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:
1.Expensive initial training:
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:
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:
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.
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:
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:
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:
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:
10.Multi cultural environment:
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:
To sustain in ships, seafarer has to undergo time bound validation courses in recognised institutes which are time consuming and expensive.
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:
The instances of suicides by the seafarers in ships due to their frustration in work are increasing every year.
14.Salary not adequate:
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
A seafarer has to lookafter himself and if he is not able to get along with ships crew, his life is not safe.
Similarly a seafarer is expected to remain fit and remain seaworthy. Medical facilities are inadequate in ships.
22.Anyone can not be a Seafarer:
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.
23.No recognition in 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:
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:
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.
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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