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Maritime Masterclass with Captain Alexandra Hagerty, Founder of Captains without Borders

Dive into the captivating journey of Captain Alexandra Hagerty, the latest ambassador of the Seatrade Maritime Club, as she shares her voyage from sailing instructor to Master of the hospital ship Africa Mercy.

Captain Alexandra Hagerty, currently a Fleet Superintendent with Pasha, talks about her career in shipping and at sea with Seatrade Maritime’s Dan Chapman.

Discover her impact on the maritime industry, her role in sustainability, and her inspiring initiative, Captains without Borders, which empowers underprivileged maritime cadets.

Learn how she's helping steer the industry towards a sustainable horizon on this episode of Seatrade Maritime Masterclass.

Listen to the episode now in the player above or app of your choice below

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Episode transcript

Dan Chapman  00:09 

Welcome to this episode of the Seatrade Maritime Masterclass. My name is Dan Chapman, Head of Media at Seatrade Maritime, and today I have the pleasure of speaking with Seatrade Maritime Club's newest ambassador, Captain Alexandra Hagerty.  

Captain Alexandra Hagerty is the 12th ambassador to be appointed in the global Seatrade Maritime Club. Having already experienced a distinguished career to date in what she served as the master of the hospital ship Africa Mercy, and, worked on board various government and commercial vessels for 13 years. Welcome, Alex. 

Captain Alexandra Hagerty  00:39 

Thank you so much. It's a pleasure to be here. 

Dan Chapman  00:41 

You have an already incredible career, and I know your contributions extend beyond your commanding roles as an accomplished writer and panelist, actively engaging in discussions on international maritime affairs and technology. Today, we'll dig a little deeper into your career and what has driven your accomplishments to date. And, what's next? 

Captain Alexandra’s career as a sailing instructor for physically handicapped children 

Dan Chapman  01:00 

Let's start with your decision to carve out a career in the maritime industry. Do you come from a maritime background or was it a light bulb moment when you could see that this was the ideal career for you? 

Captain Alexandra Hagerty  00:39 

I started in the industry actually just sailing boats. So, I worked at Southampton Fresh Air Home. I was a sailing instructor for physically handicapped children in New York. It was a wonderful experience. They were physically handicapped kids from the hospital of special surgery and it was then I had this wonderful experience where I got to take the kids out on the boats and they were just so excited. And I loved being on the water, I loved teaching them how to sail on the water, and I thought, wow, this is really fun. How can I continue sailing? And then after that, I continued into an internship with Tall Ships America, it used to be a Sail Training Association - ASTA. And then after that, I started racing and I was a marketing intern for them and racing on different tall ships throughout the summers. And upon graduation from college, I actually studied international relations in my undergrad at Earlham College with a focus in French and Spanish. I thought, ooh, I have the opportunity to go race and work with a French company at Etoile Marine Croisières. And during that summer, I was recruited by the Danish Sail Training Association to sail on a hundred-year-old schooner Jens Crow. And of course, many people know that in Denmark, it's quite famous for shipping. And as we're racing around Scandinavia with vessels from all over the world, it was a wonderful experience to be on a Danish sail vessel with Danes and they started talking to me about the maritime industry and I learned that Denmark had Maersk and I started learning more about the maritime industry. And I thought, how can I be a part of this? This is really interesting. And wait, I can get paid to be a professional mariner? What is this?  

And my mom had always pushed me to go get a license. My parents were in the maritime industry, but they said this is a great place to jumpstart and I looked into New York maritime after racing in Denmark, studying over there and I thought, why don't I apply to New York maritime? So, I went to New York Maritime College. I was accepted, and there was a graduate license program, so I got my third mate's unlimited tonnage license with my Master of Science in International Transportation Management in 2010, and in 2010, I thought, okay, well, what's this going to be like? I graduated and I just started sailing around the world. I just started jumping from ship to ship and moving my way up and it's been an exciting career ever since then. 

Dan Chapman  03:59 

Sounds like it. It certainly does sound like it. 

So, Alex, you've given us an insight on some of your previous accomplishments, but what can you tell us about your current role or roles? 

Captain Alexandra’s current roles 

Captain Alexandra Hagerty  04:07 

I'm in a few different roles right now. I'm currently Fleet Superintendent with The Pasha Group. They're headquartered out of San Rafel, California. Pasha started originally as a small family-owned company, and they've grown over the years. They're now third generation family-owned and they have grown from being in just container ships to being a logistics company, a transportation company, doing green hydrogen fueling, and also being leaders in sustainability. They are one of the top companies for ship management worldwide and they're winning awards around the world for their stance on sustainability. That's when I thought, wow, this is a really great opportunity for me as a Fleet Superintendent to learn more about sustainability, sustainable practices, ESG and at the same time, I also started a nonprofit in 2021 called Captains without Borders.  

Captains without Borders was during my hospital ship time. I was a volunteer captain aboard the hospital ship Africa Mercy. It was a wonderful experience and I had 450 crew, 60 different nationalities, the ship hadn't gone underway since 2019 because of the COVID pandemic. So, we had this amazing opportunity where Mercy Ships reached out to me and said, hey, Captain Hagerty, do you want to get this ship underway? We have to breathe some life into it. This hospital hasn't been up and running in a few years, and it was quite a big undertaking.  

So, I was volunteer captain with them and got the vessel up and running, 14 pallets of medical supplies, getting all the doctors, all the crew up and trained. It was a great experience, and then getting to see the hospital be set up in 21 days so we could start doing over 1000 surgeries every single day. I mean, people coming in and out of the vessel, and it was just absolutely amazing.  

I got to dock the vessel and give a speech in French to the World Health Organization, the ministers of Senegal, various diplomats and ambassadors that were in the region and that just spearheaded my interest in my nonprofit Captains without Borders. And I said, wow, I have all these crew and young cadets on board that really need an opportunity, and they need an opportunity to finish their education. I realised that there was a dearth of seafarers worldwide. After being able to make a difference with Mercy Ships, I said, how can I make a difference in the maritime industry? I didn't even know that there was a possibility for people with licenses like my own to give back and to do pro bono work, right. We've always heard of lawyers and doctors being able to do some pro bono work, but now I'm realising the maritime industry can give back. And so, I realised that Mercy Ships, Captains without Borders and The Pasha Group all wanted to make a positive impact in the world. And so all three of them have been really life changing for me. And, this past year, we just gave out seven scholarships to Ukrainian cadets displaced by the war. And those cadets are finishing up school this year. So very exciting. 

Dan Chapman  07:37 

Wow, what a range of accomplishments, and no small feat either. 

Captains without Borders providing scholarships to maritime cadets from underprivileged backgrounds 

Dan Chapman  07:41 

So, Captain Alexandra, I know you're a fellow at the Nautical Institute UK and are deeply committed to providing scholarships to maritime cadets and underprivileged backgrounds. Can you tell us more about this and how other companies and individuals can be involved? 

Captain Alexandra Hagerty  07:54 

Captains without Borders is a wonderful organisation. We've been around since 2021, and different organisations we're doing two things. One, partnering with maritime companies to get our cadets from around the world sea time aboard their vessels. So, if there's any shipping companies that are interested in partnering with us, like currently we have Veer Voyage, they're building container vessels with sails on it. And when that vessel is done, it's very amazing. It's a wonderful ship. When that's complete, we have a partnership where they will take some of our cadets. But we're happy to get our cadets sea time on various vessels around the world under different flags and it's a great opportunity for them to host international cadets that come from underprivileged backgrounds that really want to just learn, get their sea time, get their license and be able to navigate the world and also have a really nice career.  

We don't have enough people in the maritime industry to run all of our ships. And I was just recently at the US Chamber of Shipping event two weeks ago and the number one priority for all the shipping companies is "we don't have enough people". And how can we have mariner retention and how can we draw more interest and excitement into the maritime industry? And that's when I thought, okay, Captains without Borders, it's a great time for us to launch. It's a great time for us to get young cadets who maybe are struggling financially to finish paying off their student debts, or they want to get into the industry, but they're afraid of how much it's going to cost. Companies can sponsor cadets. They can provide scholarships through our website,, and be a part of it. And they can follow their cadet that they sponsored and follow their stories.  

What will be really exciting for me is to see those cadets ten years from now, call me, ‘Hey, captain, guess what? I just got my license. I'm sailing Chief Engineer and I'm so excited. Thank you so much for believing in me and supporting me and it's really changed my life.’ And when you can make a difference and make an impact like that on somebody else, it's life changing and it's really exciting to be a part of that. 

Dan Chapman  10:18 

No, it really does sound like an exciting initiative and for anyone who's looking to get involved, really do encourage them to look at the website and find out more how both cadets and companies can support your initiative. So really, really great to hear about that, Alex. 

Seatrade Maritime Club ambassador’s focus on California market 

Dan Chapman  10:35 

So, looking now at your appointment as the Seatrade Maritime Club ambassador, you'll be primarily focused on the California market, where a large number of maritime technology and innovation businesses are based. And in your role, you're going to help progress the Club's objectives, to bring together members to network and proactively drive positive economic growth for their respective regions and the global industry.  

What else do you hope to bring to the table as part of your appointment with the Seatrade Maritime Club? 

Captain Alexandra Hagerty  10:59 

I think it's very important to consider all the technology that is coming out in the industry. As you well know, the Silicon Valley is a hub for innovation and technology. I'm currently also an executive MBA candidate at MIT - Massachusetts Institute of Technology - and I am being proposed by companies left and right about electric barges, a new form of transportation, which are sea gliders. So, they will be classified as passenger ferries, but they can hydrofoil, they can fly and they can sail. And when you think of California and Hawaii and the West Coast and some of the initiatives that my current company are doing in terms of sustainability, green hydrogen fueling of ferries, we're the first ones to do that. Liquid natural gas, bunkering, working with other companies in the area, such as Patriot, Madsen. We have so many maritime companies on the West Coast that want to be involved in this ESG in terms of the sustainability initiatives of IMO and to really make an impact. I think that Californians and the West Coast really care about the environment.  

And you also have Scripps, another research institute that's quite famous, teaching us a lot about oceanography and how can we take care of our environment and what does that mean? And we even have Scripps scientists riding aboard our vessels and sharing that research, sharing that innovation, sharing the technology of where we're going next and how we can create partnerships and collaborations is going to be so impactful for the next generation. Not only my generation but those to come.  

And I think it's extremely important to collaborate and work with the other Seatrade ambassadors and have these discussions. And also work with California Maritime Academy, it is also based there. So, getting the seafarers involved, teaching them about all the new things and possibilities that are out there, it's very exciting and I can't wait to be a part of it all. 

Dan Chapman  13:18 

Understood. It certainly sounds like you've got a lot going on, but that's not least of what you have going on from my understanding. 

Why is it key to keep learning and upskilling? 

You are also a recipient of the Forté Foundation leadership scholarship, highlighting your dedication to leadership and academic excellence, as well as a member of Boston Marine Society, Marine Society of New York. Why is it key to keep learning and upskilling? 

Captain Alexandra Hagerty  13:41 

I love learning. It was very interesting at MIT, we had someone called Carol Dweck be mentioned. And there are two types of mindsets that Carol Dweck says. There's the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. And if you really want to grow and expand and be a part of change and innovation and make an impact in the world, you have to have that growth mindset, right? You can't be boxed. And in order to have that growth mindset, you have to be open to learning. You have to be open to trying new things, to be more flexible, to be more adaptable.  

And by continuing my education and doing an executive MBA at MIT, not only am I being exposed to the maritime industry, but I'm being exposed to a plethora of industries, from finance to technology startups, AI, robotics, renewable energy, politicians. And when you bring all those people together in the same room and they're already working in senior executive positions, the ideas and the innovation that comes out of that, I mean, it's just blown my mind sitting in some of these classes. And we are learning as much from the professor as we are from each other. And having those discussions and understanding how valuable bringing different perspectives and diversity together really makes a difference in change, and it all starts with education and sharing knowledge. 

Dan Chapman  15:18 

I think the cross pollination of the sectors is really fascinating because you find solutions to problems in a sector that's maybe unrelated to maritime, that can be applied to maritime. 

With that, where do you see that the biggest influence on the maritime industry is coming from those other sectors? 

Electrification of the transportation industry  

Captain Alexandra Hagerty  15:29 

I would say that innovation and technology, where we're headed in terms of meeting the IMO, is it the 2050 initiatives and lowering our carbon reduction and just implementing new technology? Right. New biofuels. Electrification of the transportation industry is happening a lot faster than I think the United States even realises.  

When I was at Nor-Shipping this year, there's just so many companies and vessels already implementing AI in their tracking, in their work, implementing electric powered vessels. We just had a new electric powered tug that was just shown at the Workboat show in New Orleans, I think, this past week, and electric self-driving barges, autonomous vessels.  

I think the US has said, oh, we're not ready for this, but I think we are. And the technology is coming and it's already being implemented in Norway., and short sea shipping is becoming a thing that is really making sense. And now companies are having discussions about; we need autonomous electric vessels, we need electric modes of passenger transportation. And there's companies that I'm now talking to that are implementing that and they want to bring it into the United States and they want to see a greener, more sustainable future for generations to come. 

Advice to anyone considering a role in maritime industry 

Dan Chapman  17:10 

And what would you say to people that have an interest or are practicing skills in those separate sectors or industries who maybe be less aware of how they can apply it into maritime? What would you say to anyone considering or partly interested in a role in the maritime industry? 

Captain Alexandra Hagerty  17:23 

Very good question. I would say they have to be well read in it. I've had some people approach me and they just weren't completely well read in the industry. And there's a lot of different aspects of the maritime industry that have to be understood if you're going to come into it.  

You know, I think the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers does a great job of introducing newbies into the maritime industry. It's a good way to get your feet wet and then you can really get that certification and understand what we do. Attending conferences like the Seatrade conferences is a great way to get involved. The Nautical Institute is a professional organisation that does an excellent job of bringing knowledge, studies and professional career development in the maritime industry. You have maritime academies training our next generation of young officers who want to take the helm or run the engine room. And there's a lot of different ways to get involved in the industry.  

And I think that a lot of these other sectors are going to realise that when a ship like the Costa Concordia goes down, how that affects the cruise ship industry and maybe when a ship gets stuck in the Suez Canal, everyone starts to realise how important our industry is and how it affects the supply chain.  

And when I'm sitting in these classes with some of my MIT classmates, they say to me, you know, we were all affected by that one ship in the Suez Canal that got stuck. We never really thought about the maritime industry before. And I said, you do know that 90% of world trade goes by sea and it will affect your tech company. It will affect different things that you never thought will have a reverberation of effects. And it's so important to know, one, that we exist, and two, how to be involved in our industry and that it's really all interconnected. 

Dan Chapman  19:40 

Very well rounded. I think that is a great sort of explanation of how people can see the value in our industry and how it affects everyone from every sector. 

My final question, Alex, if you don't mind, is if you had a billboard that could be seen by everyone in the maritime industry and you could put one message on there to be seen, what one message would it be? 

Captain Alexandra Hagerty  20:00 

Oh, that's a good one. I think that after being at the US Chamber of Shipping event, the greatest thing we need is a billboard that is like Rosie the Riveter, you know, somebody that shows us how important the industry is and that we could do it together, but we need you. You know like Uncle Sam pointing, we need you, like a recruitment kind of marketing billboard that says, we need you. And it's not only mariners. We're going to need people shoreside later on to fill the roles as people retire and are ready with the competencies, the knowledge and the expertise of working on vessels to bring that into those shoreside positions.  

And, also, how to understand how international relations and politics really does affect world trade and the maritime industry. It has huge reverberations around the world. And having a billboard that just says, you got to be a part of this, we need you and get those young people is so important. Thank you so much. 

Dan Chapman  21:17 

Thank you, Captain Alex, really appreciate your time today and very much appreciate hearing your history, what you have to share from your experiences. And I'm very much looking forward to seeing how the rest of your time here goes and your days with Seatrade Maritime. 

Captain Alexandra Hagerty  21:33 

Great. Thank you so much for having me. It's been a pleasure. 

Dan Chapman  21:35 

No problem. My name is Dan Chapman, and I am the Head of Media at Seatrade Maritime. To listen to more Seatrade Maritime Masterclass episodes like this, go to And to find out more about Seatrade Maritime Club, go to 

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