6. Seafarers Get To See New Countries: “Oh! You’re in the merchant navy. You must get to travel so much!” Undoubtedly one of the most common statements from people who have not been associated with the merchant navy whatsoever. Times have changed and so have trading patterns. Discharging at ports is fast and efficient, leaving little or no time for shore leave. VLCCs don’t even get to reach port at times. Bulk carriers are probably the only kind of ships that have the luxury of being at port for over a couple of days. That too, work shifts and stress makes seafarers put bed rest over going out to the city. Just because seafarers visit new ports and countries that doesn’t mean they have the luxury or opportunity to roam around according to their own wish.
7. Seafarers Live a Glamorous Life: People without a fair idea of the merchant navy seem to think that it is a glamorous life. Ships, exotic countries, smart uniforms, great technologies, enchanting sea etc. might make our life at sea seem nothing short of a Hollywood flick. Unfortunately (or fortunately!), people do not get to see the dirty boiler suits, the torn safety shoes, the condition of one’s face at a dusty port, the fatigue that engulf them at the end of the day and so on and so forth. Agreed that there is a certain level of sheen that exists in our line of work. But that luster only comes once all the dirt has been removed.
8. Seafarers Have An Easy Life With 6 Months On Land and 6 Months At Sea: There’s a universal idea that all seafarers have a ‘common 6 months on, 6 months off’ regime. So naturally, they believe that the life is easy for we work for 6 months and laze around for the other 6! Ridiculous, come to think of it. First of all, contracts differ in tenure. It can be 4 on, 2 off or a variety of other combinations depending on the rank and company. Secondly, the months that we don’t work, we’re only spending and not earning. Even with companies that pay while their seafarers are at home, it’s normally much reduced. Third, the work that we do over the few months that we are onboard, makes it necessary for us to go back home and relax; else we’d all go berserk! Couple that with handling family, relationships, exams etc. and we barely get proper time to completely switch off.
9. Seafarers Are Uneducated Fools: Gone are the days when joining the merchant navy meant getting on a ship when one came of age and sailing away. Many people think going to sea doesn’t need much of education. But the truth is today, every rank, including the crew of the ship, has to be well informed, educated and dexterous in theory as well as practice. As far as the officers are concerned, it is a different ball game! Studies pertaining to the merchant navy have become very intense. Subjects ranging from Celestial Navigation to COLREGS to Chartwork have to be registered to the brain in a permanent manner. Those who have been through 3 years of BSc in Nautical Science or 4 years of BTech in Marine Engineering will clearly know the hell they have to go through! So, assuming that sailors are complete buffoons with no knowledge of their craft is a very misplaced concept.
10. Seafarers Have to Fight Wars: People often confuse merchant navy with defense navy. Many believe everyone going to the sea goes to fight wars. The merchant navy is an auxiliary entity that might be called upon in case of dire emergency to assist the navy. However, on a daily operational basis, it has NOTHING to do with the navy or the armed forces of the country in general. The merchant navy is simply a commercial operation wherein transfer of goods/cargo takes place across the world. As in a business wherein goods are exchanged for monetary gains, the merchant navy involves the same process where goods are handed over from A to B for money. So no, please do not confuse it with the navies.
11. Seafarers Must Be Great Swimmers: Just because seafarers have to work at sea, people assume that it is mandatory for them to be great swimmers. However, the fact is seafarers do not have to be swimmers to work at sea. It’s a common misbelief among people that seafarers might need to swim to shores or other ships in case the ship meets with an accident. But no matter how great swimmer a person is, even if the situation demands, it is next to impossible to swim to shores or stay afloat in water in extreme weather conditions. Moreover, there are several personal protective equipment on board ships to ensure that seafarers can float in water during emergencies.
12. Seafarers Don’t Have Anything To Do at Sea: Life is easy for seafarers, there is nothing much to do on board ships – that’s what many people think. A myth goes around that people at sea just lazy around, fish and make merry once the ship sails. As many don’t have a clue about the working of the ship, they think seafarers have lots of time in hand which allows them to booze, travel and relax. However, the fact is seafarers are one of the most hardworking people in the world who have to face serious issues everyday on board.
At the end, however many inappropriate things seafarers might hear about their profession, the love for the sea and their job is never diminished. Sailors love talking about their job and their stories at sea. Seafarers are humans too who work very hard through the roughest weather putting their lives at risk. Therefore, it’s important that the common folk is well informed about the merchant navy and life at sea; for if it wasn’t for seafarers, the economy of the entire world would come to a halt!