From ship captain to director of Singapore’s renowned maritime academy

Singapore is an island city that gained much of its economic success from its advantageous geographical location. Back in the 1800s, it was the main port of call for trade and commerce between the Chinese, European and Indonesian archipelago, and has grown to become the world’s second busiest port in terms of container volume. 

Our reliance on the maritime sector has spurred the establishment of the Singapore Maritime Academy (SMA), a leading maritime education and training institution in Singapore. Established in 1957, the SMA offers courses and programs in various areas of the maritime industry, including navigation, marine engineering, maritime business, and maritime technology. 

The SMA is currently helmed by Captain Chatur Wahyu, a seasoned and accredited maritime industry leader. He also holds the Master Mariner (Foreign-Going) qualification issued by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), which allows him to serve as the Master (Captain) of a ship of any size or type, including ocean-going vessels.

A siren’s call to the waters

Capt. Wahyu’s nautical journey started as a deck cadet with Neptune Shipmanagement Services (NSSPL) in 1987, before being appointed as a chief officer in 1996. As a deck cadet, he played a vital role in planning and executing the safe passage of the ship, as well as the cargo logistics. He then served as a ship captain with Ocean Bridge Shipping in 1999, before finding his calling as an educator as he embarked on a lectureship position with the SMA in 2000.

For Capt. Wahyu, his passion for the maritime sector was brought by the opportunities to travel to different countries and explore diverse cultures. However, he decided to take a gamble and pursue a different track from many of his peers – through cultivating the next generation of seafarers that would elevate Singapore’s maritime sector to new heights. 

On why he decided to pursue a career in academia, the 57-year-old shared that whilst highly rewarding, a seafaring career often involves long periods away from home, resulting in lesser time spent with his family. Capt. Wahyu also knew the importance of the maritime industry in Singapore, and wanted to cultivate the next generations of seafarers as the country asserts its dominance as a global leader in the maritime sector. 

“Singapore has invested heavily in port infrastructure, technology, and human capital development to maintain its competitiveness. The government has also implemented various measures to promote innovation, sustainability, and digitalization in the industry, allowing us to remain a vital contributor to the country’s economy and a key player in the global maritime ecosystem.”

A venture that paid off

Capt. Wahyu’s foray into the education sector paid off, as shown from the many accolades that he received as an educator during his tenure. In 2005, he received an Excellence in Teaching Award from Singapore Polytechnic, and even served as an Elected Member of the Board of Studies of Singapore Polytechnic from 2012 to 2016.

“Pursuing education and continually expanding my knowledge and skills have led me to incredible opportunities and personal growth. It is especially rewarding when I can use my expertise to make a positive impact in my field, such as developing curriculum courses that address the specific needs of the maritime sector.”

For many aspiring students in the maritime industry, little do they know that many part-time diploma and post-diploma courses offered by the Singapore Polytechnic and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) have been carefully curated and pieced together by Capt. Wahyu, ensuring that the courses offered relevance and a holistic purview of the industry, enabling graduates to stay competitive amongst their peers. 

A servitude towards greater good

Apart from his significant contributions towards Singapore’s academic landscape in the maritime sector, Capt. Wahyu has also served on many esteemed boards and councils in the industry, such as the Singapore Nautical Institute (SNI) in 2003, and the Marine Offshore Oil & Gas Association Singapore (MOOGAS) in 2016. 

Apart from his Master Mariner qualification, Capt. Wahyu also obtained a Master’s Degree in Maritime Laws (LLM) from Southampton University, England.

On why he chose to pursue a degree in maritime law, he said: “I had reached a point in my career where I feel the need for personal growth and new challenges. Studying maritime law allows me to expand my skill set and engage in a different form of intellectual and personal fulfilment. It allows me to delve into the legal aspects of the industry and gain a comprehensive understanding of the regulations and practices that govern it.”

He gives back to society by mediating several disputes at the Small Claim Tribunal in the State Courts and Syariah Court on a pro bono basis, while serving as an active Associate Mediator for the Singapore Mediation Centre (SMC). 

“I have a genuine passion for helping people resolve conflicts and find common ground. I did this regularly when I was serving as a captain on board the ship whilst working with crew of different nationalities and culture. I do have a strong belief in peaceful communication and enjoy facilitating constructive conversations between parties.

“As voluntary mediators, we contribute to the larger goal of promoting peace and harmony in society by helping individuals and groups resolve conflicts constructively.”

From master (captain) to director

Today, Capt. Wahyu holds the position of director of the SMA, where he oversees the day-to-day operations and development of the academy. 

“I would be responsible for identifying areas for growth and formulating strategies to positing the academy as a leading institution in maritime education and training. I would also oversee the design and development of curricula, through collaborating with industry experts, faculty members, and relevant stakeholders.”

He shares how he ensures that the SMA as an educational institution for aspiring maritime students stays competitive – through constant course refreshers and facility upgrades to keep with technological advancements. 

“We believe that innovation is the key focus in developing future capabilities and technology and the future of the maritime industry on emerging technologies such as fully autonomous vessels and systems, robotics, data analytics, and artificial intelligence.”

Steering the leading academy in maritime sector

The SMA offers a myriad of courses, from three full-time diploma courses in Marine Engineering, Maritime Business, and Nautical Studies to three part-time post-diploma courses in Maritime Superintendency, Maritime Business and Management, and Maritime and Offshore Management. 

Apart from MOE diploma and post-diploma courses, the SMA also provides work-study programs (WSP) and professional courses, such as the CoC (Certificate of Competency) and STCW (International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers) courses for deck and engineering officers.

Capt. Wahyu also shared that success of the SMA is also due to its strong accreditations by various international bodies, including the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), and the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA). This ensures that the academy’s courses and programs meet international standards and are recognized by employers worldwide. 

For him, his next steps as director of the SMA would be to improve the quality and reputation of SMA by focusing on academic excellence. 

“I would like to foster strong partnerships with maritime industry stakeholders such as shipping companies, maritime organizations and prestigious maritime academies from around the world. This collaboration can lead to valuable opportunities for internships, industrial attachments, sharing of best practices, undertake research projects and participate in exchange programs for my staff and students.”

Photo credit: iStock/ BongkarnThanyakij. Generic image of college students.

The best maritime news and insights delivered to you.

Here's what you can expect from us:

  • Event offers and discounts
  • News & key insights of the maritime industry
  • Expert analysis and opinions on corruption and more