Diversity & Inclusion

Sailor, Engineer, Volunteer: Adventurer Hoists Her Sails To Raise Awareness

Caroline Kannwischer, SPE Netherlands Section member, takes part in Leg 1 of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race as she raises money for UNICEF and The Rotary Foundation.

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Caroline sailing in Great Yarmouth, UK in Summer 2020.

It’s anchors aweigh for Caroline Kannwischer, SPE member and volunteer, as she sets sail in September to participate in Leg 1 of the Clipper 2023-24 Round the World Yacht Race.

Prompted to join the race by viewing a Clipper Race Facebook ad, Kannwischer decided to join the race in 2021. With her original start date delayed by 1 year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she will begin with departure from Portsmouth, UK, on 3 September and complete The Atlantic Trade Winds Leg by landing in Punta del Este in Uruguay in mid-October.

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Caroline learning to sail in St. Malo, France in Summer 1997.

A sailor since she was 9 years old, Kannwischer credits her early experiences watching her sister participate in her school’s sailing club as sparking her passion for being on the water.

“As I had to wait until I was old enough for that school, we eventually spent 2 weeks during the summer vacation at a sailing camp in Brittany. That is how it all started, and today I enjoy the varied experiences sailing brings me,” Kannwischer recalls. Making the experience even more special, Kannwischer’s sister and nephew will participate in the departure festival as she embarks on her journey.

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Caroline and her Clipper Race team members at crew allocation in May 2023.

UNICEF, the world’s largest provider of vaccines reaching children across more than 190 countries and territories, has been named the Clipper Race’s official charity partner, with 700 crew members raising funds throughout the race. Kannwischer will be a part of the UNICEF team and sail on the Big Blue Clipper Boat. She also draws on her volunteer experience with Rotary International to raise funds for basic education and literacy programs.

“As a former exchange student, Rotaractor, and now Rotarian, I wanted to combine my preparation with raising awareness and funds for others to get an education, too. Any education will help people to develop as humans but also help them find a job so that they can support themselves and their loved ones out of poverty or become more independent,” she said.

When not preparing to embark on the journey of a lifetime, Kannwischer works as a SHE-Q engineer for Boskalis. Her work is the product of an 8-year career in the oil and gas industry, including extensive experience and education in the health, safety, environment, and sustainability (HSE) field.

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Caroline piloting the remote assistance set on a project in February 2021.

Kannwischer’s interest in the field began when she realized she was deeply interested in the people aspect as she worked as a drilling engineer. In 2019, she earned a diploma in occupational health and safety from Nebosh, which she credits to helping her advancement in the field.

“As I wanted to find a job offshore on rotation, I eventually got certified in the HSE domain, as passion and practical experience weren't enough to get a foot into the door. The qualifications helped me get past recruiters, but the dual background with operations got me those job offers and respect from the colleagues,” she said.

As the HSE industry continues to evolve, Kannwischer sees technology as one of the most important components of the field’s evolution over the next 10 years.

“I think a lot of technology will be involved going forward to better analyze data without bias and focus on the developments needed. We don't need people to fill databases, AI and software can do that to some extent. What we need is trust, psychological and social safety so that people really learn all they can from incidents, near misses, but also normal work, and then test new avenues to improve together,” she said.

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Caroline completing her level 3 training with Spinnaker focus on a 70 ft yacht in October 2022.

When asked what advice she would give to young professionals and students interested in a career in HSE, she shared, “Ideally, you take up any opportunities you can get on-the-job experience and exposure. Ask to be invited to risk assessment sessions and try to own the role you play in your own safety and the safety of the people around you. You can specialize in certain areas, but the most important is to be able to connect the dots. Dots can be systems, issues, ideas, or people. A good HSE professional will facilitate people and systems working together to improve the status quo for all involved.”

She also encouraged those interested in HSE to save the date for the next SPE International Health, Safety, Environment, and Sustainability Conference and Exhibition in Abu Dhabi, 10–12 September 2024.

At the end of her journey, Kannwischer plans to tour South America for a few weeks while working with organizations in the area to inspire more children to pursue an interest in STEM and continue to raise money for her charity partners—UNICEF and The Rotary Foundation.