Merchant navy is a physically as well as mentally demanding profession. Seafarers are required to stay extremely disciplined and professional not only during working hours but also during the spare time on ships.
Seafarers are also often required to work in unfavourable working conditions and confined environment, which make them more susceptible to professional stress and strain. Thus, self-discipline coupled with a positive attitude is a must on board ships to avoid mistakes, professionally speaking.
To ensure that seafarers act, behave, and work in a certain disciplined manner, the code of conduct for merchant navy has been drafted in order that there is a reference/standard to which seafarers and authorities can turn to with regard to matters of discipline, decorum and conduct.
In this article, there are ten rules, which every mariner is required to follow in non-emergency situations on ships.
Punctuality is probably one of the primary bastions of professionalism in any field and needless to say, seafarers are required to be punctual in every aspect of their life on board ships; vis-a-vis shore-leave or reporting for watch-keeping duties, seafarers must value time on board ships. Delay of any kind of operation can lead to the delay of the whole ship, resulting in loss of both time and money.
Additionally, punctuality considers that outgoing officers are relieved of their duties in a timely manner, ensuring that interpersonal relations and operations onboard are carried forth without hindrance.
Sobriety is essential to the basic functioning of manpower onboard a merchant ship. With the value of the ship and her cargo running into millions of dollars, navigating the vessel under the influence of alcohol seems ridiculous in every way. Most ship owners have prohibited the consumption of liquor onboard, i.e., enforced a ‘no alcohol’ policy. In the case where such a policy is in effect, it is mandatory to adhere to it.
As with any other workplace, narcotics are a complete no-no onboard (as well as ashore, while on shore leave). It is unlawful to consume, possess, or distribute drugs on board ships. A seafarer found guilty of consuming or possessing drugs, is liable to dismissal from his or her job and also subject to legal proceedings. It is to note that certain countries have very strict rules against drugs which involve capital punishment. The act of transporting it is a guaranteed route to really long/lifelong imprisonment; it is therefore advisable to every seafarer to steer completely clear off of any such activity or habits. Not to forget, the risk posed to the safety of the vessel when narcotics are in question, whether it pertains to consumption or transportation, is immense.
Any kind of offensive weapons which can be fatal are not allowed on board ships. A seafarer found guilty of such acts is liable to legal proceedings and suspension. It is possible that the country one is in has lax gun laws enabling easy purchase and use of weapons; as with the contrabands mentioned above, it is best to steer clear. Certain flags might allow the Master to have a gun for the safety of the vessel but under no circumstances is the individual carriage of any weapon allowed onboard. Punishment for this is also extremely harsh, and rightfully so.
5. Carrying out of duties
Every seafarer is required to perform duties to the best of his or her abilities. It is necessary that seafarers properly understand their duties and obey all the commands and instructions which are within their scope.
The precise allocation of duties can be found in the SMS Manual as per the ISM Code and so far as possible, be adhered to. Obviously, there arise circumstances in which it is not practicable to stick to a job description; emergencies and exceptions notwithstanding, seafarers should diligently carry out the duties that they are assigned. Seafarers should also know whom to report to and what to do in case of emergency situations.
Most of the ship owners follow No-Smoking policy onboard their ships, especially on tankers and those carrying dangerous flammable cargo. No smoking rules should be strictly followed on board ships to prevent fire accidents. Designated smoking rooms are the only places where a smoker should smoke. Smoking poses a threat to the safety of the vessel when done on deck, owing to the flammable nature of the cargo. Smoking in cabins should also be prohibited for the chances of a mishap due to human error can be devastating.
7. Behavior towards Colleagues onboard
Misbehavior and anti-social attitude are not tolerated on board ships. Seafarers who are involved in actions such as abusive language including racism, sexual harassment, aggressive attitude, and offensive personal habits can face suspension or discontinuation of their job contracts. Owing to the multicultural nature of shipboard work, it is important for every seafarer to adapt to the various needs and customs of different individuals and imbibe the positive aspects to further the efficiency of work. Do unto others as you would want others to do unto you!
Apart from that, seafarers should know all the reasons which could lead to the suspension of their contract /COC, and thus act accordingly on board ships.
8. Bringing unauthorized persons on board
Seafarers are not allowed to bring any unauthorized persons on board ships. Ship and port authority rules should be strictly followed regarding bringing of unauthorized persons on board to prevent legal actions. Standing rules prohibit the entry of unauthorized persons into the port facility or the ship itself. If the need arises, proper permits shall be obtained to facilitate any such entry. One must not skirt the existing security laws to allow anybody to enter the ship.
9. Treatment of Ship’s property and accommodation area
When seafarers are on ships, the ship is not just their place of work but also their place of living. It is therefore important that seafarers treat ship’s property and accommodation area with respect and take proper care of the same.
Not to sound pedantic but treat the ship like you would treat your own home. The property and everything else contained within is bound to be part of one’s daily usage in some form and it must all be treated with a level of respect.
10. Unlawful Activities
Apart from above-mentioned practices, there are certain unlawful activities and misconducts seafarers should avoid. Any seafarer found guilty of actions such as assault, wilful damage to ship’s property, persistent disobedience, actions endangering ship or person on board, continuous failure in performing duties, normal or cargo theft, actions compromising safety of the ship, and ill-treatment towards onboard personnel can face suspension of the contract or other severe actions against him or her.
To sum it all up, stick to your job, be respectful of the property and others and don’t be a crook! The code of conduct for merchant navy has been specially drafted to keep unwanted trouble at bay. Seafarers must adhere to these rules under all circumstances to ensure the safety of the ship, their lives, and their careers.
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Shilavadra Bhattacharjee is a shipbroker with a background in commercial operations after having sailed onboard as a Third Officer. His interests primarily lie in the energy sector, books and travelling.