Dhananjay Gokhale | Project Management Mentor
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Balutedar 01 - Ship Captain : Mahesh Junnarkar

Interesting interview conducted on Sunday 20th Oct 2013 by Dhananjay Gokhale | Summary by Abhijeet Pendharkar
For DVDs write to gita@dgonline.in

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1. The Shippie's Brief

Mission statement : Was to take the audience into a world they have never experienced before & show them what it takes to hold the ground where ground does not exist.

Mission Planner :
Dhananjay Gokhale

Mission Master :
Captain Mahesh Junnarkar

About the Master :

About the Journey : This was a journey into a world that most terrestrials (creatures living on land) like us are afraid to enter. However, with such an experienced veteran (as Mahesh) at the wheels, we could sit back, relax & enjoy the journey.

2. Taking Charge

Taking charge of a ship is very similar to taking possession of a new apartment. Both involve lots of checking & legal documentation. However there are two notable differences. Firstly, in case of a ship, if you don't take charge, the ship goes away (an apartment doesn't!). And secondly, in case of a ship, after taking charge, you get paid (an apartment costs!). Let's not bother ourselves with 'how much one gets paid (in shipping)'. Shipping industry does not believe in permanent employment. Obviously they couldn't. Only thing that is permanent at sea is the water in the sea. Apart from salary, there is also a difference in the way project management practices are applied in this profession. For example,

3. Taming the Beast

Good project management practice states that, for a project to be successful, the deliverables must be measurable. Little did we imagine that the measurements could be beyond our comprehension! For example,

How does Mahesh control such a mammoth, gigantic and monstrous deliverable?
Simple! He becomes the deliverable.

4. At the mercy of Mother Nature

Do you know the origin of the term 'project going for a toss'?
Yes. You guessed right. The shipping industry! Sometimes their deliverable literally goes for a toss during course of their project. But THY shall fear not. We have a master who is capable of steering the ship not only in the water but also on the dry land. Remember the Bhavnagar incident?
His ship was sitting on a huge pile of sand like a sitting duck. 75 Million dollars were at stake. His CO (joined by CE later) was an example of how a disaster uncovers what is underneath the skin. Extreme situation demanded 'force/direct' type of conflict resolution response. And how did Mahesh respond? He demonstrated what it takes to be a leader by locking up the crying babies & taking control of everything. No wonder he managed to steer the ship out of the dangerous situation eventually.

5. Social Responsibility

Everybody agrees that ethical code of conduct & social responsibility are a must in every profession, but you know...! In shipping industry, however, these factors mean a difference between life & death (of individuals, of the eco system & of the shipping company).
First response by the government agencies to a default on pollution is jail term to the higher rank. What follows after that (corrective measures, law suits & compensations) make the company turn into a Titanic.
Learning? Never ever allow your deliverable (cargo) to go out for a swim in the sea.

6. Do you have it in you? [be the vehicle that you're driving]

Did you ever get the feeling that your project is not moving the way you wanted (despite trying every trick in the book)? Mahesh has a solution.
Try becoming the project. When you become the project, the project becomes an extension of you. And then you start treating the project the way you treat yourself. If something goes wrong in the project, you react as if something is going wrong with yourself. And then the buck stops at yourself.
This is what ship captains do, this is what aeroplane pilots do, this is what fighter pilots do, and this is what train drivers do.
May be! But these guys are trained professionals. Is such a thing possible for poor souls like us? Well, we have just tried to know what we didn't know. As a result, we have a problem at hand. Think about the solution. When you think about the solution, the solution becomes bigger & problem gets smaller.

7. Competency: Tripod for life

Shipping brought the foundational competencies in Mahesh's life.

8. Letter from a Lonely Sailor

A letter from a lonely sailor to prospective bride's father:
O Father of the Bride, This lucky I am to be writing to you today. Allow me present to you myself Lonely Sailor. Me naught a pirate but just a humble sailor. There be the age to marry. There be the good pay. There be the sail to the world of the worlds. Risky ye say? Aye, tis a gamble of long odds, but the sea shows us for what us really are. Drinkin' ye ask? Violation of the Code, 'tis. Home at all port ye fear? Me naught off the age of map. And ye look at these all. Last 6 moons, Me be at the sea, now shore I come. Ye please be inclined to acquiesce to my request of meet.
Faithfully Yours,
Lonely Sailor

9. Poor terrestrials trying to comprehend (Open Q&A)

Q. Traffic is a big complexity in Pune & many other cities. How is the traffic in the sea?
A. In some ports like Singapore, even ships encounter bumper to bumper traffic. However in deep seas, it's a lonely voyage. [Author's note: Ships do not have bumper protection strips like our cars do.]
Q. How do we stop the ship?
A. Ships don't stop like cars do. A small size ship requires 1.8KM to stop. Even with reverse propulsion, it cannot stop before 0.9KM. [Author's note: Ships don't come with an ABS & safety bags].
Q. Are there any female masters?
A. Yes. Mahesh did interact with one. When asked how life on ship is, she said "Mahesh, you are lucky because your cargo does not talk back!". She was the master of a passenger vessel.
Q. Any lessons learnt from Bhavnagar incident?
A. Yes. The port was closed for 7 days after the incident. The port officer who misjudged the severity of the situation lost his job.
Q. How accurate are the weather forecasts?
A. Weather forecasts attempt to provide warnings. But weather cannot be predicted. There is always a difference (of about 60%) between what is forecasted & what actually happens. Mainly because weather forecasts are based on three dimensional data (x, y & z axis) where as life at sea operates in 6 dimensions. Hence Expert Judgement with 6th sense matters.
Q. How is security of consignments handled?
A. Mahesh had an encounter with pirates at Lagos. 'If anyone is stealing, let them' is the policy. Human lives are more precious than the cargo. Besides, shippies are not supposed to be commandos.
Q. Is there favouritism in confidential reports (CRs)?
A. Confidential Reports speak a lot about the masters who prepare them. If there is no principle mistake, there is no interference. As a policy, there is no favouritism, racism in shipping industry.
Q. How do anchors stop or hold the ship in position?
A. Anchors do not stop or hold the ship in a position. Ship floats by itself. Anchors just negate the forces acting on ship (such as waves, currents or winds).
Q. Is there an effect of projections in the movie Titanic?
A. Yes. Before Titanic, people used to make unsinkable ships. After titanic, they stopped making unsinkable ships.