Over the period of time, we have seen many factions arising onboard, especially if you are a Filipino seaman. For example, you have the factions based on what region are you (Tagalogs vs Bisaya vs Ilonggo vs Ilocano etc), what school you finished, or even stature of life before starting their seafaring career. But nowadays, there is a new faction rising up, that even people onboard hardly ever notice but is a dormant volcano waiting to explode. It is the faction of the millennials vs veteran seafarers.
It is an issue slowly emerging onboard that is rarely brought up to the public eye because many seafarers, like me, never talk about it although almost everyone is aware of it. Sometimes those phrases such as “mga bata pa kasi yan” (They’re still young) or “kulang pa sa iksperyensya” (They still lack experience) were very common to hear or see in social media posts about young seafarers. But what is the fuzz about being young?
For the purpose of this blog, we will call seafarers as “millennials” if they are aged 30 and below. They were the ones who experienced social media boom, rise of technology and the changes in the maritime industry due to recent amendments in the laws governing seafarers such as 2010 Manila Amendments and 2006 MLC. Millennials onboard comprises 50 to 60 percent of the crew, officers included. It is also surprising to know that even in the midst of improving lifestyle in land, more and more younger boys and girls are choosing to give up their “life” and go out at sea.
Sidenote: I am still 29, but I feel like I’m a TITO trapped in a millennial’s body. Tee hee hee!
But what does it takes to be a millennial seafarer? Was it really a good or a bad thing? Let us just break down what are the pros and cons to be a young sailor.
1. They are enthusiastic and energetic.
This is a very obvious reason why shipowners and companies are hiring younger seafarers, rather than employing older ones. Being young means there is a lot of energy to work, and enthusiasm to learn new things in related to their work. They are more flexible when it comes to job assignment and will move and work gracefully.
In addition, younger seafarers tend to take examinations for officers because of the enthusiasm to take greater responsibilities, and of course to help their families.
2. More inclined to save more money for the future.
Unlike their older predecessors, millennial seafarers were more intelligent enough not to follow the veterans when it comes to financial matters. The younger generations tend to save their money onboard rather than to go outand splurge all of their earnings on shopping, shore leave and (ehermm) girls. This is a drastic improvement to the common notation that seamen are “one day millionaires”, which means that they don’t hesitate to spend all of their money in just one instance.
Millennial seafarers are also becoming more well-informed regarding financial literacy. They are now thinking more ways in how to invest in several businesses, insurances and other ways and means just to make their money and earnings flourish. In fact, while older seafarers tend to tenure more years and their lives onboard, millennial seafarers are now starting to start up their own business and retire from working at sea.
3. Tech- savvy
Since they were born when technology were at the boom, millennial seafarers have the cutting edge when it comes to computer works and technology. They have more in-depth understanding of the technology and its application to the developing system in the maritime industry.
Being a tech-savvy seaman is a very good asset when in terms of workload because of the fast pacing work onboard. For example, documentation and preparation of papers can be done in an instant because there is someone onboard that can use computers very well. Aside from that, as the shipping companies are now integrating the importance of ICT or Information and Communications Technology, millennial seafarers have the better understanding of its application onboard because first, they have this kind of subject onboard, and secondly, they have already mastered it ever since they were on their youth days. Especially if they were fond of computer games.
4. Changing the common stereotype of seamen
For over many years, Filipino seamen were known as “seamanloloko” or cheaters due to the fact that they have the chance to travel the world, and when they are in port, chances are, they can go to clubs and bars where women for pay exists. Sometimes women are going onboard to offer their extra kind of service to these “dry” seamen.
But that days are now slowly fading away. Thanks to the implementation of International Port and Facility Security Code or ISPS Code (developed due to attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City, aka 9/11 Attacks), non-organic people that are not part of ship and port operations, including these poor angels are now not allowed to go onboard. And, if they have the chance to go out for shore leave, millennial seafarers are now choosing to go shopping or grocery for their extra essentials onboard, eat in restaurants and explore the locals rather than going on bars and clubs.
In addition, due to recent boom of social media, millennial seafarers are now inclined on having chat or video calls with their loved ones whenever they are in port. They will have just to buy local sim cards, avail their data package promos and lo! Alams na this!
1. Stubborn and hard- headed
If you got a chance to be onboard with millennial seafarers, chances are you have heard some veterans and older ones complaining about the attitude of younger seafarers. They were sometimes called hard headed or stubborn when it comes to work ethics. They may work very enthusiastic, sometimes they tend to burn out easily on their daily job and sometimes complain easily.
This is not new to me. Manytimes I have heard stories of my juniors, sometimes crewmates where they were ridiculed because of their behavior onboard. Some were punished, procrastinated and some were repatriated because of their lousiness, tardiness and lack of focus. Some say that this is due to the changing times of generations that they have brought onboard. I am not saying that all millennials are like this but the veterans must guide these newbies in order to change their behavior so that they can work efficiently.
Aside from being hardheaded and stubborn, some veterans say that millennial seafarers are said to be whiners. They complain easily about their work, crewmates and anything onboard at the expense of their career. To make things worse, since they were the techy ones, they rant their bad air on social media.
Being a whiner is not a rare case because almost all of the seamen have experienced being a whiner in their whole life. What’s more condescending about being a millennial is that they tend to spread more of their angst on social media as if they were already working for a very long time onboard, not recognizing that the veterans have been there for almost years in service. It’s funny because I have seen a lot of millennial seamen ranting on social media, but check their profiles. They have never got into onboard.
Again, it is a free country. Anybody can voice out their reactions and exercise their freedom of speech but they must put it in a right place.
3. “Entitled brats”
This is commonly heard with the newly graduated, licensed millennial seafarers, especially those who are already ponsored long before they started their apprenticeship. Some shipping companies are irking and scratching their heads with these kind of attitude because they are already demanding for what they want.
The reason behind these remarks is because they are asking to be jacked up to the rank of Third Mate/ Engineer after obtaining their license, but their company says otherwise. Some companies are requiring their newly- passed sponsored cadets to experience and get onboard as ratings for at least one to three contracts before being promoted. To be an officer is a bragging prestige. Yes it’s true but it is also a responsibility and a task that a well prepared seafarer must bear in mind. So when a company decines what the cadet is requesting, he or she will eventually resign from the company and will look for another company that will cater his/ her needs to be promoted to officer.
Another issue with this is the salary, perks onboard and benefits. We cannot blame companies for giving different rates and perks against each other. So when a sponsored cadet heard another company giving higher pay, bonuses and perks as well as benefits that are not with his/ her present company, they will again, resign from their present company and will transfer to another one. Some others are strongly demanding, and in return their companies will answer their demands.
The issue here is being the millennial seafarers called “entitled brats”. These shipping companies provided them financial support during their time in college or academies, sponsoring them to go onboard their first vessel as apprentice until their board exams. The big word here that they always say is “loyalty”. Of course, They provided you with all uyour needs, and in return, these cadets must serve their companies for acertain period of time stipulated on their contract. But on these changing times, it is a battle between “serving my company faithfully” or “look for greener pastures to provide my family’s need”.
Being a young seafarer is a privilege and an honor because you exchanged your youth to serve the calling of the sea. It demands energetic body, enthusiastic mind and a strong spirit to conquer the dangers and perils that they might encounter onboard. But despite all of these good attributes, the changing times that the young bloods have been into before going onboard is very different from the culture that the veteran seafarers are already living in for years. The very best thing that a millennial seafarer must do is to adapt to the existing rules and policies, follow it and surely they will prosper just like their predecessors did. Anyways, the culture onboard is now shifting to cater the changing times due to technology, improvement of life onboard and redefinition of existing policies. Indeed, the veterans are right for saying that the newbreed of seafarers are lucky. They might not experienced the harsh and hard life onboard before, but they must leard how to adapt and follow existing rules.
There is always a good and bad side for anything on this planet. It is up to us how to play with it in order to succeed. Fair winds, calm seas and joyful journey, millennial seafarers!