Seafaring: A life at sea

I: Why did you choose to study nautical sciences?

E: My decision to study nautical sciences was paradoxical, and driven mainly by my parents. They wanted me to study close to home, in a strong field at the Kerch State Maritime Technological University. Naturally, that choice to remain local has led me to travel the world, to forty four countries, across four oceans.

As a child I dreamt of becoming an aviator or international spy, attracted by the concept of being useful to humanity and living by high patriotic standards. Whilst these ambitions faded, the life of a seafarer has something in common with these two careers.  All are international, and involve constant movement, risks and adventures.

I: What are the challenges of life at sea?

E: Life at sea is inherently risky; therefore maintaining a strong safety culture is paramount.  One of the most publicised contemporary risks is piracy.  When travelling through high piracy-risk waters, such as the Gulf of Aden, we typically take anti-piracy measures such as preparing powerful fire hoses to eject water at suspect vessels, hanging razor wire along handrails, and restricting access to the superstructure. When on board the ship we receive navigational warnings such piracy incidents in the local area and other security issues. During a previous voyage in the South China Sea and Pacific Ocean we even received warnings about potential North Korean missiles expected to fall within a 200 nautical mile range.  The advice: watch out and be careful!

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I: What about the lifestyle?

E: The lifestyle itself can be very difficult to adjust to.  Working at sea often means many months spent in a restricted space with a small group of people in an acutely hierarchical environment. Every moment, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week is organised for you and after several weeks you can begin to feel like a robot. It is absolutely necessary to be mentally healthy and emotionally stable before joining the ship, but life on board builds your patience and resilience which is valuable when back on shore. 

The rigidity of life on ship is counteracted by the utter flexibility of life on land.  Seafarers often have much longer holidays than those working on land, and are not limited to taking a restricted number of days off work.  This has allowed me to travel freely between voyages and spend months in France, Germany and the UK, learning languages and exploring.

I: Are there any other benefits?

E: Financially, the salary is attractive and many countries have tax benefits for seafarers working and spending time away from home.  In addition, a career at sea can open up opportunities in adjacent land-based fields such as port operations, insurances and maritime law.

Overall, the career is extremely rewarding if approached with self-discipline and dedication.

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