Leading the Way

After a career in the Merchant Navy, Captain Fran Collins became the first female captain for a Channel Islands ferry operator before joining Red Funnel as its CEO. She has also won the Merchant Navy Medal for services to the industry

What made you decide to join the Merchant Navy? 

It was something of a whim — I saw a recruitment advertisement for cadets. What attracted me, though, was the opportunity to travel the world for work and be trained in an exciting industry. Shipping is very under-represented as a career choice — I think there are many young people today who would enjoy the opportunities it offers. It’s definitely the best decision I could have made.

Are there many women working in Merchant Navy?

No, but that’s something I would love to see change. I genuinely believe that if more women knew about the opportunities that the maritime industry offers, it would be more popular. There are so many career paths and, of course, you get to be close to the ocean and active at sea while learning really useful skills. You never know what exciting challenges are around the corner.

What is the most memorable ship you’ve sailed?

That would be the SS Lima, a VLCC (supertanker) built in 1977 at Harland and Wolf Shipyard in Belfast, where the Titanic was built. She was 318m long, had a gross tonnage of 318,000 and
was powered by steam turbines. I was Fourth Engineer on her final trip to the scrapyard in 1998.

What is your favourite part of your job?

My days on the ocean. Manoeuvring vessels in and out of port is always the best part for me and the first time I took a ship to sea as Master was a great feeling. Now that I’m based in an office, my favourite part of the day is when I get time to spend with our teams. The best feeling in the world is getting customer feedback complementing our colleagues and being able to let
them know that their efforts are recognised and appreciated.

How do you spend your time when you’re not at sea or in the office?

I don’t actually live on the Island, but obviously my job means I’m a regular visitor — at Red Funnel, we work with many fantastic organisations on the Island so there are lots of opportunities to enjoy a variety of events throughout the year. Due to my busy schedule I’m not able to attend as many as I like, but last year I did manage to spend a day at the Isle of Wight Festival, which was incredible. I’m a huge music fan, so seeing Noel Gallagher and his High Flying Birds was a real highlight. Apart from attending the Festival again this year (11-14 June), I’m also hoping to make it to the Rhythm Tree Festival (10-12 July) and The Great Wonderfest (6-10 August), both widely regarded as absolutely brilliant. Apart from that, I spend most of my spare time firmly on land with my horses.