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Campus News : July 2010
www.uow.edu.au University of Wollongong Campus News July 2010 9 ON SINGAPORE Dr Parry Oei Master of Maritime Policy 1999 From his office window Dr Parry Oei (pictured right) looks out over part of the world's busiest shipping port. As Chief Hydrographer for Singapore's Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) the University of Wollongong Masters graduate is responsible for charting and managing the safe navigation of shipping in the port. He also oversees numerous marine environmental and international law issues that arise in Singapore's waters. Dr Oei developed an early fascination with the sea from watching the 1960s American underwater adventure television series Sea Hunt and throughout his career has seen the hydrography profession and the maritime industry change greatly. "It all started off with [actor] Lloyd Bridges in the 1960s when I watched Sea Hunt!" he said. "I've always been fascinated by what goes on under the sea." He completed his compulsory National Service in the Singapore Navy where he became interested in navigation, then went to England to study hydrography at the University of Plymouth (where he completed his PhD). Hydrography is the science of charting the ocean for marine navigation, but Dr Oei's role as Chief Hydrographer also requires engineering knowledge so he can oversee construction of new terminals and an understanding of tidal currents and what the new coastal configuration should be for the safe berthing of ships. Marine environmental issues are also a big part of his job, requiring a strong understanding of the international laws surrounding issues like water quality and pollution that cross political borders. In 1999 Dr Oei completed a Masters degree in Maritime Policy at UOW, which he says helped him in his current role as well as in negotiating international maritime issues when he was East Asia Hydrographic Commission Chairman from 2006-09. "The degree allowed me to understand the evolving law of the sea," Dr Oei said. "The Masters program involved a lot of thinking and questioning which helped me to negotiate and discuss issues with international organisations. We often have to mesh different perspectives and aspirations." Dr Oei moved with his family to Wollongong for a year and a half during the degree and has a great fondness for Australia and the Illawarra. Before studying at UOW he had worked in Tasmania with the CSIRO in the mid-90s under the auspices of the ASEAN- Australian Marine Science Program. "Wollongong is our second home, especially for my family who really got into the Australian lifestyle," Dr Oei said. "We try to return once a year to visit friends and colleagues and my daughter is now studying Environmental Science and Law in Australia. She fits quite easily into the system because of her time living in Wollongong." Dr Oei says the highlights of his Masters at UOW were the lasting professional connections he made within his field and the practical focus of the course. "All the lecturers practise in their fields, so they are not purely academic," he said. Dr Oei has had to address many practical challenges throughout his career to meet the continual changes in shipping and trade. He says the biggest issues facing the marine industry in Singapore are the demand for more sea space and the need for larger vessels to safely enter the port. "I saw a photo that I took in the early 1980s where the vessels were much smaller and more numerous. At the same anchorage now, the vessels are fewer but much, much larger," he said. "We are talking [about them increasing] from vessels with capacity to carry two to three thousand containers to now carrying 10,000 containers." "These container ships with a draught of 15 metres now come into our port with one-metre under-keel-clearance, so that is quite a challenge!" Dr Oei's diverse career in hydrography has included an involvement in several search and rescue operations, notably the tragic and futile search for survivors of a SilkAir flight that crashed between Jakarta and Singapore in 1997, killing all 104 passengers. KM differences that we need to anticipate." Since arriving in Singapore, Cassandra has pushed for more Australian recruitment and there are now more than 10 Australians working in CMK in the Singapore office -- with four from UOW. "I've seen Joel go from an internship in Sydney last year to this role in Singapore -- and I actually sat on his interview panel," she said. "From a recruitment viewpoint we look at Wollongong as a key supplier of our talent. We recruit on the success of where other people came from and how well they fit within the company." "I think having other Australians to work with makes it very easy to get along at work because we share the same experiences," she said. "We have shared memories and experiences, and those of us from Wollongong, which is a very practical university, all work and learn in a similar way." As a new recruit only three months into her time in Singapore, Courtney said that it was reassuring to work alongside other UOW graduates. "I think it makes it seem like a much smaller world having the UOW people around," she said. "Moving from Wollongong to Singapore was a pretty big move so it was great having that familiarity." Courtney, Joel and Cassandra said their UOW experiences have paid off in their current jobs. "Consumer Behaviour was my favourite subject and that's exactly what our job is," said Cassandra. "Other subjects offered case studies which are a lot like the work you do in the workplace." "UOW offers such a well rounded package," Courtney said. "I had many inspiring, nurturing lecturers and the practical elements of the degree are quite in touch with the industry." The trio said they can all see their careers continuing to develop in this multinational company, which provides extensive training and career development plans for its employees. KM Parry's patch world's busiest port UOW graduates working at Procter & Gamble's Asian head office in Singapore (from left) Cassandra White, Joel Renkema and Courtney Butler.