Becoming Australia’s First Indigenous Master Mariner has been a rewarding journey for Ryan Cobb, powering him with a story to inspire others.

After years of hard work, commitment and sacrifice, Ryan completed his final exams at the end of 2019, achieving the highest grade of seafarer qualification.

It means he can be the master of any size vessel of any power in any geographic location.

In the first six months of his current role as Marine Operations Adviser at Woodside, Ryan (pictured) assisted the mobilisation of nine vessels for offshore drilling campaigns, including suitability inspections and ongoing management support of drilling and production fleets.

Achieving this acclaimed role was the culmination of years of study and a life spent either on or in the seas since he started work as an 18-year-old pearl diver in 1998.

In 2006 when Ryan was looking to fulfil his next career goal of moving into commercial shipping, he spotted a Woodside advertisement for marine operations trainees in a local newspaper.

He aimed for the top qualification at sea – master mariner – and with Woodside operating LNG tankers and an offshore vessel fleet, the company could help Ryan achieve his goal.

Though sponsored by Woodside, Ryan was facilitated at sea first by Farstad Shipping, before gaining his deck trainee apprenticeship and experience on Woodside’s LNG tankers.

By 2016, Ryan was looking to broaden his career and wanted to be involved in port operations and marine pilotage, officially joining Woodside Marine in 2017 to begin the 15 months of sea time needed to attain his master mariner qualification.

Reaching this milestone is an inspiring feat and exemplifies what be achieved through determination and vision. Now Ryan is using his story to positively influence more Indigenous people into realising their potential in the marine industry.

“Being raised in Broome and on the Dampier Peninsula on saltwater country, I’ve always had a very close affiliation with the sea,” Ryan said.

“As a proud Ngarluma man, with bloodlines to the West and East Kimberley, I’m extremely passionate for encouraging more education and employment for Indigenous youth in the marine industry.

“It’s fantastic how Woodside encourages input from collegiate like myself – and for me a big part of that is inspiring Indigenous youth, especially in Karratha, about pursuing the career opportunities of the marine industry. It’s certainly something I really appreciate being able to do.”

Whilst the international travel and spending time at sea is an aspect of the job Ryan will never grow tired of, he is now afforded more time in WA to inspire kids and tell them about the adventurous and rewarding career opportunities.

As well as spending time in the regions promoting maritime careers and opportunities through Woodside’s Leeuwin Ocean Adventure partnership and the North West Shelf Project’s Karratha Education Initiative, Ryan is also influencing at other levels. This includes supporting Woodside’s Reconciliation Action Plan and the company’s efforts to close the gap on Indigenous disparity.

He is also leading the industry at even higher levels, including as a committee member of the Nautical Institute WA Branch, promoting professionalism, best practice and safety within the maritime industry.

Ryan is also working with members of Offshore Specialty Ships Australia to investigate a national approach to maritime training.

His passion for Indigenous engagement in the marine sector has also led to regularly conducting industry consultations for new and existing projects with marine contractors working with Woodside and other operators. These are projects that have provided sea-going positions for a number of Indigenous people in WA.

Ryan also continues to deliver tuition and mentorship to Indigenous seafarers, at sea and onshore, as they undertake studies to further their careers.

Ryan Cobb is the recipient of the 2020 AMMA Industry Award in the Future Leader category, with Award Judges recognising his rise to leadership and passion for mentoring others into the industry.