A career at sea is not for everyone but those that opt for this profession must have certain qualities to be successful and sustain in this demanding occupation.
The following are traits that seafarers must possess:
- Fit & Hardworking – working on board a ship requires a fair amount of stamina and physical fitness. Some vessels are massive in size and require a seafarer to be in top shape in order to work on them. There are stairs that need to be taken to the deck, engine room, etc., also, the temperatures may be uncomfortable at times and a person must have a certain level of tolerance to be able to withstand these. On board the ship, working conditions are also subject to variable weather conditions at sea and the seasons of the countries, the ship is sailing to. Seafarers have to toil hard regardless of the work area = be it on deck, in the engine room and in the galley. Though they have high paying jobs, seafarers earn their salaries on board not through a walk in the park but by blood, sweat and sometimes, tears.
- Agility – A seafarer often encounters unconventional circumstances and may face difficult situations such as bad weather, a technical problem on the ship, equipment failure, an emergency or even a pirate attack. In such cases, the requirement is to think on your feet, spring into action and even be creative in dealing with an unusual circumstance. Thus, a sharp mind and quick response is the need of the hour.
- Mentally sound – Seafarers are often away from home for long periods of time. They are in foreign countries and amongst unfamiliar people, often of different nationalities. Also, the job often entails a great deal of stress. This may lead to anxiety, depression, feelings of loneliness and homesickness. To cope with this a seafarer must be able to deal with his emotions and address these feelings in a positive way.
- Tolerance & Adaptability – It is not always easy to understand people who are different from you. Seafarers are often in groups that are culturally diverse and though they might not always understand how and why their colleagues are different, they must be tolerant of other cultures and personalities. Also, when a seafarer joins a ship for the first time, he must get a “sense” of the environment and be able to adapt to the social and professional conditions of the said vessel. Only then will he be able to sustain the length of the voyage.
- Leader & Team Player – While a seafarer must be a go-getter and possess good leadership qualities in order to progress in his career, he must also be able to take instruction and be an effective team player. Grouping up, placing the blame on others and not taking responsibility for assigned tasks can lead to the downfall of the vessel and the team. It will also lead to unnecessary stress and bad blood among the crew.
According to APL’s Head of Global Marine Operations, Captain Lee Chee Seong there is a set of characteristics which combine to make the perfect seafarer.
- Hunger: Hunger is a key element in succeeding in the seafaring career. Hunger is what makes a candidate go ‘all out’ – to obtain and retain the job. A drive to keep on learning and growing shapes seafarers.
- Boldness: Seafaring is not for the shy, intimidated and fearful. A seafarer needs to possess courage and boldness as the job requires stepping out of the comfort zone – rather often.
- Adaptability: Seafarers work with varying cultures and must be willing and able to adapt to connect and work effectively.
- Think on Your Feet: A seafarer needs to be independent and able to respond fast and well.
- Good Command of English: A good seafarer ought to possess a good command of written and spoken English.
- Leadership: Leadership is another valued trait as seafarers have to lead and solve problems. The ability to thrive under pressure, is key too.
- Effective Team Player: Beyond leadership, a seafarer needs to be a good team player. A collaborative spirit is vital in order to work effectively on board a ship that consists of co-workers with various responsibilities and ranks.
- Loyalty: Loyalty is another aspect which Captain Lee values – to the company, to crewmates, to the ship, and to yourself.
Apart from these, a seafarer must also be organised, self-motivated and recognise the contribution of his fellow crew members. He must be technically competent – having all his required trainings and certifications and confident in his abilities. Last but not least, a good sense of humour goes a long way!
Sea News Feature, February 2