Singapore: Today sees the fourth ever Day of the Seafarer. The day, now recognised by the United Nations, was created by the International Maritime Organisation to increase awareness among the general public of the indispensable services the more than 1.2m seafarers bring to the world, and to make the lives of those at sea better, safer and more secure.
In recognition of this event Maritime CEO is doing something different – a special where we interview four seafarers, all currently onboard ship, to discuss life at sea, and their aspirations.
Maritime CEO is indebted to Hong Kong’s Univan Ship Management for providing us with access to its vast pool of talented seafarers for these interviews.
We interview two Indian nationals and two Filipinos, the nations that provide the majority of seafarers to the world’s commercial ships. The Indians are Nikhil Salunke, a second officer for the past year, currently serving onboard the Jupiter Express ship and third officer Dipyan Dutta, who has been with Univan for the past 16 months and is currently serving on the same vessel as Salunke. The Filipinos are third officer Jan Ellin Palomar, who has been a seafarer for just ten months and second officer, Arthur Malapit, who has been working at sea for the past three years.
For Salunke, the choice of going to sea – as with most of our respondents – was largely down to money. “No other job at present provides such a big salary at so early a stage of life,” he says.
Malapit says his goal is to become a skipper and build up a tidy nest egg before retiring.
For Palomar, he recounts how a relative of his used to come home to his big house from stints at seas with lots of chocolates and presents. This attraction of high pay tempted him to take up a seafaring career. However, the rookie Palomar already feels the loneliness from being away from loved ones.
All officers have plenty to say on how life at sea could be improved.
“In a world of modern gadgets and technology,” Salunke says, “we seafarers are still deprived of certain things.”
Most ships, he says, are still without internet connections and this is something that has to change. “In the era of Skype and Facebook it is very difficult to live in isolation,” Salunke observes. Quite so, agrees Dutta, urging broadband on all ships so seafarers can stay in touch with their families.
Next up on the wishlist is a greater spend by owners and managers on recreational activities at sea.
“In a ship, there must be more recreation for seafarers,” says Palomar, “as we consider loneliness our greatest foe.”
This, says Dutta, should include the latest movies, table tennis and gym equipment. Quips Salunke, “Health is wealth.” With this in mind, a gym should be on every ship. “A workout does help out in keeping the mind fresh,” he observes. More books, rather than just magazines should also be readily available.
Boat services to get seafarers ashore at certain ports should be laid on, says Salunke. Ships are often at anchor for a long time, with shore leave a possibility but boat charges are often prohibitively high. These charges could be split 50:50 between the shipowner and the seafarer.
The final thing that Dutta would like to see onboard is a certain guaranteed – albeit minimal – amount of alcohol to help improve the atmosphere on ship.
As to whether the role and significance of seafarers is actually appreciated around the world, not all our respondents were too sure.
“Internationally, there might be some organisations trying to show their appreciation to our endeavour as seafarers, but I don’t feel the sincerity,” says Malapit. In the Philippines, seafarers are popularly described nationally as heroes, but Malapit wants Manila to show greater appreciation. Given the huge contribution to the national economy via all the seafarer remittances back home, Malapit urges the Philippine government to create laws to provide welfare assistance to seafarers and their families up to their retirement.
IMO celebrations of the Day of the Seafarer are underway. In the run up to this year’s edition IMO has been running a popular social media campaign.
“Seafarers are the people,” the IMO says on its website, “without whom food, clothes, gifts, gadgets or even basic needs would not reach our doors. We rely on them every day. Yet have you ever said thank you to a seafarer? Chances are you haven’t.”
For this year’s campaign, the IMO invites everyone to complete the sentence: “Seafarers brought me………..” with a word denoting an object or something specific of your choosing – and if possible, to supplement this with a photo, video and/or written message and post it on the platform of your choice using the social media hashtag #thankyouseafarers. [25/06/14]