If the rumour is true, by the time this article is published, Captain R.C.E. (Bob) Kitching will have retired…for the second time. As President and Managing Partner of Western Maritime Institute for the past 17 years, and Associate Dean of the BCIT Marine Campus for about 10 years prior to that (and all of this following 30-plus years at ports and terminals throughout Canada), few in the industry have as much knowledge as Bob when it comes to Canada’s marine training regime. So before he follows through on the threat of sailing into retirement, we thought it best to get some of that knowledge down on paper.
BCSN: Tell me about the early days — how’d you get your start in the marine industry?
BK: I started my cadet training in 1955 aboard the training ship HMS Worcester. My first sea-going job was with the British India Steam Navigation Company, part of P&O Group in those days, where I served my apprenticeship stationed in India. I stayed with the company up to 1964, when I sat my Masters Certificate. I was 24 by that time.
After attending the University of Southampton in 1967, I joined a Panamanian tanker company for one tour of nine months. This was the year of the 1967 Arab-Israel War and the ship I was on was one of the last through the canal before it was closed.
I left the ship in Gothenburg at the end of my tour and came to Canada. Canada was only supposed to be a holiday and a visit to Expo 67 in Montreal, but I ended up staying, 50 years this September. I was offered a job as Mate relieving Master of the Coast Guard vessel Vector (then Mines and Technical Services) but a freeze on hiring within the civil service scuttled those plans so I joined Vancouver Tug (before it became Seaspan) where I stayed for about 18 months, moving to Alaska Cruise Lines as a mate for the summer.
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