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A day in the life of a Seafarer 1 – #seafarersmatter

The 25th of June every year is celebrated as the DAY OF THE SEAFARER under the auspices of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO)..

Day of the Seafarer (DotS as it has come to be known), is celebrated to recognize the unique contribution made by seafarers from all over the world to international seaborne trade, the world economy and civil society as a whole and to let the world know how and why and are indispensable to everyone..

In my previous post promoting this Day of the Seafarer, I had requested some of the seafarers to share their experiences at sea and what happens in “A Day in the Life of a Seafarer“..

I am sharing a few of the stories with all of you, with the first one from Nick Chubb below..

Nick Chubb MNI is a former Merchant Seafarer.. He started his career as a Deck Cadet for Trinity House working on many different types of ship, including tankers, ferries, and offshore vessels.. Over a number of years, he worked his way up to Second Officer before moving into a shore based role..

He now works for Marine Society College, the world’s oldest seafaring charity where he is responsible for an award-winning digital education platform for seafarers, Learn@Sea..

For more information on Learn@Sea go to 

It is 03:30 and the telephone in my cabin is ringing. I wake up, answer the phone, and hear the Second Mate’s voice telling me I have 30 minutes until my watch starts. I switch on the lights and start getting ready for work.

I’m the Third Mate aboard a VLCC (Very Large Crude Oil Carrier), my ship is in the middle of the Malacca Strait approaching Singapore and we’re on our way to Japan to deliver 2million barrels of oil (about half of the country’s daily oil requirement).

We loaded our cargo at various ports in the Middle East and are now about 4,000 miles through our 8,000-mile, 6-week journey to Japan.

20 minutes later, I am climbing the stairs to the ship’s bridge, as I open the door I am confronted with nothing but darkness. My eyes slowly adjust to the black night as I greet the bridge team and make a cup of coffee.

At just before 04:00 I receive a briefing from the Second Mate, he is handing over responsibility for the ship to me. We discuss the weather, nearby traffic, any upcoming alterations of course or navigational hazards, and the status of the bridge equipment.

As soon as I am happy, I take over the watch and have sole responsibility for the safe navigation of one of the world’s largest ships.

At 333 metres, my ship is longer than the Shard in London is tall, and is as wide as four double decker buses placed nose to tail.

It weighs 302,000 tons and when loaded, takes 5 miles to stop. In fact when running at full ahead it takes 15 minutes just to reverse the engine!

The engine itself is four storeys tall and produces an incredible 40,000-horsepower, which allows the ship to cruise at just 12 knots (nautical miles per hour).

A day in the life of a seafarer - #seafarersmatter
Image credit – Nick Chubb MNI

I will be on watch for the next four hours, while the crew of around 30 seafarers from 11 different countries sleep in their cabins below. I have one lookout on my team who is on the bridge with me scanning the dark horizon for other ships.

During my watch, I will be constantly monitoring and reacting to the ship’s situation. I will be fixing and plotting our position on the chart using everything from the high tech (GPS and Radar), to the low-tech (the Sun, Moon and stars and the ship’s compass).

I will also be adjusting our course based on the ship’s passage plan, monitoring the weather, and taking action to avoid other ships and boats to be sure that we always pass them at a safe distance.

At about 6AM the sky begins to turn a deep shade of orange as the sun starts to rise, four hours goes very quickly in the Malacca Strait, there is a lot of traffic, and some difficult passages to navigate. At just before 8AM the ship’s captain and the other Third Officer join us on the bridge.

The Captain has overall responsibility for the ship, including the safe delivery of our cargo, the efficient running of the ship, and most importantly the safety of the crew.

The sea can be an incredibly dangerous environment; in 2013, 138 ships were lost, and an estimated 2,000 seafarers died working at sea, and a great deal more are injured.

I hand my watch over to the Third Officer in the same way as the Second Officer handed over to me four hours earlier. Now that I am off watch, I have eight hours off to do some additional duties and get some rest.

I head straight down for breakfast, and afterwards spend some time repairing one of the ship’s fire hydrants. As well as my navigational duties, I am responsible for inspecting and maintaining the ship’s safety equipment, including lifeboats, life-jackets, and firefighting gear.

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After lunch, I catch up on some sleep and then head to the ship’s gym for some exercise. Before long it’s approaching 16:00 and my eight hours off is coming to an end.

Ten minutes before 16:00 I am back on the bridge ready to relieve the Second Mate of his watch and start my next shift. Between the hours of 20:00 and 04:00, I have time to eat dinner, and maybe read a book or watch a film before going to sleep until the phone rings once more.

The watch system on this ship continues without ever halting. Four hours on, eight hours off, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, whether at sea or in port. On many ships, there aren’t enough officers for this watch pattern and the crew work in six hour shifts around the clock for months at a time.

I have been on board for 3 months and have at least one more to go before going home to see loved ones again.

Some of the crew stay on board for eight – twelve months at a time, sending money home to their families; they often only have one – three months off before heading back to sea.

All seafarers have missed the births, deaths, and marriages of loved ones, and their children often grow up with one parent absent for most of the year.

It is a hard life, but it is a deeply satisfying and rewarding one. There 1.5 million seafarers on the planet working on 50,000 merchant ships. 90% of all goods worldwide are transported by ship, from raw materials like crude oil and iron ore, to finished products like laptops and smartphones.

Without seafarers, working hard all over the world, in all weathers, every day of the year the modern economy would collapse.

Next time you buy fruit from the grocers, a new car, or some new clothes do not forget that the hard work, professionalism, and commitment of many hundreds of seafarers are what made your purchase possible.

If you are a seafarer or involved with seafarers in any way and wish to contribute any articles or stories, please do comment below with your email details..

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Hariesh Manaadiar
Hariesh Manaadiar
I am Hariesh Manaadiar, the Founder of Shipping and Freight Resource.. I have been in the dynamic shipping and freight industry for over three decades and have worked in several sectors.. I share my experiences and knowledge of the industry through this blog for those looking for help in the industry.. Stay subscribed for more free useful content about shipping, freight, maritime, logistics, supply chain and trade..



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