was sparked at a young and through roles supporting seafarer charities including Lyme Regis Sea School and the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution).

“I was around ten years old when I remember first wanting to sail,” she said. “I was walking along the beach with my Mum and noticed the boats. I enrolled on a week-long sailing course during the summer holidays, and it all went from there.”

Securing the Slater’s Scholarship

Spending her youth on the water, Nicola progressed to fishing college in Dorset where she received basic seafarer training, from sailing skills and sea survival to firefighting. She went on to join the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) where she met a colleague working on windfarms.

“That was when I was first introduced to the commercial side of seafaring, and I went on to work as a deckhand for many years. From there I got my Yachtmaster qualifications and did some small boat skippering on projects around the UK, before entering the wind farm workboat sector as a Mate. I gradually worked the way up. A big moment was securing the Slater’s Scholarship (managed by the Marine Society with Nautilus International) which paid for a lot of my training including my Master 200 qualification.”

Nicola’s passion for the sea also led her into charitable work including management roles at the youth-focused Lyme Regis Sea School, affiliated with the RYA, delivering some of the best-respected watersports qualifications in the world.

“As a non-profit organisation all proceeds went back into training, equipment and bursaries for younger people. It’s a terrific organisation which believes passionately in the life-changing experience sailing can bring about in young people. I initially started as a teaching instructor but ended up running the centre as the registered Principal until covid hit in 2020.”

Women in Maritime

With women representing just 1.2% percent of the global seafarer workforce – according to the BIMCO/ICS 2021 Seafarer Workforce Report – Nicola believes more must be done to encourage females into maritime.

“From a workboat perspective, I’ve only ever met one other female skipper,” she said. “Certain firms are averse to hiring female crew members because they’re afraid it will change the dynamic of the operation. Thankfully, the industry is evolving and companies like Green Marine are demonstrating the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

“I don’t see why there aren’t more women in maritime. There really is no reason stopping them aside from misconceptions. It’s not a very physically demanding job where you’re carrying heavy items, we have cranes and lifting aids etc..”

A Life less ordinary

With a passion for travel, Nicola explains how her seafaring profession allows her to live a life less ordinary. She has managed to juggle work responsibilities with recent trips to the Galapagos Islands where she dived with hammerhead shark, alongside backpacking in the Caribbean, India, Bali, Cambodia and Vietnam. Next on the list are Borneo, Japan and Costa Rica.

“I’ve been afloat on the water since I was a teenager and sitting in an office has always seemed a bit boring,” she added. “I really enjoy the work pattern and I’ve become conditioned to long periods on duty combined with long periods of leave. This allows time to indulge in my passion for travel.”

Changing scenery, fresh challenges and new connections

In her recent role at Green Marine Nicola has especially enjoyed the ever-changing scenery and fresh challenges, while making new connections with clients and colleagues.

“I enjoy change,” said Nicola. “Every day is different, whether it’s the crew, the climate, the site or the season. In the morning you can sail out and there’s two hours of pitch black. At the same location later in the year it’s a completely different painting with the sun rising. Every day brings a new challenge. It’s never exactly the same as the day before. That is one of the best things about this job.”

The South African native most recently supported the NNG (Neart Na Gaoithe) offshore wind farm – which is under construction in the outer Firth of Forth, 30 kilometres north of Torness – making regular trips from Burntisland port. Key responsibilities alongside client relations include managing safety of crew and passengers, vessel upkeep and certifications.

“It’s an exciting time to join Green Marine,” said Nicola. “There’s a real feeling of momentum with the firm ramping up support for the UK’s rapidly expanding offshore renewables sector. There’s a huge opportunity on the doorstep with the world’s second-largest installed offshore wind capacity. I’ve practically circumnavigated the UK servicing these windfarms in a variety of workboat vessels, so it’s enjoyable using this experience to benefit Green Marine’s projects.”

Key services delivered by Green Marine vessels include crew transfers, offshore site surveys, cable installation and recovery, mooring installation and recovery, buoyage installation, towage and salvage.