Meet the Team
By their very nature, seafarers travel the world and face the unenviable challenge of confronting all kinds of climates and weather from one week to the next.
For Graham Hill, Senior Master Mariner at Brookes Bell’s office in Glasgow, his at-sea background meant different climates, both hot and cold, brought both trials and experiences that still sit with him to this day.
“I think, like most people, I prefer warmer areas to colder ones. I spent several years running up and down the Amazon River in Brazil as a Chief Officer, which was one of my favourite routes, but conversely I spent a lot of time navigating icy routes in eastern Canada, operating in -40°C weather,” he said.
Graham joined Brookes Bell in July 2012 following an extensive 23-year-long seagoing career on board a number of vessel types, including bulk carriers, container vessels, passenger vessels, oil tankers, gas tankers, refrigerated vessels and general cargo vessels.
“I spent a lot of time on bulk carriers but I did enjoy working on reefers, transporting cargo from Central America to Europe and North America.
While each vessel type had its unique set of challenges, for Graham it was his work onboard oil-bulk-ore (OBO) carriers that stood out to him.
“I spent more than 20 years working with Denholm Ship Management, spending time onboard vessels before today’s STCW requirements were enforced. It was during this time that I sailed on OBOs. They were invariably old, invariably rusted and incredibly difficult to work on. You could have oil in the cargo hold on one trip and coal on the next. During one voyage, we even had oil in the hold, followed by soyabeans on the next. That resulted in an extensive amount of cleaning and hard work to get the vessel ready to store food products,” he noted.
Although his at-sea work has drawn to a close, Graham’s position as one of Brookes Bell’s leading marine surveyors and consultants continues to see him travel the world, lending his experience to some of the industry’s most notable accidents. Some of his work includes his assistance on the MSC Flaminia case in 2012, which saw the vessel and some its cargo catch fire in the Pacific Ocean; the ONE Apus incident in 2020, which resulted in the largest loss of containers in transport in nearly a decade; and the Sewol ferry disaster in 2014, which saw more than 250 schoolchildren lose their lives.
“Every attendance is different. While the big ones will often dominate the headlines and occupy us for months at a time, these do not detract from the small two or three day incidents that are often just as interesting. We’re always trying to find that ‘eureka’ moment every time we step on board. Sometimes it is obvious what resulted in an incident but often I find myself trying to piece the puzzle together, laying out the scenario in my mind and coming to the correct conclusion.”
Despite his vast knowledge built up from more than a decade of experience as a Master Mariner, complemented by his extensive at-sea background, Graham is keen to point out how he is always learning new things from each incident he either attends or assists with.
“You learn things from every incident you’re involved with. I’m still learning new things. ‘Every day is a school day’ they say.”
Speaking about some of his current work, Graham highlighted his recent work onboard a bulk carrier carrying palm kernel shells that was unusually emitting methane.
“I spent four months onboard, assisting crew and monitoring the cargo. We had to come up with an arrangement to inert the cargo holds, which bulk carriers are not designed to do. We had to design a nitrogen system to purge the hold and lower the oxygen content. Everything that any tanker man would understand, we were having to do in a bulk carrier and that is what made this incident so unique.
“That is what makes the work that Brookes Bell does so invaluable. Because of this incident we tried to get IMO regulations amended to account for cargo incidents like this in the future. It was an incident that could have been catastrophic. Once we were able to lay out what the issue was and how to tackle it, everyone fully understood what to do, how to do it and why we were doing it.”
Earlier this year, Graham returned to Scotland following 10 years in Hong Kong and he pointed out how this is another example of how he has had to adapt to another dramatic climate change.
“I’m having to get used to a whole new way of life now, particularly the climate. I loved to kayak in my spare time in Hong Kong, particularly with my friends and family, but I think I’ll have to wait until the warmer months until I brave the seas off Scotland in my kayak!”
- Graham Hill