While a career at sea can be dangerous and comes with its fair share of risks, it is one of the most popular careers that a lot of young people opt for. The following reasons are what make it the career of choice for many people:
- A job like no other – A ship is a unique working environment, one that is not necessarily the same every time. A seafarer may not be assigned to the same ship every time. Also, the crew varies with each contract and sea life is all-encompassing. One gets the opportunity to interact with people of different nationalities and backgrounds both socially and professionally. Also, those working on board ship often develop lasting friendships with their colleagues and have a stimulating life which is different to the experience of many people working ashore.
- The most competitive salaries – The Marine Industry is one of the most highly paying industries and with the personnel being on the ship for months at a stretch, the savings are very high. With no place to spend, nearly everything earned is saved. Wages earned by seafarers are normally above similar professions ashore. According to the ICS, in developing countries, ships’ officers working on internationally trading ships are amongst the very highest paid in their countries. Opportunities for accumulating savings, even when young, are considerable.
- Tax-free earnings – People who draw big salaries often end up spending a great deal on tax. For seafarers, this is not the case as they usually earn in foreign currency and do not need to pay tax. Usually, a merchant marine professional has to spend a minimum of six months on-duty aboard a vessel, following which the professional will be exempt from paying tax for the specified financial year. However, these rules differ from country to country.
- The opportunity to travel the world – A seafarer often joins ship in a different port each time. This allows for the opportunity to see different places and experience different cultures. Although modern ships spend less time in port the ICS still believes that a career in shipping gives the chance of incredible global travel. This gives seafarers the chance to experience interesting and unusual places, rather than just the typical business or holiday destinations visited by many people.
- Learned Transferrable Skills – The experiences and qualifications that a seafarer gains can be utilised in many places on shore as well. Career opportunities extend to thousands of shore-based management jobs, which require people with seagoing experience.
- Long leave – Seafaring is one of the few professions that allows a person to go on long leave. Seafarers get to enjoy long periods of vacation between leaving and joining ships. The average leave or off days are two months at a stretch. Mostly, these are paid holidays. In most jobs, it is only possible to take a maximum of two or three weeks holiday at a time, so while seafarers may sometimes be away from home for extended periods, they also enjoy the benefits when they come home.
- Faster promotions and greater responsibility – Ships’ officers enjoy considerable responsibility from the start of their careers. They ensure the safety of their ships and their cargoes, the lives of their shipmates and the protection of the marine environment. Within 10 years it is possible to qualify as a Captain or Chief Engineer with total responsibility for the operation of a ship and the management and safety of its crew. With proper working attitude, good work performance and required trainings, there is an opportunity for sea officers to immediately be promoted to higher ranks. The new job title also ensures an increase in salary and better benefits.
- International recognition and impact – Seafarers do not just make an impact on their vessel by running it smoothly, but also, on a larger scale in the form of global trade. Merchant navy officers hold internationally recognised qualifications meeting standards, so most officers are qualified to work for the thousands of international shipping companies located all around the world, on ships flying the flags of almost every country. Also, there is a great need for more qualified persons to meet the skills required by international shipping companies. There is soon to be an increase in demand for qualified professionals with shipping gaining considerable momentum.
- Professionalism and exposure – Being a merchant naval professional demands punctuality and a professional attitude. With seafarers often working in shifts, a fair amount of discipline is required to get the job done efficiently. Also, seafaring is a very exciting occupation involving emergencies, contingencies and extra ordinary circumstances. This enables seafarers to learn a great deal and develop rich experience in a plethora of circumstances.
Sea News Feature, February 1