… There are millions of merchant marines in the world serving on ships of all sizes including freighters and oil tankers. The Philippines are the most represented in the field with over 700,000. Without the sacrifice of these men and women, world commerce would come to a halt. Wall Street may be the key to our financial institutions; trucks the key to shipping goods overland; but sailors manning the ships out on the sea are the glue that holds the world economy together.
… The average mariner can expect to be away from port for months at a time. It is probably the number one issue that professional mariners would change if they could. Some companies have started offering sailors year round contracts with a steady salary thus mollifying the sacrifice of months away from family. For most mariners, the issue is far from resolved.
… Though entry level mariners gain their education from the school of hard knocks, those interested in making a career of it must earn degrees or take courses to qualify themselves for better paying positions. In some countries, they must appear before boards whose members are sometimes described by sailors as being rude, unfair, and often outdated in their own knowledge. This makes advancing oneself difficult.
… Because of the economic climate today, many shipping companies are cutting back on ships and jobs. This leaves less good jobs for qualified mariners who work hard to promote themselves.
… Being a mariner is not a job for pansies. Hazards abound and death at sea, although not commonplace, happens. Dying thousands of miles from a loved one is difficult. Imagine the emotional and financial stress for family back home when they receive word their husband, father, or son has died at sea.
… One of the real hazards at sea is still from pirates. They often attack a ship, take what is of value including personal possessions of sailors, then leave. Those are the lucky ones. Other pirates, well-armed and ruthless, think nothing of brutalizing crew members. Still others take the crew as hostage and will not surrender them or the ship till a ransom of thousands of dollars has been paid.
… From Treasure Island and Pirates of the Caribbean, we have learned the common cause of death for mariners is pirates or drowning. It may surprise you to know that top causes of death are accidents. Some are from falling from great heights; others from falling overboard. One of the greatest hazards comes from confined space. Depending on the type of space, the danger could be from fire, electrocution, poisonous gasses, crushing from loose cargo, high temperatures, or injury from slipping on wet surfaces. And this list is far, far from definitive.
… The overwhelming majority of shipping companies attempt to maintain safe and healthy ships, but a few send vessels that are barely seaworthy out on the ocean, with the profit margin as their compass.
…Sailors are a rough and tumble lot, able to accept most any hardship. And though they sacrifice much, some of the biggest problems they face are: not getting enough rest, not getting paid properly or on time, dangerous working conditions, and loneliness.
… We often think of ships as being loaded with sailors. And in the navies of the world, they are. Even the sailing ships of old were often manned by more than a hundred crew members. On today’s seagoing vessels, because of technology, the number is far more conservative. It’s not unusual for a tanker or cargo ship to have as little as fifteen to twenty hands on board to do everything from navigating to deck and engine room jobs, to the actual running of the ship.
Working out on the sea may seem like the adventure of a lifetime. And, no doubt, it has its moments. But we should never forget it’s first and foremost a job that requires sacrifices most of us would never be willing to make. Why not say an extra prayer tonight for the men and women out there on those wine dark seas? At the very least, give them a little nod of thanks for all they do.