Contributed by Yaakup Saidi, Maritime and Port Authority of Brunei Darussalam
In commemoration of this year’s Day of the Seafarer, celebrated today with the theme, ‘Your voyage – then and now, sharing your journey’, the Maritime and Port Authority of Brunei Darussalam (MPABD) caught up with Brunei’s seafarers, to hear from them about their own journeys.
Brunei Gas Carriers Sdn Bhd’s (BGC) Operations Superintendent Captain Mohatarshah bin Haji Othman reminisced about his early days as a seafarer.
“Back then, I used to communicate with my family via satellite phone, which was very costly. Now, communication is much more convenient, thanks to the Internet coverage onboard.”
His colleague, Deputy Engineering Superintendent Pengiran Shahirul Shaimee bin Pengiran Daud sharing the same sentiment, said, “A home is where the anchor drops, and at home you need your family around. For a seafarer, happiness is about being able to communicate with their loved ones.
“In the old days, we used to queue up to wait for e-mails from our loved ones – from one computer. With the advancement in technology, it is now much easier to remain in contact with our loved ones and for this we are ever so grateful.” In comparing today’s seafaring to when he first started over 15 years ago, Captain Mohatarshah shared, “Safety was also deemed more of a burden in the past, causing many to take short-cuts even though the risks may be higher. Now, through trainings, safety engagements and learning from incidents, everyone has a greater understanding on its importance, leading to a much safer working environment.”
There are currently about 1,347 Bruneian seafarers serving on Brunei flagged vessels contributing to an estimated 1.6 million seafarers worldwide, according to the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), where 774,000 are officers and 873,500 are ratings.
ICS has estimated that the global demand for seafarers is at 1,545,000 with the industry requiring approximately 790,500 officers and 754,500 ratings. This indicates that the demand for officers has increased by around 24.1 per cent, while the demand for ratings has increased by around 1.0 per cent.
According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), today, women only represent 1.2 per cent of the global seafarer workforce. Within this historically male-dominated industry, the IMO has been making a concerted effort to help the industry move forward and support women to achieve a representation that is in keeping with 21st Century experience.
The IMO inaugurated the “International Day for Women in Maritime” this year which was observed on and will continue to be celebrated every May 18.
Brunei Darussalam is proud to contribute to the women seafarer’s population. Second Officer Nurul Siti Shahrinah binti Shahrolwardi shared her experience when she first joined the maritime industry.
“My perception is that it seemed to be critical particularly for women seafarers to fit into such a male-oriented environment in order to be accepted as a part of the crew.
“As the years passed by, I learnt how to celebrate the diversity I bring to the workplace and that being a minority in the industry isn’t a weakness. It’s an enormous strength,” she said.
Through MPABD, Brunei Darussalam is steadfast in its role to facilitate the growth of the maritime sector. In its day-to-day function, MPABD serves to support a conducive and dynamic maritime environment, and at the same time ensure compliance to international maritime standards.
Among the many milestones achieved is the signing of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) of Mutual Recognition of Certificates Issued Under the Provisions of the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers 1978, as amended with the Bahamas, Cook Islands, Republic of Ghana, Malaysia, the Marshall Islands and the United Arab Emirates. These MoUs enable the expansion of career opportunities for Brunei seafarers to work on her counterparts’ vessels and vice-versa.
MPABD continues to expand the signing of such MoUs with other ASEAN countries and IMO member states.
Seafaring is the backbone of shipping which makes international trade possible, but it is often considered as an invisible workforce. Their services, while valuable, are often forgotten.
IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim, in his Day of the Seafarer’s message, recognised that each seafarer’s journey is unique and his own adventure has enriched his life.
While the past two years, living through a pandemic, saw the toughest of tests on seafarers worldwide, and they are now looking ahead.
Brunei, together with other maritime states, is answering the call from the IMO to designate seafarers as key workers, to provide better working and living conditions to our seafarers, facilitate their training capacities and improve how they do their work to maintain the highest standards of safety through new technologies, new equipment and the need to make shipping greener, to pave the way for more sustainable shipping in the years to come.
Marine Advisor Mohammad Shahrul Sabri bin Sabli shared his perspective that, “It doesn’t matter where you are, your family is always with you, both your real family available virtually, and your brothers and sisters at sea.”
Another to comment was Haji Mohammad Helmi bin Haji Mahari, Quality and Assurance at BGC. For him, whether ashore or onboard ships, his priority remains the same – to keep his colleagues, families and friends safe.
“Sailing through those years from cadetship after achieving my ticket, taking over bridge and cargo watches while mooring operations; being responsible for my fellow colleagues all those years, definitely has not been smooth sailing and has had its ups and downs. I’ll continue to do what I’ve learnt throughout the 20-odd years, keeping my fellow colleagues, families and friends safe, whatever the weather!”
Haji Mohammad Helmi also took the opportunity to wish, “Happy Seafarers Day 2022 to my seafaring family!”