The primordial virtues which a seafarer must possess are – skillset, alertness, decisiveness and promptness. A seafarer cannot afford to lack any of these qualities when on duty, else it may cost him/her the life and property the vessel is carrying. Tasked with navigating the safe passage of the ship and its high-value cargo, seafarers face daily challenges with heavy weather and hectic schedules in port – not to mention intensive training periods – for months at a time.
‘Watches’ & Navigation
A seafarer is effectively the Captain’s representative. When a ship is at sea, there are three different watches to be done in a day, which each last four hours, and one has to do two watches a day. When on ‘watch’, it is the responsibility of the seafarer to navigate the ship, using old, traditional methods that seafarers used earlier, and also using modern technology that ships are now being built with, including electronic charts and radar displays.
Coordination & Responding to ‘Situations’
Even as a seafarer is on watch, he has respond to any alarms, communicate with the engine department and the workers on deck. This apart, the seafarer has to implement a passage plan, and monitor that all the equipment on the bridge is working as it should. With environment regulations in place (in different sectors of the world), the seafarer also has to ensure that safety and pollution prevention regulations are being complied with. Regular drills with equipment, and acclimatising the crew with modern machinery is the onus of the seafarer.
Advent of Technology
In the current scenario, ships are equipped with the latest gadgets and machinery which needs an adept individual with a good hands on calculations and analysis. A seafarer today needs to keep himself updated on latest technology and computer systems to handle GPS, radar, electronic navigation and all the steering systems with ease. Needless to mention, he or she should have a good base of mathematics to study ship stability theory and calculations.
Confidence Levels & Reaction Time
Being at sea is a challenge in itself. If you encounter heavy weather, just walking around the ship can be dangerous. You have to be aware of your surroundings constantly. One has to be quite a confident person because you’re making decisions. Sometimes the decisions might be emergency related, or they might be to do with high-value cargo, so you have to have the confidence to present yourself and know that what you’re going to do is the right thing. In shipping, safety is always the priority. Being able to identify hazards and risks is a massive part of the job when you’re at sea because you can’t afford to make mistakes.
Communication is one of the biggest assets of a good seafarer as he/she has to keep communicating with people on board, over the radio, phone and emails. The life of a seafarer is completely dominated by work. Working with people of different nationalities, the seafarer needs to have a good understanding of the EQ and IQ of his crew.
Prospects & Challenges
Nowadays, with opportunities for progression and considerably lucrative salary to boot, life as a seafarer is becoming an increasingly popular career choice. However, the aspirants or the people on the job should always be certain of the responsibility they carry on their shoulders. The ship only makes money for its operator if it is regularly on the move.
There are risks, too, from the nature of the work on board: risks of injuries, risks from the cargo, from heavy machinery and risks from noxious fumes. Then too, there are concerns for the mental health of seafarers who are confined on a vessel for months on end.
Sea News Feature, March 1