Have you ever thought of exploring a maritime career?

Maritime education offers an opportunity like no other with excellent remuneration and scope for adventure and travel. Salaries are high but what about the long periods of solitude and seasickness? Seasoned sailors say more than anything, it is passion, attitude and ability to handle pressure that makes a good merchant seaman. A good maritime education is key to this process.

“It’s not the ship so much as the skilful sailing that assures a safe and prosperous voyage,” explains Satvik Raaman, a graduate from Sailors Maritime Academy, who has been sailing for the last three years. The maritime industry’s diverse workforce includes seafaring as well as shore-based professionals — from ship brokers and ship builders to fleet managers, marine risk managers, naval architects and shopping analysts.

Growing field

With the increase in trade, the number of ships operating across the globe has crossed one lakh and is still growing. While the requirement of marine engineers has been increasing, jobs are not easily available as “many graduates have been waiting to start sailing for at least four or five months. The promise of the salaries keeps them hopeful but the situation is not as smooth as it was 10 years ago,” says Mr. Raaman

Many youngsters look at this profession as the means to earn money within a span of 8-10 years. But there is more to it and the maritime industry is constantly changing as are its rules and regulations.

“There are various types of rewarding careers for those who seek challenges in an ever-evolving global industry, says D. Sreedharan, who teaches nautical sciences at Tamil Nadu Maritime Academy. There are as many shore-based options such as ship broking, shipping finance, marine insurance and maritime law and arbitration. Similarly, those with a technical inclination who can break new ground in naval architecture, marine engineering or marine surveying, are also in demand, he adds.

Careers

Careers in the Merchant Navy can be pursued either as an officer or a rating in mainly two specialised fields, Marine Engineering (Engine side) and Nautical (Deck side). Aspirants must first pursue Pre-Sea courses and then a four-year Marine Engineering course and a four-Modular course at either government or authorised private institutions to be eligible, to be appointed as Junior Engineer on Merchant Ships.

There are at least 12 institutes across the country that offer courses in maritime education. Topics such as ship operation technology and other applied subjects such as maritime commerce, maritime engineering, environmental science and control systems are also taught here.

On completion of a stipulated period on ships and after passing the required competency examination conducted by the Directorate General of Shipping, Government of India or Marine Administration of other governments, the Engineer becomes a Chief Engineer of a ship within 5 years.

A qualified seafarer is eligible to take-up a sea-going career with either national or international shipping companies. Besides safely navigating these ships on the high seas, seafarers ensure that the cargo is loaded, stowed and discharged as per the internationally-accepted procedures and norms, explains Gaurav Singhal, an officer with Shipping Corporation of India. They also need to be familiar with the different kinds of ships.

Among the popular employers are Chevron and Mobil of USA, Wallem Ship Management of Hong Kong, Denholm of U.K. India too has its shipping companies such as the Shipping Corporation of India, Great Eastern Shipping, Essar and Chowgule Shipping.

The salaries range anywhere between Rs. 12,000 to Rs. 8 lakh per month, though the pay structure differs from company to company, city to city, the export-import needs, seniority, etc. All crew members and officers are given free meals on board and senior officers can take along their wives for the voyage.

They are also entitled to a four-month leave every year and do not have to pay income tax.

Nabi Prabhaas, a veteran of 20 years, points out that while “professionals start earning a big salary at a young age, officers usually work on a contract basis. Junior officers do 6 to 9-month contracts, while senior officers do 3 to 6 months on board. They are paid only when they are on board.”

He explains some of the changes in the profession. “Port stays have gone down considerably, so there is often not much time to explore places, and with visa restrictions, many countries will not let you stay back for a holiday after you complete your tenure on your ship. Some companies do allow officers (usually senior officers) to take their family with them. But after a tenure of about 10 to 15 sailing years, many try taking up shore jobs in port management, shipping companies, cargo and container handling companies, training or in governments departments that are related to shipping industry that don’t require extensive sailing.”