Job at sea is extremely demanding, but a rewarding career; especially if one doesn’t just keep watches and performs tasks given by officers, but builds one’s way up conscientiously. There are a lot of guides how to be a winner applicable to any profession. We decided to make a list specific to a career in the maritime industry. Welcome our top 10 ‘how to become a successful seafarer’ tips.
1. Proficiency and Hard Work
Experts agree that these two qualities are in the basis of all successful careers. Naturally, there need to be a pinch of good luck to reach the top, but no promotion is possible in the maritime industry without expertise in ship navigation or machinery and some heavy labor. The only opportunity to clear a shortcut to the top positions is to build career smartly.
2. Career Strategy
Plan your maritime career carefully as you might plan an attack. It’s a common knowledge that salaries and working conditions vary considerably depending on the vessel type, so try to develop a strategy of your moves from one ship type to another.
Majority of seafarers agree that container ships and general cargo vessel provide the best opportunities for the start of maritime career. They usually move along predetermined routes, don’t carry complicated equipment or hazardous cargo onboard and don’t require exquisite handling skills.
Meanwhile, salaries are not particularly high there.
Nowadays, oil product tankers, LPG/LNG and offshore vessels provide best wages and conditions for seafarers. However, usually there are strict training and experience requirements to join these vessels. If first are achievable, the second often seem as a vices circle for novices (no opportunity to obtain the required experience without getting onboard).
There is some way out. If you are serious about transfer to offshore, tankers or LPG/LNG carriers, apply for a job in a moderate company. They often work in Persian Gulf or in a Gulf of Guinea, have no air conditioning onboard, cook only Asian cuisine and provide minimal salary. But you will get experience in your rank on AHTS, OCV, oil product tanker or LNG (underline as necessary), quit and finally match requirements of top shipowners.
Important tip! While planning a transfer from one vessel to another is a necessary procedure for your career advancement, avoid jumping from vessel to vessel (and especially from company to company) too often. Such disloyalty will be noticed in your CV soon enough and counted against you.
3. Maritime Websites vs. Crewing Companies
Once you’ve planned your career and set goals it’s a high time to find a job at sea. Whether you prefer websites for seafarers or crewing agencies do it smartly.
- Complete your profile on the website and don’t forget to update is regularly; this is a powerful tool in finding a suitable job, just ensure your profile in up-to-date. Make settings to receive vacancies for your position to the email or Telegram.
Moreover, with an updated profile crewing managers might pick you up for vacancies themselves, so leave your telephone number for urgent vacancies cases.
- If you prefer traditional way and crewing companies, some preparation won’t go amiss either. We made a piece ‘Maritime Job: Successful Interview Tips’ some time ago pointing out that there are some easy tips to make a success out of job interview in crewing, i.e. make some research about the company, have your application form/ CV and certificates available, look smartly and arrive on time, cope with facilities easily in case of online interview, think through answers for questions you might get (appropriate for your position) and prepare for Marlins test in advance.
4. Document your Progress
Proper CV/application form is vital for easy career ladder climbing. Capture all details of the projects you are involved in, elaborate your duties onboard even if you have no desire to change your job at the moment. This way CV is completed when experience is fresh in your memory, so you contribute first hand relevant information to your resume which will be important for the future employers.
5. Proficiency in English
There is a skill that is definitely needed for any seafarer. Fluent English has become a mark of successful officer and a pass to the top of career ladder in the maritime industry. True, it still is possible to being on mute at sea, but the range of companies will be extremely limited as well as your salary. Real career development confides to modern vessels with multinational crews which accept only advanced speakers as their top officers.
Incidentally, the problem of language is less acute now. Many young officers learn English from childhood and come onboard with very decent level. Such cases require just weaving specific vocabulary attributed to every job, so good English is a real bliss. This is not to mention that ISF Marlins or MarTEL tests are done as easily as shelling peas by these seafarers.
6. Don’t Blot your Copybook
Job at sea is truly international. That brings an abundance of opportunities, but on the other hand your mistakes will be known all over the world as well. Crewing manager from a Greek company checks references with German shipowner and knows everything about your last trip in five minutes. There are several cases that are most intolerable:
- Drug or alcohol abuse onboard;
- Theft or any other criminal offense;
- Insubordination and misconduct;
- Bullying and harassment;
- Outbursts of any kind of unprofessionalism from poor performance to heated political debates onboard.
News spread fast in a closed community of seafarers, so managers know everything, make notes in the database (if not discharge immediately); and seafarer loses his job. Moreover, future employers are warned off. Therefore, adhere your company’s ethos and leave bad habits at home; your weaknesses can hinder your maritime career most severely even without your knowledge.
7. Learn from Senior Crewmembers
Your officers have already walked in your shoes, so probably know answers to most of your questions. Don’t be afraid to ask; it’s the best way to learn. People usually feel flattered and are happy to explain and share experience with novices; especially if some intelligence is applied and right questions asked.
8. Continue Learning
You need to carry on studying if you are serious about promotions (COCs at least need to be upgraded in order to go up). However, there are other skills (and certificates) that are required by senior crew members, so never stop learning if you’d like to get somewhere. Once you’ve planned a transfer to a particular vessel, check the training requirements there. Some courses will be provided by the company on the verge on joining (mainly refer to safety onboard), but the majority of professional certificates seafarers are required to obtain on their own. For example, DP training courses for offshore navigators or LNG cargo handling and FRAMO pumping systems trainings for LNG carriers’ officers.
By the way, shipowners often have internal trainings for their officers; never miss an opportunity to join. It’s a wonderful chance to obtain new knowledge and forge useful connections at the same time.
9. Cutting Edge of Technology
You know that technology develops alarmingly fast in the world we live in. Progress in the maritime industry has accelerated particularly in recent years, so seafarers are strongly advised to embrace technology to stay in the game. For instance, autonomous ships are becoming our reality; they will have reduced crew at first. Naturally, these will be only seafarers adapt in high tech navigational systems and machinery
10. Effective Team Player
Seafarers Happiness Index has fallen again compared to the previous report (6.31 in Q1 2019 down from 6.69 in 2018). Seamen blame lack of social life in their misery and look back nostalgically on times of real camaraderie and friendship onboard. Those times are gone; seafarers live their isolated lives alone with gadgets; but to be successful indeed to be happy in a chosen profession you should try to create an amiable environment onboard.
There are some simple rules how to be a good crewmember:
- Don’t gossip and grapevine. You’ll spend several months with a handful of people in a confided space of your ship. Gossips and talks spread like a prairie fire in such environment; tend to augment into confrontations and turn lives of all involved into hell.
- Cross-cultural groups.
You join the vessel and find several your compatriots there; naturally, you spend more time with them, even switch to you native tongue in a presence of other crewmembers occasionally. Sounds familiar? However, this is a grave mistake; and usually a breach of company policy.Stay well mixed up. You’ll practice in speaking English, acquire friends from other countries, expand your outlook and will be known to your managers as communicative and supported by representatives of different nationalities and religions; this is very important in a mixed crew.
- Provide help. How often have you heard words: “It’s not my watch, why should I do that?” No one is keen on extra work onboard, but remember that next time you might need some help too, so reach out to your crewmate.
- Be grateful and compliment others. People are quick to point out mistakes, but feel it immensely more difficult to acknowledge accomplishments of others. Don’t be afraid to praise your fellow crew member for a well done job or favor. Healthy emotional environment will provide a steady background for your successful career.