Pirate hunter: Not Your Everyday Job series
Job title: Maritime Security Operator
Time in occupation: Three years
First job: Royal Marines Commando
Education: GCSEs then Military and Security qualifications
For a 26-year-old, Michael has a breath-taking library of tales from his many travels and operations – the likes of which could only be rivaled by someone triple his age. He fought front line and now protects merchant vessels to earn his keep: casual.
So, knowing just how militarily straight to the point he is, and how much of a life he has lived, Michael and I sat down to talk about his time as a maritime security operator (the very boring, very official way of saying what I prefer to call ‘pirate hunter’).
Chloe: Your job title is explicit yet ambiguous. What kind of things do you do day-to-day in your role as Maritime Security Operator?
Michael: I protect merchant vessels transiting through the high-risk areas of the ocean from potential pirate attacks and hijacks. We do this in a variety of ways including using barbed wire, water cannons and, if necessary, welding doors shut. I suppose for the main bulk of time though I stalk the decks of the assigned ship with the sun beaming down and a gun hanging over my torso to warn off any nearby pirates. Flash your gun, and they normally leave you alone.
Chloe: It is a niche job to say the least. So, aside from owning brag rights to the line ‘I’m a pirate hunter’, are there actually any perks to such a high-risk job?
Michael: Well, for me, the assurance of only working with former Royal Marines, thus being the upmost professional at all times, is a definite highlight. Plus, due to the nature of the job I get a tax-free salary and only work for six months of the year. Being an ex-Marine who has been all around the world in the past decade or so, it’s great to be able to keep up the travelling too.
Chloe: You’re making it sound like a dream job here; surely there are some low points too?
Michael: Without doubt. The salary is dropping every six months. There are long waiting times between each job. Plus, although getting to see the world is a great opportunity, the constant commute to work – aka a twelve-hour flight, and some – is not ideal. The ships are also poorly maintained serving up some really gross food.
Chloe: From what you said about only working alongside former Royal Marines I’m guessing you couldn’t just walk off the street and into this role. How did you manage to get the position?
Michael: Exactly, only former Marines are employed by these security firms and, luckily for me, I had all of the operational experience required having been on the front line on multiple occasions. It really isn’t a walk in the park. Firstly, to get into the Marines it takes 32 weeks of training and a gruelling test at the end, hence the tag line: ‘99.9% need not apply’. Then, once you’re in you have to spend time climbing the ranks and going out on operations to get the experience needed. It’s high level stuff. On paper it may seem a simple route, but in practice it is incredibly hard to reach this standard.
Chloe: So, this seems more like a door opened to you by your previous experience as opposed to a lifelong aspiration then?
Michael: Yes, my only aspiration when growing up was to join the Royal Marines, and afterwards maritime security became both the obvious and natural career path, especially as the salary was quadruple that of the Marines with much less risk involved.
Chloe: Finally then Michael, having stopped your educational career after attaining your GCSEs and diving head first into an action-packed job, what piece of advice would you give to current students yet to take such a leap?
Michael: Join the military, gain some invaluable life experience and interpersonal skills that will help you in day-to-day civilian life.
Disclaimer: My inner child prefers the title ‘pirate hunter’ but Michael, nor any other Maritime Security Operators, in no way, shape or form ‘hunt’ pirates. They defend vessels against them.
Photo: photologue_np / Flickr