When people think of ‘life on a freight ship’ they typically say things like ‘dull, lonely, long hours and hard work’, well having spoken to a few freight personnel I have been pleasantly surprised… I am ready to blow this negative image out of the water! No one can deny the hard work aspect, but it seems that from another perspective working on a cargo vessel can also be like a home away from home.
According to the Marine Insight website, working hours on-board a freight ship can be a maximum of 14 hours in any 24 hour period. Therefore how would you spend your 10 hour rest aboard ship? Immediate thoughts might include sleep, board games, knitting… all pleasant enough pastimes but not the most exhilarating; instead picture bars, gyms and swimming pools! These are the types of luxuries found aboard vessels owned by modern Shipping lines.
Life at sea may seem isolating to some, however in the event of the vessel requiring repairs, a seafarer will come aboard to make any necessary amendments to the ship until normal conditions are restored. This means that crew members usually get the opportunity to share a break with other employees from the visiting vessel. Breaks on-board the ship offer a chance for diverse cultural and social interaction (also giving the avid board gamer a chance to get geared up against new opponents). Ship life can therefore give exciting opportunities to meet new people at sea or whilst docking at foreign ports.
Alongside the Captain, Chief Officer and Ship’s crew, there are a number of different personnel on-board the ship at any given time, including, Engineers, Janitors, Doctors, Barkeepers and Chefs. Catering is vitally important to feed the ship! Sous Chefs are sometimes amongst the cooking staff, so crew members are able to dine on the finest of foods while away on their voyage. They are known from time to time, to rustle up a steak or even a roast dinner on a Sunday. Snacking is on a do-it-yourself basis with plenty of chocolatey or savoury options, but staff must remember to wash their plate!
Crew members can stay up to a month on a particular vessel depending on where the ship is taking goods to and from. This means that the freight ship needs to be spacious and offer crew members a selection of different methods to switch off from work. For example the shipping line ‘Hapag Lloyd’ offer the employees on-board a disco on a Saturday so all crew members can let their hair down on the weekend. Other entertainment options may include internet cafés, saunas and TV, not bad for a rusty old vessel? Most cabins are fully kitted out with the latest technology, meaning your iPhone charger is just an arm’s reach from your bed.
All in all it must be said that you have to be both skilled and dedicated for a life at sea, which can be strenuous, but on the bright side it seems the marine lifestyle has its rewards in the shape of good food and good company. My ocean frequenting contacts tell me that on the water they have formed friendships for life. Although crew can be at sea for lengthy periods of time, in many cases they are well looked after, with plenty of incentives, so perhaps it is a career path more of us should consider (that is if you can keep your sea legs)…
Written by Matt Jeffries – Social Media Consultant at Alchemy Global Talent Solutions