Mariner PRASHANTH A. shares his experience of life aboard a merchant ship and of graduating as a naval officer.
It all begins with a 60 per cent aggregate marks in PCM and in English, successfully clearing the all India entrance exam, interview and also fully meeting the requirements of the medical standards.
Pre-sea Training (1st Year)
From here on I learnt about the needs and importance of the career in building the country's economy. Then, I learnt about types of ships, cargoes handled, navigation, familiarisation classes regarding first aid, fire fighting, personal survival technique, personal safety and social responsibility on board ship.
Morning musters, evening physical training, discipline, time keeping etc. are also part of the training. By the time I could settle down in my college the first year was almost up. Then comes the campus interview for on-board training.
The worst part is that if I don't get selected by any company my course completion will be delayed. Since, I did my pre-sea in SCI own institute (Maritime Training Institute, Mumbai) I got my sponsorship from SCI. All I needed to do was that take a break and report to the company for onboard training.
Onboard Training (II and III Year)
After reporting to the company, it takes almost 10 to 15 days to complete all the formalities. Some of my batch mates and I were eagerly waiting to board a ship that was headed to foreign shores. I then went to Kolkata where the company's agent took me onboard. This ship was to be my college, hostel, canteen and playground…pretty much everything for the next one year.
Once onboard, I saw everyone was busy with their schedule. I found no lecturers, no classroom, no benches, no HOD, no dean, no friends…nothing!
I suddenly felt lonely. The only person I made friends with was my senior. He was the person who helped me with the onboard training, sending tasks to university and familiarising me with the ship.
Night time navigation, sailing in a low pressure area, passing through the Suez canal, Panama canal, retardation and advancement of clock timings when we go to different zone, crossing the Equator, the Tropic of Cancer, the Tropic of Capricorn, Greenwich Meridian, International date line are things I have never come across in my life previously.
It was exciting when I crossed the International Dateline. Who says we cannot go back to the past! When you cross the International dateline from West to East, you move one day back. This was the most exciting moment in my life.
I get frustrated when clocks are advanced as I lose my leisure time and I feel happy when clocks are retarded as I get extra leisure time. While navigating from the bridge I feel relaxed, especially when I get to see nothing in my horizon and on the radar display.
As we moved to a new country we hung around there during our free time. After a year, it was time to go back home. After stepping down the gangway I looked back and said “I will miss my first ship. She carried me across the world”.
Sailing is indeed a different career. “We sail, we win, we conquer; we are sailors!”