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Brookes Bell appoints its first female master mariner consultant

Karley Smith

Posted on June 20, 2022

Liverpool, U.K., headquartered consultancy Brookes Bell has appointed Karley Smith as its first female master mariner consultant.

The firm offers a range of master mariner services, employing a team of master mariners with a broad range of collective experience. Smith, who joins Brookes Bell after 16 years at sea, will be working with the team to investigate and help solve maritime disputes and provide advice for legal cases.

Smith’s seagoing career includes 11 years working in the offshore oil and gas industry where she qualified as a dynamic positioning operator/ and most recently, in the private superyacht sector, where she worked as a chief officer.

Smith says she admits that she never intended to go to sea, but while her brother was Lancaster University’s Fleetwood Nautical Campus she reconsidered her career options. As a result, she applied for a foundation degree course and a sponsored cadetship working on tankers and nuclear fuel carriers.

On the completion of her cadetship, she was awarded the U.K. Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s Officer Trainee of the Year Award for 2010 and went on to continue her studies, achieving a First Class BSc (Hons) in Nautical Science at Liverpool John Moores University.

Her first seagoing role was with Stena Line, from there she joined Sealion Shipping working in the offshore oil and gas sector initially in the North Sea. She later joined Subsea 7 working in the North Sea, Canada and West Africa. From Subsea 7, she joined Stena Drilling after earning her master mariner qualification and worked on projects in West Africa and South America.

Most recently, when offered the opportunity to join a newbuild project on a 140 meter motor yacht in Bremerhaven, she led the bridge and navigation equipment commissioning and acceptance tests.

“It was an interesting opportunity,” says Smith. “None of the other crew had my DPO experience or commercial background and although I really enjoyed the project it solidified my desire to come ashore. I’ve been a part time lecturer at Fleetwood Nautical Campus for the last seven years, writing course content material, writing and marking exams and now I am excited to combine my specialist operational experience and my theoretical expertise to learn new skills examining, investigating and advising on maritime accidents and disputes.”

“I’ve really enjoyed my time at sea, but now I am looking forward to new challenges and using my specialist operational experience in new ways,” adds Smith. “I would thoroughly recommend a career at sea to any female, I’ve had a fantastic sea-going career with so many varied opportunities. It has opened, and continues to open, so many doors.”

“Karley brings with her an exceptional range of knowledge and experience from her seagoing career,” says Adrian Scales, director of nautical at Brookes Bell adds: She is extremely knowledgeable in both ECDIS and dynamic positioning operations and has sailed on a wide range of vessels, from superyachts, to deep-water drillships, diving support vessels, multi-purpose ROV, platform supply vessels, RO/RO, product tankers and nuclear fuel carriers.

Women in maritime are still hugely under-represented, but Karley’s career as a master mariner does show times are changing. Looking forward there should be no limit to anyone – male or female – building a career in this sector onshore or at sea, and I am delighted to welcome Karley to the team.”


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