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Claudia Grant - passionate about the maritime industry

Published:Tuesday | February 17, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Claudia Grant

Claudia Grant - passionate about the maritime industry

After almost 30 years in the shipping industry, there is nothing Claudia Grant would change about her career choice.

If she could do it all again, she would have opted to be a seafarer. However, inevitably, the deputy director general of the Maritime Authority of Jamaica (MAJ) would dedicate her time to the development of Jamaica's shipping industry.

This wasn't always her dream. Growing up in Jamaica's capital, the Kingston Technical High School past student dreamt of becoming an accountant. She was well on her way to achieving that goal when she commenced her bachelor's degree in management studies at the University of the West Indies, Mona.

Things would change in 1985 when her internship programme took her to Kingston Terminal Operators (KTO), (now KCT Services Ltd). In her own words, she was "bitten by the bug" and has never recovered.

After completing her degree, she was offered the position of accounting clerk at KTO in 1996. After three years in the post, she longed for a change. After sharing this information with her boss, Warren Sweeny, he offered her the opportunity to pursue studies at the World Maritime University (WMU) in Sweden.

Excited by the prospect of learning more about the shipping side of the business, she accepted the offer and journeyed to Sweden where she studied for a master's degree in port and shipping administration.

Of the experience in Sweden, she said, "The work programme was exciting! We were exposed to every angle of shipping. When you leave the WMU, you are able to fit into any aspect of the shipping industry. That is the nature of the training that you receive."

On returning to Jamaica in 1992, Grant was eager to utilise her new-found knowledge to the benefit of her homeland. The opportunity to transition did not immediately materialise. After six months, she accepted a job offer from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to work as the officer with responsibility for maritime transportation at its headquarters in Guyana.

During her time with CARICOM, Grant travelled to member states conducting studies on the maritime industry to identify weaknesses and implement measures to strengthen those areas.

Grant's work with CARICOM led her to realise the weaknesses in her homeland and she longed to make a difference.

Her chance would come in 1996 when she accepted a job offer in the then Ministry of Public Utilities and Transport to serve as director of maritime services.

"I had the opportunity to work on the Shipping Act, which had been languishing for some 20 years," Grant said.

See Part 2 next week.

Her proudest moment would come when she was named to the working team to get Jamaica on the International Maritime Organisation's (IMO) 'white list', to allow the country to continue to train seafarers whose certification would be recognised worldwide.

The five-man team worked on the project for a year before submitting the relevant paperwork to the IMO.

"When the first list was published, Jamaica was on the list," she said proudly.

When the Government of Jamaica established the interim maritime administration, she was named senior director and, on the agency being named the Maritime Authority of Jamaica, she was appointed deputy director general.

At MAJ, Grant has worked on many projects aimed at improving Jamaica's maritime industry. She is a member of the IMO's regional audit team that conducts audits of member states, regarding the implementation of treaties to which they are signatories. Additionally, she represents Jamaica on the Implementation of IMO Instruments (III) Sub-Committee.

Grant thoroughly enjoys her job at MAJ.

"It's exciting. The MAJ is a small organisation when compared to the others. We have a small team and we tend to huddle, especially when it comes to policy matters," Grant said, noting that with the broad scope that the MAJ oversees, there's always something new to work on.

On her success in the industry, Grant said she never let the concept of the 'boys' club' intimidate her.

"I grew up with boys and I was always comfortable in their presence," she said.

Her advice to young women who desire to join the industry, and for those already in it, is to work hard and focus on educating themselves.

"Educate yourself, keep up-to-date on changes in the industry, be on the cutting edge, trade on your skills and remain professional," she advised.

Women, she said, should not be daunted by the concept of the 'boys' club' but should instead focus more on their contribution. With valuable contribution, she pointed out, the recognition will come.

The self-proclaimed housewife at heart is married to Dawit and dedicates her time to giving back to her community through her church, Pentecostal Tabernacle, where she serves on the Project Hope Foundation Board.