Ben made his first move into a fishing career when, aged 17, he was one of the first participants in Sealord’s work experience scheme.
That was enough to convince Ben that fishing was a good career choice so he gained a Sealord-sponsored place at the Westport Deep Sea Fishing School and joined the Aoraki as a cadet for eight weeks after graduating from the school.
From that point Ben steadily worked his way up through the ranks to his current role as First Mate on the Tokatu – the second most important officer on a ship. He is also the proud holder of a new skipper’s ticket.
“I decided I wanted to gain all the tickets I could,” says Ben.
“I’d spent trip after trip in the Southern Ocean in horizontal rain and snow putting gear back together, all the while looking up at the guys in the bridge thinking ‘that’s the job I want!’”
The rise from student to holding a skipper’s ticket has involved many steps and multidisciplinary workplace experience. He started on the factory weigh station, moving on to a deckhand role on the Aoraki – but not before meeting the Aoraki skipper’s requirement that he work at the Sealord net shed for a year on his trips off.
Ben’s next vessel was the Taimania, then the Parangi where he achieved his deckhand ticket, offshore watchkeeper ticket and first mate ticket. With his first mate ticket in hand there was no looking back – several vessels later, Ben was appointed first mate to skipper Rex Chapman aboard the new, state-of-the-art Tokatu. He was also thrilled to participate in the Tokatu’s design and commissioning.
It's been a steep rise in the ranks for Ben, and he emphasises that good things take time. It’s been a 20-year journey from his school leaver’s work experience programme to his skipper’s ticket, with Sealord’s support and sponsorship along the way for their committed employee.