As a child Hermione Parker spent hours in Sealife Great Yarmouth embracing her fascination with animals and the ocean.

Fast forward 15 years and the 21-year-old is spending months at a time at sea, responsible for steering a 23,641-tonne jack-up vessel around Taiwan’s largest offshore wind farm.

Hermione achieved a higher national diploma (HND) in nautical science last July, after completing a three-year, fully-funded deck cadetship at Warsash Maritime Academy, part of Solent University, sponsored throughout by Great Yarmouth-based Seajacks.

She is now just one oral exam away from gaining her UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) Certificate of Competency and will be a qualified officer of the watch.

Seajacks Scylla, a wind turbine installation vessel operated by Seajacks, won a contract to transport and install 111 turbines to the Greater Changhua Offshore Wind Farm.

With 71 turbines already installed, the remaining 40 were transported last autumn onto the site in the Taiwan Strait, around 35km to 60km off the coast of Changhua County, giving Hermione an opportunity to spend up to six months at sea – and taking her a step closer to her ultimate goal of becoming a captain.

Eastern Daily Press: Hermione spent more than six months in Taiwan on board Seajacks Scylla, a wind turbine installation vesselHermione spent more than six months in Taiwan on board Seajacks Scylla, a wind turbine installation vessel (Image: Hermione Parker)

“When I was at school, I wanted to be a marine biologist, and my heart was set on it since about the age of five,” she said. “I always liked the sea and animals, and I had an annual pass to Sealife Great Yarmouth. I used to spend my whole life there and knew every animal.

“It stayed that way until I met Ian Robertson, Seajacks’ HR and crewing manager. My dad used to work as an offshore project construction supervisor, and he encouraged me to find out more about the offshore wind industry.

“We went to an offshore energy careers event at East Coast College, and Ian really sparked my interest. He sent me out to Amsterdam for a taster week at sea when I was 17; it was very nerve-wracking, but I fell in love with it, and I wanted to go back straight away.

“I then enrolled on the officer cadetship and started training about a month after.”

During her course Hermione has sailed to Scotland, Esbjerg in Denmark, Amsterdam and Rotterdam, working on various wind farm projects, but the voyage through Taiwan was the longest so far, helping her to achieve the 12 months of sea time she required.

“I love going away and exploring new places, but Taiwan was a big jump for me as I was travelling on my own. I was a bit nervous, but the crew were amazing and guided me through it.”

Hermione spent last August to November in Taiwan onboard Scylla, before returning in December until March, sailing down the South China Sea, the Singapore Straits and Malacca Straits, before continuing to the Indian Ocean, around Namibia to Las Palmas and finishing at Amsterdam.

As a cadet it’s her responsibility to navigate the ship’s course, steering clear of hazards and keeping the crew safe when she in charge of the bridge as officer of the watch.

“I was doing 12-hour shifts daily from 7am to 7pm or vice versa. You can’t be on watch for all that time because it’s too intense, so you do four-to-six-hour watches and then during the other time you must carry out other jobs before you’re back on watch.

“You must always maintain a good watch, look out for other ships, make sure you are in the right traffic line and ensure the charts and equipment are up to date while abiding by all the necessary rules and regulations.

“In an emergency you’re in charge; you have to stay calm.”

Eastern Daily Press: Hermione's time on Seajacks Scylla saw her traverse the South China Sea, Singapore Straits, Malacca Straits and Indian OceanHermione's time on Seajacks Scylla saw her traverse the South China Sea, Singapore Straits, Malacca Straits and Indian Ocean (Image: Hermione Parker)

Hermione’s cadetship was paid for by the government, and her training is through the Ship Safe Training Group (SSTG), which provides sponsorship to train as a deck, engineer or electro-technical officer (ETO) in the Merchant Navy. She’s paid a monthly salary by Seajacks.

Qualifications are awarded on course work, written and practical exams, with the final due to take place with a former captain, who will grill her about how she will deal with various seafaring situations and challenges.

“Since 2019, I have been the only female cadet, but another recently joined Seajacks who is a qualified cadet based up in Scotland,” said Hermione.

“I’ve become involved in the Women at Sea talks at the university, which is where all the girls in the academy get together to answer any questions that people have.”

Upon achieving her officer of the watch qualification, Hermione will become second officer and work toward becoming chief officer. “Once you have that, you need more additional sea time and to take an oral exam and then you become a captain.

“We call it the Willy Wonka’s ticket – the golden ticket. You can go on any ship in the world with any tonnage. If I’m persistent with my sea time and do longer trips, I hope to do it by the time I’m 30.”

Once Hermione is qualified, she will continue to work with Seajacks on a rotation of five weeks on and five weeks off.

“There’s a lot of opportunities in the offshore wind industry in the East of England, where you can live and stay locally, but work on a global scale.

“I would tell others to go for it as there are so many companies and universities that provide support during the process.”