When Carnival Cruise Line's state-of-the-art Fleet Operations Center (FOC) opened a few years ago at the Miami headquarters, it brought all of the company's port, marine and technical operations together, utilizing the latest technology and of course, staffed by the best and brightest personnel in cruising.
Two of those team members are Alia Oueslati and Catherine Taylor-Pravia, who are also the line's first two female FOC watch leaders, underscoring Carnival's commitment to diversity and inclusion.
In addition to monitoring and communicating with our fleet 24/7, FOC watch leaders serve as the initial contacts with our shipboard teams, as well as first responders in the event of an emergency. From liaising daily with shipboard leadership to monitoring irregular deck, engine, and hotel issues to most recently helping coordinate the repatriation of thousands of crew members, FOC watch leaders play a vital role in our day-to-day operations. And then it all comes together in a much more public way, as they lead the daily FOC operations brief, in which executives and team members from across the company participate.
Alia and Catherine had very different paths on their way to the FOC. Alia is a six-year veteran of Carnival, working her way up through the ranks to become a shipboard safety officer, She was first named FOC watch leader in 2017 before returning on board for a couple of years then rejoined the FOC again last year. Catherine joined Carnival earlier this year as a FOC watch leader following a distinguished nine-year career in the U.S. Coast Guard, most recently serving as a Tier II Search and Rescue coordinator for the District Five Command Center near Norfolk, Va.
Alia and Catherine both agree that their years of maritime experience serve them well in their duties as FOC watch leader, particularly as it relates to analyzing situations and escalating them to the next level. “My time in the FOC has been very rewarding as it not only shows another side of our operations, but also allows me to use my abilities to make sound judgments and offer the best course of action to assist our shipboard teams,” said Alia.
Captain Gaetano Gigliotti, Carnival's vice president of nautical and port operations who oversees the FOC, said that these two outstanding women were specifically chosen for their decision-making abilities, keen understanding of maritime operations and their ability to instill confidence. “Alia and Catherine are two of the many shining stars within our company. Both experienced mariners, they are doing very well serving as a liaison between our shoreside and shipboard teams. We are definitely in capable hands with them.”
Alia and Catherine also take a great deal of pride in being the first females to serve in this position. “I could tell right away after joining Carnival that it is a company that truly values women. This is such an amazing organization and everyone on the FOC team has been so supportive and helpful,” said Catherine. Added Alia, “It’s a great honor to serve as one of the first females in this role and hope it inspires others in our industry to pursue their chosen career path. I want to be a captain one day and serving as a FOC watch leader is another step toward my dream.”
Both women work 12-hour shifts at the Miami office, either 7 am to 7 pm or 7pm to 7 am, communicating with ships around the clock in different time zones, from Asia to Europe and the Americas. Alia pointed out, “It can be a little eerie working in the offices now with hardly anyone here, especially on the overnight shift, but serving as FOC watch leader has been a highlight of my career.” Added Catherine, “I am looking forward to everyone returning to the Miami office and the bustle around the building. Hopefully it will be safe to do so soon! And then of course getting our guests and crew back on board. That’s what we’re all working toward.”