Speaking with Graham Meek: Independence, Variety, and Opportunity at WCMRC
We sat down with Graham Meek, a Response Technician and Marine Engineer, to discuss working for Western Canada Marine Response Corp. Graham got his start in the marine sector at BCIT, since then he’s worked in the Great Lakes, for oil tanker companies with thousands of sailors, and spent time sailing through the West Coast on BC Ferries. Out of everywhere he’s been and everywhere he’s worked, he says “[WCMRC] is the best job I’ve ever had. I’m not going anywhere”.
Graham speaks on what sets WCMRC apart in the marine sector and making a difference with your career.
Graham, could you tell us about your role at WCMRC and how you came to be here?
Graham Meek: “Before WCMRC, I was working as a control room engineer and doing some fairly basic engineering — I was finding it a bit repetitive. So, I started looking for a job that had more variety, one that was a bit more interesting daily. That’s when I stumbled upon WCMRC. After I interviewed, I saw that it would be quite a change from what I had been doing for the past six years.
I started off as an engineer on a few vessels. Quickly, I realized I could also be utilized on our small boats. I was working as a deckhand and operating the boats, eventually, I learned how to navigate them — while maintaining all the engineering on our larger vessels. It created a huge variety in my day-to-day work. Now, two years later, I have ownership over a couple of our vessels as far as things like the maintenance routines and planning and budgeting go.
My role has really morphed into more of a supervisor of maintenance rather than just a traditional control room engineer.”
Kyle Hujdic had also mentioned that even though you’re in one role, you can do a variety of things. Can you elaborate on that?
GM: “For sure. At WCMRC, you can go from project managers to deckhands to skippers to engineers to performing maintenance to being involved in the development of safety routines and safety procedures.
My role has also been helping create and implement policies, which has been a really good experience — one that I will be able to carry with me for my whole career.”
Which part do you like the best?
GM: “Being self-motivated.
I don’t go to work every day and answer to the chief engineer or go back and forth between ferry ports. I prioritize what I think needs to be done and decide where my time is most valued. Which, ultimately, is motivating and results in you being the most productive.”
What are the main differences between working for WCMRC and other marine companies?
GM: “I’ve worked with two other major companies — both huge companies with thousands of sailors.
When I came to WCMRC I was only one of two engineers on the South Coast. Your voice and your opinion really matter here. Your actions have implications for the better which I hadn’t experienced in a job before.
At WCMRC, you’re not just a number. Everybody knows each other by name and the work that you do… people know it matters. That’s probably the biggest difference between WCMRC and any other marine company where you’re just there because you hold the certifications required to move the vessel that’s moving a product. For us, we don’t operate for money — what we do is important and is remembered.
Also, the schedule is different — I haven’t had a Monday to Friday job since I was 18. I’m on the same working schedule as my wife and it’s been amazing for our life and our relationship. That’s a huge positive that isn’t common in the industry.
During training, we stay clean and stay safe. That’s quite a bit different than a traditional engineers job which is typically very hot and very dirty and not always the safest work environment.”
What are some of the positive aspects of working for the WCMRC from your perspective?
GM: “Independence and accountability. We’re given projects that are outside of just operating vessels, helping to keep us interested and engaged in work.
WCMRC is also expanding and receiving all this new equipment and new technologies, which will be at the forefront of the marine industry. This is really exciting, there aren’t a lot of other marine companies who operate with brand new machinery anymore.
For me, the shift in moral positivity from working on deep sea vessels to now working for a company that protects the environment from a potential oil spill is huge. I grew up on the Gulf Islands, which is a historically green place. It’s a very beautiful, very green politically driven place.”
In addition to the locations in Vancouver and Vancouver Island, WCMRC also has a base on the North end of the West Coast in Prince Rupert.
GM: “I’ve been fortunate to spend roughly a month total at the [WCMRC] northern base in Prince Rupert. We do get quite a bit of corporate travel, which is good for learning from your other, remote coworkers.”
Graham goes on to tell us about major differences at WCMRC and the majority of the rest of the marine industry.
GM: “With exercises I go to, for example, last year in Sidney we performed a 10,000-tonne spill response exercise. We were working with government officials from the province and the city, the Coast Guard, Transport Canada, and First Nations representatives. We had about 150 people involved. To be involved with something that important at this stage in my career is exciting — it’s a really great experience.”
“[WCMRC can] open your eyes to other parts of the industry that you might not see at a traditional seafaring job.”
The First Nation’s community involvement seems to be very in-depth, can you elaborate on that?
GM: “Last year, a few of us went to Sechelt to do a vessel demonstration for the shíshálh Nation, an indigenous group we previously hadn’t had a relationship with. Now, there are hiring and training plans, plans to integrate WCMRC with them.
I think being involved in learning about the First Nations has been a definite and positive change to traditional seafaring industries practices.”