Queen’s Birthday Honours 2022: Ravi Inder Singh Nijjer, AM

Significant service to maritime transport safety.

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For Ravi Inder Singh Nijjer, a 62-year career in shipping continues to steam ahead to this day.

Starting as a Merchant Navy official in India in 1960, today he has been felicitated with Australia’s AM honour as an international expert on maritime safety.

“It’s been quite an improbable life for a boy who grew up in landlocked Jullundur,” Mr Nijjer laughed. “In fact, that’s the name of my soon-to-be published book: An Improbable Life.”

What drew him to shipping in the first instance?

The Bishop Cotton School (Simla) educated Nijjer replied, “I wanted to get away from Punjab and experience the world!”

He did, and then chose to call Australia home.

He was serving in Hong Kong in 1968 when he met his Australian wife. They moved to Australia in 1970 and he continued to serve on the seas until 1980.

Nijjer then moved to education, becoming lecturer then head at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Transport’s Department of Marine Transport.

In his role there, he rewrote the Masterclass I syllabus.

“I was enticed out of education and back into the centre of it all, when the shipping industry saw seven major accidents on Australian ships,” Nijjer recounted. “It was then that I began working on improving safety management systems.”

As part of his new role, he was sent to Japan to study their marine transport security. The report he wrote following that raised his profile considerably.

He would go on, in years to follow, to contribute significantly in the first use of GPS for maritime navigation, in Australian Marine Pilot Training, in Port Operations Safety Management Systems, and in Bridge Resource Management Training Systems.

He has been involved as consultant since the mid-1990s to the Australian shipping industry, and since 2004, internationally.

“I have travelled the world speaking at professional conferences and to students, and particularly enjoy these assignments in India.”

He continues to work full-time to this day.

It is no understatement to say that Nijjer has been a catalyst for many changes in Australia’s shipping industry.

“There’s not much of an industry left in Australia, though,” Nijjer lamented. “When I arrived in 1970 there was a thriving merchant shipping industry with over 100 Australia-registered ships. The number has dwindled to around 12 ships. That’s despite being an island continent where 99% of imports and exports are transported by sea, with hundreds of large commercial ships operating in Australian waters. The decline has many people seriously concerned. The new prime minister is promising to create a strategic fleet of up to a dozen ships that can be relied on to deliver essential cargoes and fuel supplies.”

What advice would he have for new migrants?

“One of the first things I heard about Australia, from an Australian colleague, was that it is an egalitarian country. I was happy to discover for myself that it is indeed so. Australia has been very good to me. It has given me many opportunities for furthering my professional development. I can’t think of any other country where I would have had these opportunities. All I would say to incoming migrants is, know your job well, and do it well.”

He added, “And also, forget about the disputes in India. Leave all the debates behind, and embrace your new country.”

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Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni is the Editor of Indian Link.

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