On a first glance, this question is full of biases. Each of us have our own ideal picture for the “best type of ship”. You may already have your answer to this. In fact, you may feel strongly about it. If this post makes it to social media, I wouldn’t be surprised to the various reactions it may earn from my fellow seamen.
Here’s an example. For me, the best type of ship is a Product/ Chemical Tanker. You may disagree with me all day but you can’t force me to change my opinion. Even if you slap me with stories of explosions and chemical hazards, I still won’t budge.
But if you are sailing with Bulk Carriers or Cruise Ships and I will tell you that Tankers are the best, you would think that I’m crazy. Moreover, you may believe that the “Tanker Effect” has taken over my brain giving me this result.
But let’s take a look at some defining factors in deciding the type of ship which is the best for us.
You can see this sign written in front of superstructure in many ships. Budget, I mean safety is the company’s number one concern.
Since safety is a broad and intricate topic, let’s use ship losses as the basis for our data.
Here, we define ship loss as vessel being incapacitated in any way to continue her voyage. This includes, foundering (sunk or submerged), wrecked/ stranded (grounded), fire and explosion, collision, machinery damage or failure, hull damage, piracy and missing overdue.
Ship loss is the ultimate and most horrifying tragedy a vessel experiences. This is the reason why I’m using this for our statistics.
Let’s look at some data.
Woah! What a mouthful, isn’t it? I highlighted the three ship types that we are focusing on so we won’t get lost.
On the statistics above, Bulk carriers have the most number of incidents- 98 ship losses from 2008 to 2017. They are followed by Tanker vessels with 79 total losses. Lastly, the safest ship in this criteria seems to be the Passenger ships.
Do we have a winner here?
Not yet. To get a clearer picture, we have to consider the number of vessels for each kind.
Ship Type Population
Here is the record for the population of each type according to German research company, Statista. Again, I highlighted our three featured vessels.
Tankers are further categorized into three types. I took the pleasure of adding them to have a better view. This time, tanker ships tops our data with an overall number of 14,512.
To determine which ship type has more losses in relation to their population, I refined the data from above. Here’s the result.
Now we have a winner!
According to the result, Tankers are the safest! They have a 0.54% loss in relation to their total population. To put it more simply, one tanker ship is lost at sea for every 184 of them.
Tanker vessels are also three times safer than passenger ships having 1.5% losses of their entire population than 0.54%.
While safety is the highest priority in any ship, this is not the case when applying for the next company. Oftentimes, the top determining factor for most seamen is,
“How much is the salary?”
Salary really matters. If you are to choose between US$1,600.00 versus US$1,400.00 on the same rank, which would you take? Yes, I hear you loud and clear. One-six, of course!
How much does a Captain earns?
Since we are comparing moolah here, let’s start first on the highest rank. You really won’t believe who gets paid the most on our three three ship types!
Okay mates. Let’s pack up and start cruising while working!
I was blown away by how much cruise ship captains earn. You know they have all the good things while sailing. After departure, they chat with the guests while enjoying an expensive bottle of wine. Yet, they earn so much more than other back-breaking, less glamorous ship types.
While captains and officers, enjoy their paperworks on board, let’s take a look at how much an Able-bodied Seaman earns in a month. I also took the pleasure of choosing ABs for our comparisons since they make up a huge population of the seafaring industry.
Tanker ABs earn a slight difference on paper. With this data, we can conclude or at least have a slight idea on the differences of salaries on each ship type. But I believe ratings on cruise vessels can surpass others because of overtime, tips and extra services (if you know what I mean).
If you want a career on board, I suggest going on with cruise or passenger ships. They have higher pay, nice travels, more people and good food. On top of that, they also earn bigger than other less exciting vessels.
Work and Work Environment
I know what’s on your mind. Tanker ships!
Tanker crew are always exposed to fumes. They can’t escape this. The smell of gasoline, naphtha, diesel and other cargoes remain on deck. Even if the tank is washed, there would always be lingering traces of cargo that you can inhale.
Meanwhile, crew on bulk carriers also face health hazards depending on the cargo. But I would say that they are always busy during cargo operation. Their deck could be very dusty. And while the clamshell is flying, you can see them sweeping off the dust or grains on deck or inside the hold.
Once I sailed with a crew who used to work on bulk carriers for many years. After his first contract on a product/ chemical tanker, he never went back to the dry ships. I think he loved the smell of gasoline while on watch.
Kidding aside, he immediately saw the work difference on both ships. During cargo operation, he can’t believe he’s just sitting down most of his duty. It’s very relaxing. He only makes visual inspections on deck twice every hour. He can’t do this on his previous ships.
Shall we talk about Passenger vessels too?
We all know that each ship has its own level of work difficulty. But when you are on cruise ships, I think the worse that you can do is to displease your passenger. He or she may slap you for messing his shirt. Then your department head would come to rescue him. Poor you.
The real challenge in working with cruise ship is keeping an excellent service. I may have to agree that passenger vessels carry the most dangerous cargo in all ship types. Their cargoes can be irate, irrational, drunk or a grumbler. They can post on social media and tell about their good or worse experience. When you load 1000 passengers and only one of them is missing during “unloading”, you are in deep trouble.
Meanwhile, we don’t have such problems on bulk or tanker vessels.
For those who work with tankers all throughout their lives, they would be inclined to say that their ship is much better.
On the other hand, crew on bulk carriers also have the same claim.
Cruise ship crews would point out the scariest reports from tankers and bulkers too defending the ship type that they belong.
In reality, each of them has its own pros and cons. They are built for specific purpose to cater different demands in the world economy. No vessel type is superior or inferior to other kind. What’s good to you may not be for me and vice versa.
Only one thing is certain. Our experience with them ultimately tells the story of which is the best ship type for us. Sometimes, its not about the money too.
Whatever ship you are sailing right now, know that we are on the same seas.
And may the winds be on your favor.