Dedicated To Mumbai


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Enthralled as a child by the adventures in ‘Treasure Island’ by Robert Louis Stevenson, Captain Kamal Chadha, MD of The MAREX Bulletin, had secretly resolved to someday sail the high seas. He began as a sea cadet at the age of 14 in the Sea Cadet Corps India and later a captain of many a merchant vessel. In an interview with Naressa Coutinho, Captain Kamal Chadha talks about a career in merchant seafaring and the shipping industry

Merchant Navy entails services aboard ships where vessels engage in the transport of goods and passengers between countries.  It is the commercial services of merchant vessels that distinguish them from the Navy. While the job of a seafarer involves navigation, loading and offloading of cargo, and safe delivery to assigned ports, naval officers are specially trained in the use of armed weaponry.  Speaking on the differences between the two, Captain Kamal Chadha says, “While the navy is a highly regimented and disciplined body, merchant navy is semi-regimented, a little more relaxed than the navy and pays better.”  

The impressive pay scale of a sailor often attracts people to this profession but Captain K. Chadha  is quick to point out that while a seafarer, depending on his rank and field of competency, may earn anywhere between Rs 5,000 to 6 lakhs a month, in a year, out of twelve months he may only work for 8 months. He does not get paid for the months he stays at home so when averaged out he technically earns lesser for every month of that year.

Every vessel needs a management crew and a support crew. The Management crew consists of deck officers and engineers while the support crew/ratings include boatswain, able-bodied and ordinary seamen. Each vessel has a total crew count of 20-22 members, which includes the captain, chief officer, 2nd officer, 3rd officer, chief engineer, 2nd engineer, 3rd engineer and 10-12 ratings depending on the size of the vessel.  

To work onboard a vessel as a navigational officer, one must have completed class 12 with Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics. One needs to have a certain level of proficiency in English. He has to undergo a one-year pre-sea training program at a maritime training institute after which he will receive shipboard training. Some of the Indian Institutes for Nautical studies, approved by the Directorate General of Shipping include Indian Maritime University, Mumbai and (TS Chanakya), Navi Mumbai, and the Anglo-Eastern Maritime Training Centre, New Delhi.  It is important for students to apply to companies and colleges simultaneously to ensure employment immediately after completion of their coursework. Indian Shipping companies include the Shipping Corporation of India, Great Eastern Shipping, Essar and Chowgule Shipping, etc. To rise up in the ranks from mates to masters, deck officers are required to give competency examinations that are conducted by Directorate General of Shipping and the Mercantile Marine Department of the Government of India.

Aspiring engineers would need to complete a four-year B.E degree programme before joinging, whereas ratings must have completed the 6 months course before their one-year training on board a ship.

Unlike an on-shore 9-5 job, sailors sign 4-9 months contracts depending on their rank. When asked to describe the life of a sailor, Captain Chadha says, “A seafarer sails for almost 8-9 months of the year and the remaining 3-4 months he gets to spend with his family. Life on-board is restricted to the ship and its crew, although with improved technology you can now keep in regular touch with your family. Yet, everyone onboard has to maintain a high level of cooperation. Unlike on land where competition is intense in every field, on a ship, competition takes a backseat and cooperation comes to the forefront. It is your ability to work in a team, cooperate and to sacrifice as opposed to the mad race to excel on land.”

Captain Shyam Jairam, Director of SEAARLAND Management services shares, “currently the shipping industry is in the midst of a recession. Bulk carriers have suffered along with LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas).

Cutting even is the chemical product and crude trade, while LNG (Liquid Nitrogen Gas) is one sector, which shows signs of coming up.

This has severely affected jobs in the industry but the trend will soon see a change and an upward climb.

The shipping industry will always need more young engineers, officer and ratings, so we must continue to be positive even in the face of recession.”

 “This is a great career option, especially for those looking for a little adventure in their life,” says Captain Chadha while also drawing light on the harsher realities of this profession. There is a high risk factor out on the high seas, considering the unpredictability of nature’s fury, intensity and occurrence. One spends more time away from home and family, and this tends to impact one’s social life and even one’s behaviour and mindset. On the brighter side, besides an impressive pay package, which is tax-free, your stay at sea is fully paid for by the company.  “There is a huge difference playing a racing game on the Xbox and actually sitting in a race care.  Similarly, shipping gives you the real picture. This, right here”, says Captain Chadha, “is the real thing!”

Pressures of a Merchant Navy Man
Steve Roshan Rebello, Captain (Master) onboard an FPSO (Floating Production storage and Offloading) Unit shares his thoughts on the pressures faced in the Shipping Industry: “Unlike sailing ships, the unit I work on presently is stationary and is similar to an Oil platform, complying with international regulations and local regulations, maintaining certification, liaising loading and unloading operations, helicopter operations are the prime responsibilities. Since I am working Offshore, my contracts are between 4-6 weeks. Working hours are as long as 12 hours and there are no weekends off. From the time you embark, until the time you finish your tenure, there are no holidays. The famous rule, 'When in doubt call the Captain', only adds to the stress. The privilege of shore leave is slowly dwindling due to the short port turnaround and the heightened security measures taken by ports. On the brighter side, with virtually no pollution at sea, the environment you live in ensures you breathe clean pure air and remain healthy. One must keep in mind, the shipping industry is cyclical and conditions look lucrative in boom periods. In times of recession, the sector suffers badly and job security stays a concern.”
—Captain Steve Roshan Rebello

Karave, Nerul,
Navi Mumbai- 400706.
Tel : 91-22-27703876 / 27701935
E-mail:[email protected]
Web: /

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