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In continuing with the series on seafarers and their initial career steps, the aspirants have many reasons to join Merchant navy and start earning, few candidates are completely aware and fully informed of the career path in Merchant navy, however there a are a good number of aspirants who are ignorant and feel, the merchant navy is about just being on ship, going to various ports and coming back, like they show in the movies. Here they make the mistake of not checking their fit to the Merchant navy career.
The Aspirants need to have a great detail before joining the Merchant navy and ask few questions to themselves before they actually pay the fees for the pre sea course.
1) Am I ready to put in lot of efforts-against the general feeling that only being away from the family is a challenge. We should understand that out at sea, we can’t take the ship to a garage to get it fixed something goes wrong and the ship’s crew are required to understand and complete the repairs as soon as possible as every hour is paid for by the charter and any delay by the ship will cost many thousands of dollars to the owner.
2) You have to very vigilant at all times, follow rules, company policies and learn as fast as possible from seniors all the time. All are busy on the ships and hence it will be your job to learn from them.
3) Be away from Bad Habits-Almost 100% of the ships are now banned for alcohol and there is a specific smoke room you can smoke in. You need to have control on your urges.
4) The ships life is very busy and you cannot assume you have lot of free time to pursue your passions while onboard, you would surely have free time while sailing however in port it becomes very hectic sometimes also if the vessel is in short runs, like container ships or lightering ships, even the sailing time is less and also hectic. But when you go home you have all the time in the world to whatever you want till you join back
5) Emotional attachment- You would be better of to be a more practical person, to have a successful sea career as, if you are too emotional, attached too much to your family or a specific person that you cannot be away from that person for few months, it will be challenging. Even though I mentioned this, it does mean that you have to be a loner without any attachment, I did not mean that. What I meant was that you should be able to balance out. For E.g., In one of my ships, an officer was very attached to his dog and wanted to go home immediately when he learnt in his middle of his contract that his dog was sick. Shipping companies have provisions to assist seafarers in case of family emergencies and will try their best to get you off the ship to attend personal emergency but only to your immediate family and blood relations.
6) Social Media-As most of the ships now have some kind of a communication which is affordable and have access to the internet. Hence we are mostly in touch with our family and friends ashore before we joined the ships, the same is with all other seafarers as well. Hence the social interaction between the ship mates seems to be reduced. In earlier times view the lack of communication to the outside world, this was more interaction within shipmates which used to develop into long time friendships, which might have reduced in the recent past is my assumption as the interaction onboard itself has reduced. Nevertheless, the method for remaining connected to each other has increased many folds
7) Studies-If you are an Officer-You are required to clear all the competency exams to become a master or a CE. These exams are very different from the regular college /University exams as in these exams your competency is checked whereas your knowledge is checked in the university exams. After your university exams, you will surely be trained in your job, however in this case the exams are for understanding how effective your training has been and whether you are capable of taking up the responsibility of the next rank. Even though there are lot of theory subjects, you need to learn, understand and apply, all the subjects directly and specifically lead to your next higher rank/responsibility unlike university exams.
8) Adherence to procedures: As mentioned above, the ship works in very controlled surroundings as the ship is always in international waters going to many countries with different rules and regulations. The ships are always subject to inspection and audits by the company, from the port country etc. Hence we are always required to keep our knowledge up to speed and the ship prepared with the information available from various sources.
9) Contract completion-All the seafarers sign on the ship for a certain period and after that another seafarer of your same designation will come and relieve you. Most of the time this change is flawless and happens perfectly when you complete your time, your reliever is ready and joins the vessels. However, its always not honky dory and sometimes it happens that the company is not able to find a suitable person to relieve you, or the ship is touching such ports that, they cannot do the change. You have to understand this and take it as part of the occupational hazard and hence you cannot fret over it. I myself was not able to come home for my wife’s 1st pregnancy as I was onboard for more than 2 months after my tenure.
To summarize, Merchant navy is a different kind of a life and you need to get yourself tuned to it even before you join so that you nicely blend. It’s good for you, your family, your company and finally your shipmates as well.
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