The word Seafaring or Merchant Navy has a much broader spectrum beyond the imagination of land dwellers enjoying the fruits of it. Seafaring is rooted much deeper in our lives than one could possibly perceive.
The world economies as a whole and the countries around the globe have undergone a sea-change since the advent of International Shipping Trade. The beautiful sculptures and buildings constructed across the globe, the energy of fuel driving and transporting masses, breath taking innovations, jaw-dropping wonders of technology, food, clothing, and automobiles that we witness and experience today are a result of the systematic and standardised shipping world.
Behind these scenes are unknown stories of a sizeable workforce of men and women – the seafarers, who toil hard round-the-clock so that their ships carrying various cargoes and consignments are delivered safely and on-time in the remotest corner of the world. These ships sail across to the farthest corners of the globe and are thus the backbone of several economies relying on Shipping and Logistics.
Without doubt, seafarers have enjoyed an important stature ever since the creation and development of mankind. Shipping is the lifeline on which the world economies have flourished and survived.
As a Farmer sows, irrigates and reaps a harvest to ensure his family and rest of the world can sustain their lives, similarly, Seafarers are responsibly carrying energy resources, food products and finished goods to the hands of almost every inhabitant on this earth.
This unique and peacefully dwelling fraternity of the society which comprises of sea-going professionals, continues to exist since past centuries, working unobtrusively and uninterruptedly over years to sustain, operate and enhance the world.
However, there is lot more to what it takes to become a seafarer. There are few qualities that are found in a seafarer which makes him or her stand apart from rest of the world and are indispensable to run the show. A few things the world can learn from seafarers are:
Learn to Sacrifice : Seafarers go to the sea to earn their livelihood in a dignified manner and they do so to ensure their families back home have abundance of good health, education and comforts. Needless to mention they are duly supported and appreciated by their families and friends for the same. While rest of the masses are busy with the festivities celebrating Christmas and New Year, there are ships manned by seafarers navigating across oceans amidst darkness spread for miles to ensure that goods and fuel supplies reach in time to light up the houses of fellow cohabitants.
Seafarers sacrifice several important occasions of their lives being at sea so that the rest of the world do not have to miss theirs.
Learn to be More Punctual : In commercial shipping every minute counts. International trade through ships does involves time frames and requires ships to strictly maintain their port schedules and estimated time of arrivals. Shipmaster’s along with navigating officers take upto this tedious task by all means available at their disposal despite adverse currents, cyclonic conditions and rough weather in their way. The day at sea for every seafarer is planned with regards to his work schedule and often unforeseen emergencies arise, but still seafarers are known to complete their targets within stipulated deadlines.
It is not easy to run a huge facility like ship at sea with utmost punctuality. But if seafarers can value time in the toughest working conditions, so can the rest of the world on land.
Foster Resilience : It was the night of Independence day when two trainees onboard a supply vessel in Indian waters were involved in rescuing occupants of a rig in an offshore exploration field. The rig had caught fire and before the assistance could arrive the staff jumped into the water to save their lives. The offshore supply vessel approached to rescue the rig crew in water despite heavy swell and wind. While approaching, one of the survivor was caught in the turbulence and got stuck in the propeller of the supply vessel which eventually lead to his death. The two trainees who witnessed this accident were left cold and numb for rest of their contract and decided to quit sea.
The Master who was a sailor for quiet a long time then motivated them to hold on and not to give up on their career at sea. It worked and the trainees soon rose up to levels of navigating officers.
Seafarers are known for their determination as they continue to trade through ships despite the roughest seas or piracy infested waters of Gulf of Aden and Somalia.
Working against the forces of nature at sea is extremely difficult. Accidents and emergencies take place frequently. But a seafarer is trained to find courage in the toughest situation possible and move ahead. The sea is a great teacher and the seafarers knows it well.
Be More Adaptable : Seafarers can be called as one of the most adaptive professionals around. Being of truly global nature, seafaring involves people from all walks of life and cultures travelling, living, and training together. Working in adverse weather conditions and remotest corners of the world where language and cultural difficulties is common, a seafarer successfully completes all necessary operations without delay. Almost every seafarer has an experience to work with at least four or five different nationalities since their training times until he/she acquires a rank amongst the crew or officers. Seafarers not only develop this remarkable ability to get along with each other within such a short span but work productively as well.
Being Truthful & Honest : Seafaring community has won several accolades at times for their honest and truthful services. Being involved in the legal aspect of commercial shipping and regulations onboard ship, this workforce has ever stayed loyal towards their job and ship owners. No other enticements other than their salaries have made them deviate from their honest intentions to deliver the cargo they carry no matter how precious it is.
Become More Environment Friendly : Seafaring is a field with some of the most stringent regulations when it comes to environment protection. The implementation of garbage management policy /plan onboard and measures to prevent pollution through oil spill, imbibes in a seafarer the basic and inherent tendency or rather develops a much improved civic sense to store trash and not to litter in public places while at shore or at home during vacations.
Seafarers ashore can be noticed proceeding cautiously towards a waste bin and dispose the garbage in it to keep their surroundings clean, something the rest of the world needs to learn at the earliest.
Stay Organised & Committed: Worldwide Trading and travel patterns involve a lot of documentation which again develops as a routine task wherein a seafarer is well aware of and is required to keep all his documents organised, updated and in order. This habit descends down into the family through the seafarer as well, and while being at shore he or she can be seen well organised with any other documentation even though not related to sea.
Be Fearless : Antrip Sood, a 23 year old boy who was selected for training onboard a merchant ship boarded the gangway with butterflies in his stomach. His heart racing faster with every step he ascended on the gangway and an unseen fear and anxiety creeped in as he joined the first ship. Life appeared much disciplined and professional. It was a no-nonsense place and the ship rolled and swayed with the weather. He felt sea sick for first two days and vouched to never return to sea again but as time passed and he made friends onboard, he eventually realised it was the perfect job he wanted – a job which enabled him to see different countries and meet new people. He learnt the art to adapt and enjoy his work so much so to the extent that when he finally parted from the ship he kissed her with tears in his eyes. He knew he would be carrying a lifetime memory with him that day and the sea had laid the foundation of an officer in making.
The Sea nurtured him from a young boy to a Master with nerves of steel who faced several storms and cyclones during his career and ensured his ship’s crew and cargo are safe. 10 years passed from that day and another trainee boards the gangway with the same anxiety and Captain Antrip Sood watches him from the bridge with mixed feelings as he climbs up the gangway. Shipping is one of the most dangerous professions and seafarers have courage to command that fear and be out there whenever duty calls.
Stay Lively & Family Oriented : Being at sea for a few months makes a seafarer long more for his family and as a result the bond grows stronger as years pass by. The family too respects his decision to be away for few months to ensure a well placed life in the society. This mutual sacrifice brings more respect and faith in the institution of family. In the process, seafarers learns not only to manage personal life but also to handle the rigorous and monotonous life at sea. Seafarer believes in enjoying in the moment cause he knows his time on a particular ship is short and therefore he puts maximum effort to make the best out of it. Seafarers are happy-go-lucky people who have learnt how to handle stress in life, a quality the rest of the world also needs to learn.
At the end of this, Merchant Navy is much beyond the commonly used phrase “Six Months on land and Six months at sea” or the age-old myths people have. If the ships plying in water come to a stand still the World would be engulfed with chaos, darkness and hunger within no time.
It’s high time to realise and appreciate the indirect role seafarers play in lives thriving and nourishing all over the world, carrying 80-90 percent of global trade in volume and 70 percent by value .
It can be rightly said – As the Sun goes down The Seafarer stands tall and firm over the horizon holding the batten to make sure the Flame of Life keeps burning bright as ever.
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