Learn how you can avoid signing on jobs with bad working conditions, perpetual crew and port authority issues
Job search today is much easier today with the help of the Internet. The additional feature of reviews provides prospective employees a glimpse of the company culture and working style, sometimes deciding if it is worth the gamble.
The process is identical in maritime jobs. Every seafarer shares the same anxiety at the thought of a new assignment – from timely wage payment to onboard working conditions and culture. Seafarers’ only form of reference is largely from reviews of other seafarers or word-of-mouth testimonies. Yet, some reviews however negative do not deter candidates from applying.
The pandemic had a catastrophic impact on the industry. Seafarers on both camps suffered; those disallowed from signing off to waiting for months to commence a new job without pay. It is a massive deal for seafarers to ensure they have the best accurate information of the shipowner and onboard working conditions – lest they join with a wrong impression only to regret the decision later.
Sieving out the haze
The dearth of good quality ship crew has been in existence for a long time now and the situation will not change for some time due to premature retirement of ratings and officers due to the increasing menace of piracy. Ships with track records of crew and port issues are the bane of seafarers.
Though the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), an international trade union federation of transport workers’ unions is on the case, it remains challenging to be fully apprised of the company’s working conditions and culture before joining. Additionally, with interviews conducted via video conferencing or phone, it does not mitigate the fear even if it involves an affluent shipping company.
Seafarers can use the following tips to avoid joining a precarious company only to be sorely disappointed later.
- Get as much information about the company’s reputation from as many sources as possible. Do not get caught up by the big label.
- Get information on the manning agent/executive responsible for all your benefits. Sometimes a good company but a bad manning agent/executive can ruin your life and career.
- Never agree for a telephonic job agreement unless you have secured all necessary information about the company or the person interviewing you.
- Never join without undergoing a proper medical examination. This is to avoid returning home after few days due to unknown pre-existing illness and having to pay heavily for repatriation.
- Read your service terms and conditions carefully prior signing the contract and never agree to sign your contract either at the airport or onboard.
- If you are carrying your family, cover them with an overseas medical policy as they are not covered by the company’s insurance.
- Check the company’s policies on sailing in pirated waters. Check if you have the rights to sign off with full repatriation benefits in case you refuse to sail in danger zones.
- You may be going away on a long contract. It is always a good idea to find out about the kind of crew welfare provided onboard, beyond what is stated on paper.
- Check with your local union affiliated to ITF about your minimum assured wages, benefits and rights on that ship and a directory of ITF offices worldwide.
- If you are required to do any in house courses do not accept computerised signatures on certificates provided by the manning office to avoid issues with port authorities.
- Ensure that monthly wages agreed on telephone or email is the same as that on the contract.
Seafaring is a tough profession, it is always recommended to be aware as much as you can about the company and working conditions to ensure your wellbeing onboard.