Life At Sea | Experience Of New Joiners On Merchant Ship

Life At Sea | Experience Of New Joiners On Merchant Ship

Last Updated on July 10, 2020 by Arpit Singh

Working at sea I can clearly say living on ship or oceanic complex ( Life at Sea ) in the middle of the water is a different lifestyle; than what we usually see around on land. While career at sea provides you with unparalleled opportunities whether in terms of standard of life; work culture, diversity and chance to visit all the amazing places in route.

While there is plenty to celebrate and cheer about not everything about life at sea is great and cozy. As a mariners we always have to be ready for any condition; day or night, off or on duty. On 999 out of 1000 days you won’t find much to worry about and its all feels part of routine; but on that 1 day you will realize the dangers of sea life.

Your works will keep you occupied for most time and duties will make you responsible and a grownup. We all including myself misunderstood sea life unless we actually face it. For most its just a job where you get plenty of nice time at shore, lots of drinks and food. But in truth its not all 100% true except the nice food; and lots of it!

This article is written with keeping in mind the questions that; people have in their mind but are too shy or may have already rationalize it. We all have been there, but it helps to know before hand what is it that you’re going to face or experience on ship. With that in mind let me caution the reader or new joiner that, since this article is subjective, this should be taken with the open mind.

Life At Sea | Experience Of New Joiners On Merchant Ship

Life at sea | My room

1) What is the primary job of Deck / Engine Cadet on-board vessel?

  • Akul Gupta | Rank: Engine Cadet, Vessel type: Bulk Carrier

    “The very first job I’ve been assigned to was to get familiarize myself; with the machinery that was present in the engine room. To know where are each type of pump was, for example, centrifugal, snake, lobe etc. Then after this, I’ve been in to machinery pipeline hunting, knowing and drawing pipeline and understanding the purpose of it. As a new joiner it was a daunting task to carry out; but with time it become easy, and within a month or two I was comfortable with my rank”

  • Francis Dolotallas | Rank: Engine Cadet, Vessel type: Pure Car Carrier

    “I remember my first day on my vessel M.V XXX. It was a maze for me for the first day but after doing my familiarization of vessel it became clear. Life at sea in Initial days were hard for me because it was a whole new environment and it takes sometime to get use to it. As a engine cadet it is expected of me to study along with practically doing and watching; the work done by my seniors and ask if I don’t understand anything.”

  • Shubham Kumar (Rank: Deck Cadet, Vessel type: PCC)

“When I joined my vessel, starting days were easy because nobody expected anything major out of new joiner. Only things that I had to worry about was to go on navigational watches and on deck for chipping and painting. It became my responsibility to learn things that are petty essential to impart to new crew; because some jobs are ship specific and had to be done in a particular way. So you have a sense or responsibility and you’re trusted upon by your senior which adds up to a pressure initially”

2) How is the food on-board?

  • Arpit Maheswari  (Rank: Engine Cadet Vessel type:Container vessel)

“As a non-vegetarian I’ve already heard before joining the vessel; that we get non-veg everyday and biryani every Sunday. But as the time passes by on-board, getting every day, some what same kind of food made me sick, personal account. Most of the days food is good, a good food is sure to lift your mood up. During parties exotic food is prepared which is always a new experience for a new joiner”

  • Abhishek Amit (Rank:Deck Cadet Vessel type: Product tanker)

“After a long day of work on deck and navigational watch under the supervision of senior(s); one only relief is social media and food. Since social media is optional, food becomes the primary. Getting to mess room is always a surprise for me; because during my contract, I’ve seen two chief cooks. One was okay with almost 15 years of experience another one with; 7 years of experience was good”

  • Jay Kotian (Rank: Engine Cadet Vessel type: Ro-Ro vessel)

“As a vegan, life at sea is tough and i was worried if i could survive my contact on half stomach. Initially it was hard for me to keep my stomach full; because majority of people onboard are meat eater. So after completing my work in engine room in scorching heat; I knew it’s going to be something which I’d eat until I’m full or will have to go back to my cabin without satisfying my craving to the fullest. However this doesn’t mean that everyday was the same; as I had conversation with chief cook and mess man. They finally understood my concern and had prepared extra vegetarian platter; all you need to have a polite conversation with the right person”

Life At Sea | Experience Of New Joiners On Merchant Ship

3) What things must a deck cadet know before joining a ship?

Life at sea can be both cozy or tough depending on your approach and preparation you did before hand. Most people including myself went on our first ship; unprepared straight out of the college or maritime institute. But people on board expect us to do homework and at least be through with all we were taught during our pre-sea training.

As a deck cadet you are required to do a number of jobs including but not limited to; tank soundings, paper work, deck work, maintenance, navigation, ISPS watch keeping duty and assist piloting operation. Your superiors may neglect your mistakes at first they all expect you to be a fast learner.

So before joining your first ship you should revise all what is taught in your training, do some research before hand about the ship type and possible work you may be asked to do. Do not forget to carry notes with you in scanned copy as it is not allowed to carry photo copies or xerox of books or written notes.

Once on ship try to be in the good books of your seniors otherwise things can go nasty sometimes. Be optimistic and try to learn from each work you get. And never ever try to play hero as there is nothing more precious than your life and family. Work hard and enjoy your leisure time and do not forget to spend time on shore leave!

4) Is there a delay in joining ship after completion of all medical and paperwork for shipping company?

  • Abdul Salam (Rank: Deck Cadet Vessel type: Container)

“When my medical and paperwork was completed I’ve been told that I’ll join my first vessel after a week. But because vessel was late for two days, I’d joined after 9 days, there can be few days here and there as for most its just a two to three day work”.

  • Deepak Verma (Rank: Engine Cadet Vessel type: Product tanker)

“I’d been ask to do my medical from the place provided by the shipping company and after doing my medical and doing paper work, I was set to join vessel after a week, but it took me another 6months and another medical and paperwork check.”

  • Ankit Rana (Rank: Deck cadet Vessel type: LNG vessel)

“It took me one year after completing my graduation to join my first vessel, after completing my graduation I’ve been called to Mumbai office to have my medical and paperwork to be done, but after everything I was put on hold for almost one year, when my time arrived to join vessel, I’d to give medical and get my paperwork checked again.”

5) Is there any drug test on day of joining the ship?

Yes, there is drug test before joining the vessel and if it’s a urgent joining, it is on the same day when you’re joining the vessel . There is strict rule on joining a ship; as life at sea is consider physically and mentally challenging and you need to be in your best shape. No one wants a crew on their ship with habit of taking drugs or any other illegal stuffs.

This is thus asked by crew not to approach for a new contact while on medication which can affect the mental and physical performance of a person. Even consumption of alcohol during or up to 4 hour prior to work is considered illegal. Seafarers are thus required by law to follow the alcohol and drug policy on board ship. You can read in detail about the same in a medical article explaining drug test on ship and their limits; using this link to that site.

Life At Sea | Experience Of New Joiners On Merchant Ship

6 ) Was it a good decision for you to join merchant navy.

  • AJay Kotian (Rank: Deck Cadet Vessel type: Ro-Ro vessel)

“From salary point of view, it’s a good option, but only from money perspective, if it’s in your mind that you’ll roam around the world for free, that’s a hard pill to swallow. It’s not taught in our academy during our training period that there’s no such thing as going out at almost every port, it is things of the past, there’s so many local regulation and work onboard, that it become very hard to acquire shore leave, although this doesn’t mean you’re denied of shore leave, but as a new joiner I was really fascinated by going new places and it is not so “

  • Akul Gupta (Rank: Engine Cadet, Vessel type: Bulk Carrier)

“It’s really great if you want to travel and have decent amount of salary, but sometime because of nostalgia I felt lonely and wanted to see my loved ones, overall I will say it was a good decision to join merchant navy, because to have something you have to lose another things.”

  • Michael Pedrosa (Rank: Deck Cadet  Vessel type: VLCC)

“Having to meet myriad nationality, experiencing glimpse of different culture, getting to eat variety of food and getting to travel to new places for which you get paid handsomely is like dream, it was  good decision for me to join merchant navy. “

7 ) Do coast guard came to ship for inspections ?

  • Francis Dolotallas (Rank: Engine Cadet, Vessel type: Pure Car Carrier)

“I’ve done my contract without experiencing any visit from Coast guard.”

  • Deepak Verma (Rank: Engine Cadet Vessel type: Product tanker)

“Yes, coast guard visit vessel for inspection. The first experience I had was with USCG (United State Coast Guard), we entered US water and on our second port USCG inspected our vessel and also carried of fire fighting and abandon”

What were your duties on ship? | Life at sea

8 ) What were your duties on ship?

  • Deepak Verma (Rank: Engine Cadet Vessel type: Product tanker)

“When I joined vessel, first I had to go through familiarization, then it was tracing engine room pipeline as you become comfortable more responsible job is given to you, which is to be done under the supervision of seniors. Every morning i was to take engine room round daily, take sounding of M/E sump tank sounding, waste oil tank sounding, as my vessel was UMS(Unmanned ship), I took night round with duty engineer.”

  • Shubham Kumar (Rank: Deck Cadet, Vessel type: PCC)

“My morning use to start at 0430, first thing I use to do is clean ships office and after doing it I go for my navigational watch from 0400 to 0800, at 0805 we have stand-by meeting, after stand-by meeting I go for my breakfast and then I start working, my work is deck work and at evening again I go for navigational watch with chief officer, sometime, when chief cook has to take inventory, I’ve been called.”

  • Alvin Jueves (Rank: Deck Cadet Vessel type: Bulk carrier)

“My duties was to attend navigational watch under chief officer watch, clean bridge and after stand-by meeting, get on to work assign to me”

9 ) First hand experience with challenges and how you deal with it ?

  • Akul Gupta (Rank: Engine Cadet, Vessel type: Bulk Carrier)

“Coming from comfort of home and getting into new environment is tough, during my starting days I felt homesick  whenever I was free, as time passes by this homesickness reduced, but was still there, it’s just a part of the job that everyone has to deal with.”

  • Arpit Maheswari  (Rank: Engine Cadet Vessel type:Container vessel)

“The first thing that comes to my mind is knee pain that I’ve encountered, so whoever is reading this please keep note of it. If you’re joining you’re first vessel, it is advised to buy a good quality soft shoe sole, why? because for number of months you’ve to walk on non-cushioning steel, and after few days you’ll start experiencing excruciating pain (I’m not exaggerating), when it start with me, I had no clue why my knee was in pain, I thought initially I have tear in my tendon but when I asked third officer (Medical officer), he told me about it.”

Life At Sea | Experience Of New Joiners On Merchant Ship

10 ) How’s daily routine on ship different than shore job ?

  • Arpit Maheswari  (Rank: Engine Cadet Vessel type:Container vessel)

“In shore job you have to reach your office by 0900 or 1000 and leave by evening, but onboard, you’re always on duty, during engine operation if some major fault comes, you maybe called. On Saturday and Sunday shore employee have holidays but we’ve still some work to do, provided no emergency strike that day. All an all there’s no such thing as complete day off on-board, even on Sunday you have to be there as less as for two hours.”

  • Michael Pedrosa (Rank: Deck Cadet  Vessel type: VLCC)

“On shore job you may take sick leave, there’s nothing like that onboard, the challenge that some of us have to face is feeling homesick, missing different occasion with family and friend, if any mishap happens with family, you’re not there to support them physically, immediately.”

11 ) How is money being transferred to bank account?

  • Deepak Verma (Rank: Engine Cadet Vessel type: Product tanker)

“At the start of a month, you’ve been ask in written how many amount of salary do you want to have onboard and how much to send home, once it is confirm after your consent it is electronically send via your company to your bank account that you’ve provided them.”

  • Arpit Maheswari  (Rank: Engine Cadet Vessel type:Container vessel)

“Money is send to your bank account once you’ve confirmed the amount you’ll take onboard and how much to give for home allotment.”

13 ) How do marine engineers contact home when on ship duty?

Life at sea is not that hard as they used to be in the past; whether the need to wait for long to get message from home or to send them. Now a days there are various instrument on board to be in touch to your loved ones. On all ships there is satellite phone with the captain which then can be used to contact your family in emergency.

The second and most popular way of communication is by using internet. Most ship provide free or paid internet facilities to its crew; which then can be used to contact with your family using apps such as Skype, whats-app and Facebook. In some case i have also found seniors having their sim card on international roaming.

That way they can contact to anyone though the local mobile connection in that country once on or near ports.

Life At Sea
That is actually a space for carrying cars but we some times use them for play.

14 ) What facilities do marine engineer gets on the ship?

  • Michael Pedrosa (Rank: Deck Cadet  Vessel type: VLCC)

“We have gym, swimming pool, table tennis, playstations etc for keeping us busy and kill some time”

  • AJay Kotian (Rank: Deck Cadet Vessel type: Ro-Ro vessel)

“After completing my day, if I had extra energy, I’d use to play Xbox and do some social media. We have gym and basket ball to play, which seniors play most of the evening and on day of arrival, stay or departure it is silent on basket ball court”

  • Akul Gupta (Rank: Engine Cadet, Vessel type: Bulk Carrier)

“There is Gym, basket ball court, table tennis, video game console, during party people sing karaoke too”

15 ) The highs and lows of your experience as the TME or Deck Cadet?

(Most frequent and common answer) Deck Cadet & TME

High :

“You get a decent amount of money, you get to get the glimpse of new country and culture, you’re expose to new cuisine at its original form (wherever you go you can try that country food), onboard you’ve to push your limit, understand the trading pattern of the world ”

Low :

“nostalgia, you’ve to be ready 24/7 to be called for emergency work, depleting relationship at home country  ”

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