“Life At Sea Is Tough, Really Tough, But One Is Well Compensated So It’s All Good!
I was fortunate enough to meet a friend of my mother, who introduced me to this field. He was also a Marine Engineer.
We spoke about it at length and it seemed that this would be something that I would be very keen on pursuing,” says Sameer Saiyed, a Third Engineer who has a Bachelor’s degree in Marine Engineering.
Talking us through a day in his life while he is sailing overseas, Sameer shares, “A usual day at work starts with a safety and toolbox meeting at 07:45 am where we discuss the nature and safety concerns of the job that is planned for the day.
“We start working at 08:00 am and work up to 18:00 pm, or so usually. Somewhere during this time, as per our workload and convenience we have our coffee breaks and lunch from 12:00-13:00 pm. By the end of the working day, we end up finishing the planned job and making a report of the same.
As I am a Third Engineer, my duties are to look after the maintenance, repair and testing of the Ship’s Boiler, Generators, Fresh Water System and a couple of other minor machinery.
There are three departments: Marine Engineering (Engine dept.) Nautical Science (Navigation dept.) and Saloon or Galley ( Catering/ kitchen dept.)
As many would be keen on knowing how they maintain their health and get fresh food while on-board, he says that there are not too many health issues they face. “I’m always in the engine room running up and down in the 50 degrees heat.
It’s a great way to stay slim,” he giggles.
“We do have a swimming pool and a gym in the ship to keep fit. We get some great food on-board, if the cook is good and usually they are. Fresh provisions are bought every month and stored in perfect storage conditions, to keep it as fresh as possible.”
This is part of our pre-joining training. We also have a fully stocked and functioning hospital with medication for most major and minor conditions and some basic surgical instruments. Apart from that there are worldwide organisations that offer emergency medical advice and assistance over radio communications.
They are all also trained at medical care to a certain degree.
“This is a quality that is instilled in us, from the beginning itself.
Safety training and being prepared for accidents is of paramount importance.
Sailing is a relatively easy thing to do when things are normal and calm. It is only when a dangerous situation arises that, we have to use all our training and experience to solve the problem. This is one of the reasons why we get paid the way we do!
The risk factor is high, though the dangerous incidents are usually quite rare.
“For our entertainment, we have a table tennis room on most ships as well. The recreation room has a carrom board, PlayStation and couple of other popular board games.
Anyone aspiring to be a Mariner has two options after completing 12th grade with a science background.
One is to do a 4-year degree in Marine Engineering.
The other is to do a 3-year course in BSC Nautical Science.
The difference being one is Engineering and the other is Navigation.
“Apart from that, we all usually like to sit with a few drinks and converse about work or family or general nonsense. We do talk to our families almost daily.
We can call, e-mail, text or even video call family and friends. These days, as part of the seafarer welfare regulations, most ships have perfectly functioning internet facilities.
WiFi is also available to each crew member in their own cabin. Everyone also has their personal laptops to kill time.”
Sameer recalled emotionally how his first day at the ship was a very strange experience for him.
My first day at work, like most people’s, was very strange. It was a completely different experience from what I had heard. The sheer size of my ship left me speechless.
But in general, since I was a trainee back then, I was looked after by my seniors, who gave me no actual jobs. I only had to observe and absorb.”
Bursting the myth that most marine engineers sail near about six months depending on their posts and the kind of ship they board, Sameer says, “This is a common myth amongst the land-based community.
The period one sails for is purely dependent on company policy and the individuals rank. As a junior one can sail even for up to 9 months at a stretch with 3 months of holiday and at the highest rank one sails for about 2.5 to 3 months with 3 months off.
“But yes, in general, staying at the high seas for a prolonged period, does become exhausting, because of bad weather and rough seas. It’s also quite hectic because of the routine,” he adds.
He also says that getting to see land is mainly dependent on the route the ship takes and what cargo is being carried at the time. “From my experience though, I always managed to be on land once every 15 days.”
Speaking about the days off, he says, “Every Sunday is a day off. It involves getting up late and a nice big breakfast to begin with. Traditionally, our Sunday lunch is always Biryani. We usually gather for a couple of drinks before lunch.
“The afternoon is usually spent taking a nap, watching a movie, or just general chatting. Evenings are a formal dinner. With uniforms, wine and a 4-course meal followed by some movie or playing cards or talking to family.”
You don’t really have to know how to swim to be a seafarer. One hardly ever encounters sea water. The ships are so massive, that it almost feels like a floating island.
“The contact and the probability of contact with sea water, both are actually very low. Plus, everyone is issued a personal life jacket to make sure they stay afloat, if the worst prevails.
“In any case we have strict security measures that we must follow, if there is a sign of danger. We have armed guards on-board if we happen to transit a high-risk area.
Special measures are taken to prevent the embarkation of any pirate on-board the vessel. Navy convoy is usually the best measure that ships follow. Here a group of ships are escorted by two navy vessels leading the way,” he signs off.
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