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Much have change since I started out my sailing career way back September 2009. A few months more and I’ll be 10 years in this industry. Yet a few years longer and I’ll leave this pelagic life to the next generation of young, ambitious seadogs.

Seafaring is not my first choice nor was it ever in my when-I-grow-up decision list. Like many of us who suffered financial problems in high school and college, this was my solution to finishing college and earning big with matching see-the-world-for-free perks.

Here, I’m gonna share not my own journey, but the industry trends and the life of the majority of seafarers. From cadet to Captain (or CE), we share the same DNA. Whatever ship we’re sailing, we also share the same shit, whether good or bad.

This post may not be suitable for conservative thinkers or those who get easily offended when their beliefs are challenged. But stay with me and consider this as a friendly advice helping you not to get trapped in the “Buhay Marino” cycle.

Seafarer in the ship's side watching the waters.

A ship’s crew in the ship’s side watching the waters while in deep thought.

 

Enter PINOY SEAFARERS

Like it or not, we are part of their MARKET- job market! Why do shipowners in the early 70s, 80s and 90s transitioned to hiring Filipino sailors over their own nationalities?

If you think its because of our work ethics, job performance, English speaking abilities, trustworthiness, attitudes and being the good guys, you are partly right. However, foreign shipowners prefer Filipinos to man their ships because we are CHEAP!

That alone saves their company thousands or even millions of dollars a year. Foreign shipowners especially in US and Europe have to pay their children (European/ US crew) a year worth of salary even if they only work for 6 months. On top of that, they provide health cards, social security, insurance, free trainings and a lot of wholesome benefits.

Deck crew preparing forward for working aloft on the ship's bulbous bow.

Deck crew preparing forward for working aloft on the ship’s bulbous bow.

What do Filipino seafarers get? Continuous contractual employment (oohh the irony) and dollar salary which is lower than theirs but exceptionally bigger than our local land-based counterparts.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not undermining this career as I’m well aware of its immense contributions both to every seaman and the country as a whole.

 

NOT THE DARLING ANYMORE?

The world is changing and its changing real fast! What was the seafaring hotspot of yesterday may not be the same as today- at least that’s what the trend indicates.

Shipowners are looking for new favorites. China, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and other Asian countries are emerging as alternative sources of job market. Even some European nations are gearing up their shipboard manpower simply because they are affordable too.

But hey, hold up! These seafarers speak English real bad and their work performance don’t even come close. I’ve sailed with those guys and you can’t believe what they’re doing. We are still the best. Numero uno! How pitiful those ships are who employ them.

Though I agree to that, that’s not for us to decide. Ship superintendents are aware of this too and one statement said that struck me is that, “they are learning and are trying very hard!”

Helmsman on a very rough weather.

Helmsman on a very rough weather.

Companies want cheaper labor and they are seeing it in those countries. PH is not their darling anymore. Not only the maritime industry, but foreign companies are migrating their production and offices to Asia because everything is cheap. We are talking about car manufacturers, fashion makers, construction suppliers, chip makers, shipbuilders, a motley of them.

 

UNMANNED SHIPS

This is reality, at least the way I see it. Aside from changing job markets, we also have to deal with autonomous vessels. Rolls Royce is pioneering in building unmanned vessels. Read that again. Still don’t believe it? Here’s a piece of cake for you.

Back when the very first telephone was invented, the inventor Alexander Graham Bell was sent to a psychiatric hospital after proclaiming that, “he can send and receive sound through the air”. When the internet was first invented, experts believed that this was just another myth and slapped the innovators with reasons why THE INTERNET WON’T WORK.

People were skeptical when banks announced that ATM cards will replace their bank books. Everyone cried saying, “You want to put our account in this single piece of plastic card and get money from a machine? What if this shit breaks down? What if my card gets stolen?

Still with me?

Then came credit cards (hackable. Not safe), Paypal (money could get lost in the cyberspace), eCommerce (bogus sellers. Scam), GPS (its not accurate), electric cars (maybe in 50 years), driver-less electric cars (fatal. Too dangerous), ECDIS (been sailing for 30 years. Not buying it), blockchain (huge SCAM) and many others.

When these inventions were introduced, I could hear people say those same words as above telling this won’t work. But it was only a matter of time before they were proven wrong. Innovations ran them over like a truck.

So with unmanned ships and preferring other Asian countries over Filipinos? Again, only a matter of time. What are you gonna do before it sweeps you away?

Helmsman on a very rough weather.

Helmsman on a very rough weather.

 

DOOM and GLOOM?

Looks like we are headed for a gloomy future with the waters around us uncertain. We are attacked from all sides. We are cornered and even technology is a threat. What does that leave us?

A decade in this industry got me wondering that part. I’m like you in many ways and we share the hardships, long contracts, short vacations, BS crewmates, BS job orders, heated arguments, short voyages, trainings and many others including the 1-day millionaire series.

Despite all that, we continue to sail. And I hope that when the chicken stops laying golden eggs for you, you are ready for what’s coming ahead. How can we prepare for that?

Read on my next post soon. Happy Seafarers’ Day!

May the winds be on your favor.

 

 

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