Helena’s sailing through Newy’s maritime course


After accepting a Greenpeace offer to travel by ship to Papua New Guinea to advocate for forest action, Helena de Carlos found it hard to go back to her office job, deciding instead to pursue a life at sea.

The 46-year-old not only gave up her role as a web manager but is now part-way through a maritime course at TAFE NSW Newcastle.

Ms De Carlos is studying a Bachelor of Applied Science (Nautical Science) and hopes to become a fully-qualified chief mate in the near future.

With the skills obtained throughout her studies, she will be qualified to safely manage and operate any type of merchant ship.

“I’d love to travel and get some more experience on ships,” Ms de Carlos says.

With Australia relying on sea transport for 99% of its exports, and Newcastle boasting the world’s largest coal export port, she says it makes sense that TAFE NSW Newcastle offers a wide range of maritime courses.

Having hitchhiked around the Caribbean on boats to gain some much-needed seafaring experience, the able seaperson believes her studies will set her up for a dream career.

“I volunteered as a deckhand at Greenpeace and decided a life at sea is what I love so I’m now working towards a qualification as chief mate.

“Working on ships is an adventure, I have been able to tick off everything on my bucket list. Some of my favorites have been the Arctic Circle, Antarctica, the Amazon and Rio. 

“I’d encourage anyone who has an interest in maritime to start with a Certificate I in Maritime Operations at TAFE NSW and I guarantee they’ll be hooked.”

TAFE NSW Newcastle head maritime studies teacher Carmen Blanco, who has spent 30 years at sea and ashore in the Australian Maritime Industry, said career seafarers travel from across the globe to Newcastle’s doorstep to earn specialised maritime certifications such as chief mate, master and watchkeeper deck.

“Many don’t realise TAFE NSW Newcastle is the only east coast provider of the world’s highest seafarer qualification,” she explained.

“Our maritime studies qualifications, offered in partnership with the University of Tasmania, are recognised internationally and enjoy a solid reputation for authenticity. Many seafarers find their qualifications aren’t recognised outside their own country so they need to become certified elsewhere.”