27 Reasons Why Seafaring and Shipping Profession is No More Attractive

by OldSailor on February 2, 2008

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The aim of this post is not to discourage seafarers or the people involved in shipping industry.

The Shipping Profession, considered as the oldest and worldwide profession is presently no more attractive. Though the shipping industry is growing, enough seafarers are not available to meet the requirements of the industry.

Why youngters are not coming up to take shipping as their profession? Here are some of the reasons:

shipping

Professional hazards:

1.Expensive initial training:

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Any one who is coming out of a college can not straight way take up shipping as profession. Some shipping related courses have to be completed from the Marine Training Institutes. The course fees demanded by the Training Institutes are very high for a person to choose shipping as a profession. Further, many institutes are not recognised by the government and legal bodies.

2.No career growth:

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Career growth for the persons who take up shipping as their profession is very limited. Like in any other profession where one can aspire to become the head of the organisation by competence, here in shipping no such vertical career growth is possible. At the most, one may become the Master or Chief Engineer of a Ship and further vertical growth is limited or not possible.

3.Limited shore jobs:

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One can not afford to remain in ship for life time to earn his bread. At some point of life, a seafarer has to take up shore job. But unfortunately, not enough shore jobs are available for a seafarer. At the most he may get some marine based shore jobs in coastal area.

4.Unstable career:

unstable

Very few seafarers only can take up shipping as their life time profession. That too without any career growth. At the end of their life, they realise that no significant achievements were made.

5.Less manpower and more work:

more work

Shipping companies, to attract more people in the shipping, tend to pay more salary. This is only an illusion. To pay more the shipping companies reduce the man power in ships. Ultimately the seafarer is made to work more.

6.Not able to cope up with technological developments:

technology

The Navigational equipments and Engine contol systems in the ships are mostly electronic. Due to technological advancements, the seafarer has to update his working knowledge of these equipments. If the seafarer is not able to cope up with these developments, he is bound to fail in his profession.

7.Rough seas and sea sickness cause less productivity:

rough seas

As the ship is a three axis moving platform, rough seas cause sea sickness that affects the productivity of the seafarer which is unique in ships.

8.Piracy threats and Marine terrorism:

pirates

Piracy attacks and Marine terrorism on the ships are increasing globally. Unlike storm warnings, no one can predict these surprise attacks.

9.Natural calamity:

rough weather

Though storms and rough weather can be predicted, there are increasing instances of ships getting caught in storms and rough weather that result in groundings,collisions and allisions.

10.Multi cultural environment:

multi culture

The ships are manned by multi cultural crews who have different lifestyles, religions and languages. The seafarer has to adapt himself to live in multicultural environment. Failure to adapt, results in lesser productivity of the seafarer.

11.Frequent validations, training needed:

training

To sustain in ships, seafarer has to undergo time bound validation courses in recognised institutes which are time consuming and expensive.

12.Unsafe ships:

unsafe

Ships have definite lifecycle and are not sea worthy beyond that. But shipping companies try their best to extend their life cycle and sail the ships. The ships become unsafe and the seafarer has to face more marine accidents.

13.Increased suicides in ships:

suicide

The instances of suicides by the seafarers in ships due to their frustration in work are increasing every year.

Personal hazards:

14.Salary not adequate:

salary

Considering the salary paid in other industries like Information Technology, cost of living and other professional hazards in shipping industry, the salary paid to the seafarers are not adquate.

15.Disturbed family life:

family

A seafarer is not lucky to remain with his family members throughout his career like his shore based professionals. A seafarer can not be with is family members in cases of emergencies. Further he has to forget about birthdays,Christmas,wedding anniversary and any other social and family events.

16.Health:

health

Due to work related stress, non availability of fresh food, lack of recreational facilities and inadequate medical facilities in ships, the health of a seafarer deteriorates faster.

17.Loneliness, boredom:

loneliness

As the seafarer is subjected to “Bigger ships and lesser Manpower” concept of shipping companies, the seafarer till he signs off has to face loneliness and boredom. This also reduces the productivity of the seafarer. To overcome loneliness and boredom, a seafarer slowly becomes an alcoholic.

18.Faster turnarounds, no breaks in harbour:

refresh

Due to better cargo unloading facilities available in ports, ships turnaround time has drastically reduced. Practically ships crew don’t get any breaks in harbours to refresh themselves.

19.Communication problems:

communicate

Though English is the universal language, as the ships are manned by multicultural crew, communication problems exist between the crew. In addtion communication problems exist between ship and shore authorities. At times, this leads to misunderstandings and cause unwanted incidents.

20.Personal safety:

safety

A seafarer has to lookafter himself and if he is not able to get along with ships crew, his life is not safe.

21.Medical facility:

medical

Similarly a seafarer is expected to remain fit and remain seaworthy. Medical facilities are inadequate in ships.

22.Anyone can not be a Seafarer:

anyone

To become a seafarer, a person has to be psychologically fit in addition to medical or physical fitness. To assess the suitability to become a seafarer, psychometric tests are conducted at entry level training of seafarers.

Social hazards:

23.No recognition in society:

society

A seafarer due to isolation from his family members, gets slowly isolated from the society also and has no recognition in the society.

24.Seen as a high income man but spends more than he earns:

rich

A seafarer is visualised by many in the society as high earning member whereas most of the seafarers spend more than they earn.

25.Not able to mix up in society:

alone

Many seafarers are not able to mix up in a heterogeneous society as they interact with limited people throughout their career. They mix up successfully with other seafarers only.

Legal hazards:

26.Pollution:

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If a ship pollutes the sea due to whatsoever reasons, ships crew including the captain of the ship have to face legal actions.

27.Marine accidents:

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If a ship gets involved in collision, allision, grounding, fire etc.,the ships crew including the captain of the ship are liable to face legal actions.

Update: June 20

Seafarers: Don’t sell your lives for money. Lead a free life/normal life also ! Read more from Life at Sea.

Update: September 23

Quite aside from facing isolation from friends and family for long periods and often working in challenging conditions, a young person considering a career at sea now has to think about the real threat of being arrested, harassed and intimidated each time he steps ashore.

Read more, the views of Singapore Shipping Association president SS Teo from The Business Times.

Update: December 11

Here is a disturbing report to justify seafaring is no more an attractive profession. The Master and Chief Officer of the Hebei Spirit, Jasprit Chawla and Syam Chetan, were given jail sentences of eighteen months and eight months respectively. In addition to the jail sentences, the Master has been fined Won 20 million and the Chief Officer Won 10 million, while the shipowner, Hebei Shipping, was fined Won 30 million. Read more from BIMCO.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

anil April 4, 2012 at 10:40 AM

dear friend
before you write a comment please update yourself . dont pull down the glorious profession with your ignorance. most of the points mentioned here does not exist or even if they exist they are at par with any land based jobs .

sumit June 7, 2012 at 10:24 AM

dear,
looks like u totally lost it……or u have taken only the negative aspect and tried to make ur point….there 100′s of reasons why i would prefer sea job rather than shore job, looks like u have tried ur stint but were tooo weak to continue in this profession….
so gear up or else i dont think u willl fit even as land lubber

Gagan July 26, 2012 at 4:17 PM

Few of the above points are valid well there are other aspects to these points as per my opinion shown below in same serial order as per your post

1. Expensive Initial Training: (this point not valid)
In my opinion its not correct to say initial training is very expensive, if a person is opting engineering/ medical / commerse as career then also he has to spend money to graduate and to get a better job he/she has to go for master degree in turn spend more money.

2. No Career Growth: (this point not valid)
as you have clearly mentioned in your post one can become master or chief engineer , dude this is career grown to become master and chief engineer and your wages do increase and they are quiet promising if not very well.

3.Limited Shore Jobs: (This point Partially Valid)
Well there are variable options after sea job like jobs in boiler factories, factories dealing with auto industry, teachers in maritime colleges, administrative jobs in shipping companies shore based offices, superintendents, shipyard jobs.

well yes it is a bit difficult to look for options after quiting sea but its not impossible to get jobs at land after working at sea.

4. Unstable Career: (this point not valid)
this point of yours is not valid as there are numerous companies in india (foreign and national) which give whole lot of oppurtunities to seafarers to take up a career its only difficult in beginning during cadet ship (under trainee) after that the career is stable, no problems at all and i would say if one opts a good company in cadetship than cadetship goes smooth as well. Overall career is stable.

5. Less ManPower more work: (VALID POINT)
this point is very relevant and valid , shipping companies are continuously increasing work load for crew onboard ships, seafarers have to work more and they are not being paid adequately, if we look at it salaries paid to seafarers 20 yrs back were more as they are paid today if we compare salaries with price index. for eg 1 dollar fetched more things than it fetches today, i.e. relevantly salaries have not increased .

6.New Technologies (this point not valid)
this point is not valid as well, i want to give a small example for it.
when we buy a new phone or home appliance (washing machine/ac/juicermixer/drier/vaccummcleaner) or whatever we have to read instructions before using ot for first time or we have to look for controls first before we start using it i.e in short we familiarise ourself with our new equipment in same way a person is familiarised with new equipment once he joins ship , and person who is experienced (i.e has sailed before) its none of the issues for him/her seafarers can handle any new piece of equipment be it engine controls or nav. equipment.

7.rough sea: (this point partially valid)
seasickness happens during initial stages of career when one gets used to the sea seasickness occurs rarely moreover if a person is serving on a bigger ship than rough sea is rare. so we assume that this point of seasickness is partially valid.

8. PIRACY ( VALID POINT)
BIGGEST THREAT TO SHIPPING AND SEAFARERS : more efforts from shipping companies and govt. of all nations has to club together to fight against piracy.

9.Natural Calamity (this point not valid)
calamities can happen at land as well.

10. Multi Culture environment: (this point not valid)
i think it is just a matter of few days to adjust in daily routine works, well in total i would say this is what we call as exposure to different cultures make our vision wore vivid and good. i think its positive to work in muti cultured environment.

11. Frequent Validation of courses: (this point partially valid)
yes it is true that for revalidating courses a seafarer has to make some adjustment in his holidays.

12. unsafe ships :( this point partially valid)
there are few cases where some ships are unseaworthy and unsafe rest i think its all in hands of onboard staff to do right things i.e safely and efficiently. agree that in todays world there are commercial pressures on seafarers , no matter how much shipping companies deny this fact but everybody realises in their minds that this pressure is still persistent and effectively effecting seafarers life on board and work place ambiguities are increased due to this

13.Suicides (this point not valid)
onboard environment does not lead a person to commit suicide. there are more suicide cases in world which sadly take place to non seafarer people i.e. people in other professions like farmers are commiting suicides more frequently .

14. Salary Inadequate: (VALID POINT)
salaries of seafarers are not adequate as compared to the risk and work pressure , work they are exposed to. salaries must be increased.

15. Family life : (this point partially valid)
partially valid because officer can have family on board but crew cant so that is why partially valid.

16.Health: (this point Partially valid)
recreational facilities are onboard merchant ships as well like Gymnasium , swimming pool, chess, carom, ludo, checkers, movies etc. well yes regarding food its quiet valid that food stocked in refer chambers is not quiet fresh after 2 weeks but still the condition of food is not at all bad , the food is very well consumable atleast freshly and hygienically prepared i.e same as in 5star hotels they also serve same like food stuff, otherwise how can a 5star hotel managements provide tuna and squid fishes in non coastal states in any country worldwide, even they store food in refer chambers before it comes to your plate when you dine in with you loved ones.

well yes we dont have doctors on every ship but all good shipping companies bear expenditures for medical evacuation in emergency ofcourse.

17. Lonliness (this point Partially valid)
well yes seafarers are away from family from entire world but dude its part of profession. even you said in last of your post that EVERY ONE CANT BE A SEAFARER , so be tough.

18.Shore LEAVES: (valid point)
at times on a VLCC (Very Large Crude Carrier) i.e. big ships entire 4-5 months of contract goes by without a single shore leave, well yes shipping companies say that they arrange for service boats for off and crew to visit ashore , that is all wrong claims which companies make, how can a chief officer leave ship and go ashore while ship is discharging her cargo nor can any other officer leave as most probably there will be some vetting inspection either in progress or will have to visit shortly.

19.Communication Problem: (this point not valid)
as your point is self explanatory in your post, these things happen SOMETIMES so i think it happens at land as well.

this is the one of the reasons why decleration papers are signed by both ship and shore responsible officers with all instructions and inportant aspects in writing on proper mutually, internationally agreed formats to avoid misunderstandings and confusions.

20. Personal safety:(this point not valid)
every body has to be cautious even at shore accidents do happen at land as well i.e one has to cross a road carefully not blindly.

21. Medical facilities: ( this point is partially valid)
yes we dont have doctor onboard as discusse in point health above , but one has to keep up with healthy practices like exercising daily and taking proper rest.

22. Valid point

23. No recognisation in society: (this point Partially valid)
well still i would say one can keep up when he/she is at home during holidays and can make up a nice small group if not much bigger

24. partially valid

25. partially valid

26. yes but its part of trade

27.accidents happen at land more frequently than at seas

22.

subh February 10, 2013 at 2:23 AM

look dude..marine jobs are one of the oldest jobs…above all i would like to say it’s the 2nd most risky job throughout the world..if everyone finds own happiness then who are gonna make them happy??
answer is seafarers..u can comment upon them whatever u want..alcoholic;smoker…whatever…but dont forget that if ur cycle of life is running smoothly that is just for one & only seafarers..they sail around 7 seas to smoothen ur lives…
and being apart from the society is better than being attached with an unsocial society…

Ravinder May 27, 2013 at 12:49 PM

All above points are very relevant and speak real truth.

Young guys should think over and be wise taking decision to choose sea as career.

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