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  • At a crossroads

    Hello to all,

    I have been a long time browser of these forums yet a first time poster, I come to you all to ask for some advice, please bear with me if it all seems a tad long winded but I feel I need to include as much detail as possible to help you understand my situation and hopefully answer one or two questions I have. Also apologies for posting anonymously but if my current boss were to catch wind of what i'm about to say things would not go down well at work.

    Just over 2 years ago I had to leave my job working in retail due to a significant cut in hours and this left me thinking, what am I going to do next?? After several months of research I decided a career at sea was the way forward, a decision that I did not take lightly and thought very carefully about. Whilst in the process of researching colleges, companies and the general lifestyle of working at sea I happened to be talking to an ex colleague of mine about where I wanted to go with my life. It transpired that her husband worked as an engineer aboard a tug boat in the dock opposite where I used to to work and the company were looking for a new deckhand.

    So things were put in motion, I was given a trial and after a few weeks I was accepted by the boss to work on call for the harbour towage side of the buisness. This is where I began to realise that things were not what they seemed. To put it bluntly it turned out my boss is a total skinflint who was not willing to sponsor me to gain (at the very least) my eng1 and STCW95, even if I was to pay the money back monthly through my wages. This did not sit right with me, but wanting to keep my job and forge my career in the marine industry I payed for the medical and courses myself with the little savings I had.

    As the months rolled by other alarms bells started to ring with me, the bosses unwillingness to spend money on basic maintenance (despite the protest of our engineer, myself and our other skipper) the way he handled working with other companies, who he views as a waste of money and his time, the way we were viewed by the dockmaster among many other things. It has now reached a point where everyone has had enough of his attitude towards work, safety and everyone he comes in to contact with. It means the other employees who were willing to take me under their wing and show me the ropes have given up, they turn up, do their bit and go home (and understandably so). I feel I should have learned a lot more than I have in the year and a half I have been working for him but cannot as he literally will not let me get involved bar the basics he lets me do now. I have tried to apply to other firms yet find many are not hiring or in the case of local firms I feel blacklisted as they know about him, what he is like and what a shoddy operation he runs.

    So now to the question(s), should/would I it be worth my while applying to college and would I realistically stand a chance given the fact I have spent some time in the industry yet have really learnt so little. I have tried my damned hardest to learn and become an integral part of the company yet barriers are always thrown up and this simply will not change. At the age of 25 I would really like to know where i'm going with my life yet am nervous that despite the fact I have the relevant qualifications to apply to college I have learnt so little for the time I have served.

    I look forward to any constructive input on this dilemma I am going through and once again I apologies for the long winded nature of the post.

  • #2
    I think you'd be surprised at how much you have actually learned, not on the navigational side necessarily, but the deck work side should be ok. I presume you're generally on the deck for mooring stations and any other work going on - greasing, chipping and painting - is this not happening? You say the bosses won't shell out on maintenance? Anyway, if you've seen and recognised that things are being done wrong, you'll really remember how they should be done when you do see it.

    I was 26 when I applied, age is really not an issue here, and I'd say that if you've seen it at its worst and still want to be a part of it then, well...... you're probably as nuts as the rest of us and should be an ideal candidate. Welcome aboard.

    In all seriousness, the time you've spent as an AB is a great background to apply for a cadetship from, you know way more than the average landlubber, you can tell them exactly how you feel about being away for so long, sea sickness, living in close proximity to other people...... I assume you know what we call the pointy end and the blunt end? Yes? OK, so apply, you'll be fine

    Size4riggerboots

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    • #3
      Apply for a cadet position with as many companies as possible - leverage your experience and passion for the industry (assuming you have any!)

      I assume you have the academic base required? - i.e. at least GCSE's passes in maths and 4 others? - the fact you already hold some STCW courses is not going to harm your chances either.

      There are lots of crap companies out there, but you will stand out from the crowd even if your current employer is a joke because the big companies won't know and you're not going to tell them.
      Cruise ship Captain with experience on-board Passenger Vessels ranging from 5500-150000 GRT.

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      • #4
        Many thanks for the encouraging words so far.

        I think you are right in saying that I have learned a fair amount, it just doesn't feel like it at times. I certainly do understand some of the basics, bow, stern, port, starboard, port is red, starboard green. With regards to my role it includes assisting the engineer to prepare for a trip, oiling bearings, making sure engine oil levels are correct, appropriate valves are opened, making sure the air tanks are topped up etc etc. As far as deck work goes when we come to do a tow we generally take ropes from the stern of the ship using a shunting pole rather than using heaving lines. Once we have made fast I have to stand on the deck and "watch" the tow unfold. Its a disaster waiting to happen if a line snaps and I happen to be in the wrong place. My protests about this are simply shunned "you are a deckhand so that is where you belong, out of sight out of mind".

        I do a bit of chipping and painting but that costs money not only in materials but in pay, so the very bear minimum is done. A good example of unwillingness to upkeep maintenance is the cool water pump for the port engine has been leaking for some time, it has reached a point in the last week where water is simply not dripping from it but trickling, yet nothing has been done, again a disaster waiting to happen.

        I certainly do have the GCSE's needed to apply and the passion is definitely present, I don't think I would have stuck around for a year and a half given the situation if didn't feel this was my calling, to move forward with and do the best I possibly can.

        Once again my sincere thanks goes out to you for your replies.

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        • #5
          Unfortunately it is not uncommon to see ships run into the ground in order to save a bit of cash - generally the companies who are prepared to make the investment training cadets operate ships professionally so I expect you will be pleasantly surprised by the standards on a a decent merchant ship.

          I wish you good luck in your applications - My only advice is that when you apply put a positive light on your current experiences - don't dwell on the negatives and definitely don't put 'my current employer is modern day pirate' - or anything like that.... - there are a few people on here (including me) who are happy to look over peoples CV / Covering letters so perhaps think of taking advantage of that before you apply.
          Cruise ship Captain with experience on-board Passenger Vessels ranging from 5500-150000 GRT.

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