5 Ways to Improve Life Onboard by Being a Better Crewmate
We can all have bad days at work, no matter what industry we’re employed in - but a life spent working in seafarer jobs can be especially challenging.
Working in a job ashore can bring with it it’s own trials and tribulations, but an office worker can usually leave those behind when they walk out the door at 6pm. As someone working in jobs at sea on a vessel, this is not a luxury you can enjoy.
You don’t really need us to tell you that. But what you might find useful is some tips to make working on a ship with a small crew made up of different personalities easier.
The thing is, we all have to work with people who come from different backgrounds and who have different beliefs. They may also have a different mother tongue to our own.
And overwhelmingly, all of those can be really positive things. They’re opportunities to learn more about other cultures and expand our horizons - and this will make you happier when working in a job at sea.
What’s not so great is if you clash on a personal level with someone because their personality just doesn’t work with yours.
5 Ways to improve life in seafarer jobs by being a better crewmate
The trick here is to bear in mind that you probably won’t be able to change that person. But you can change the way you act around them and deal with them.Why should you be the one to change? Because it will make your life on a cargo ship easier and make you the better person!
Okay, we’re joking. Kind of. But being an all round decent person onboard your vessel will earn you a reputation for being a great crewmate - and a great employee. It will make people want to work with you and shipping companies want to hire you for their vacant seafarer jobs.
It’s a win win situation.
Why you need to try and get along with your fellow seafarers
When you see the same people day in and day out, it can be tough. Especially if you don’t particularly get on with one of them.
It can also feel like there’s not a lot of room to escape - as big as a container ship is, you’re still going to run into the same crewmates in the mess room, in the engine room, on your watch, and on deck etc.
It can take its toll on you as a person, as a seafarer, and as an employee if you’re constantly struggling to contain your negative feelings about that other person.
However you need to remember that every workplace has its conflicts and not everybody in the world will be best friends - but you need to somehow get along with each other for the sake of your ship.
In an office or warehouse, falling out with a coworker can be upsetting or annoying. But at sea it can be downright dangerous.
We know that it’s easier said than done. It takes a lot of character and mental strength to take the upper hand and be the better person. But tuning out the negativity can be a make or break career choice in life on a cargo ship.
It all comes down to good old fashioned discipline. So without further ado...
Here are 5 tips for becoming the seafarer that everybody likes
1. Don’t be the ship gossip
Whether you consider it to be gossiping or just ‘having a chat about someone else’ the fact is, if you’re talking about somebody in a negative way, you’re badmouthing them. Gossip is rarely a good thing and it can often just be downright mean.
Don’t forget: you’re on a ship and part of a crew and if you’ve been insulting or criticizing someone behind their back, it won’t take long for word to get around.
Not only will this make you look bad, but in the pressured environment of a vessel, even a comment you see as ‘harmless gossip’ could be extremely hurtful to the person in question. It could even spiral into an argument, and nobody wants that onboard.
In the event you do have a genuine issue with someone, talk to them directly and try and resolve the problem as adults. If you feel that you can’t speak to them, use the correct channels and go to your superior.
2. Support your crew
We know you’re busy. Life on a cargo ship can mean working long hours and sometimes all you want to do is crawl into your bunk after a long watch or shift.
But have you ever been guilty of telling a fellow crewmate who asked you for help, “Sorry, not my job.” Generally speaking, someone will have asked you for help because they genuinely need it.
Read more: 8 Things You Should Never Do in Jobs at Sea
Instead of turning your back on that person, remind yourself that a crew must work together to ensure the safe and efficient passage of the ship. Besides, and if you want to be cynical about it, if you ‘pay it forward’, the next time you need a hand, that same person you helped out is likely to be more willing to return the favor!
3. Don’t join a clique
You’re onboard a vessel. There are 14 other crew members and 11 of them are of the same nationality as you. Your natural instinct is to hang out with your fellow countrymen, right?
It might be more comfortable and easier due to the lack of language or cultural barriers. But take a moment to think about how the other 3 seafarers are going to feel.
Excluded? Lonely? Hurt? Quite possibly. So why not be the seafarer everyone likes and respects by being inclusive and making sure you’re friends with, or at least pleasant and friendly to, everyone onboard, regardless of nationality, race, religion, or ethnicity?
4. Put out fires
We don’t mean this in the literal sense of the word. (Although obviously, in the event that there is a fire onboard, you’ll need to do this too!) We mean, don’t be the person that fans the flames of arguments. Instead be the one that extinguishes burning issues before they turn into infernos.
Okay, enough of the fire analogies. Put simply, in any workplace, disagreements and debates are often part of the routine. But on a ship, even the smallest of discussions can overheat fairly quickly.
Being tired, feeling cooped up, being in close proximity to another seafarer who you don’t really like for months on end: these can all be contributing factors.
But for the safety of the ship and her crew, you need to either resolve problems, or let go of them. Again seek help from a superior if needed. But just make sure you’re not the one creating unnecessary drama, and try to diffuse situations that are starting to turn heated.
5. Shoulder the blame...
...if it’s your fault. No one likes admitting they’ve made a mistake. But no one likes a blame shifter either!
Who would you rather be? Someone that owns up to their errors or shortcomings, or someone who is known as that person who stays silent, or even worse, tries to blame another seafarer for their mistakes?
It can be embarrassing confessing to your shortcomings but if you own up to an error, your superiors and fellow crew will respect you for doing the right thing. Hide the fact that you are at fault and you’ll look irresponsible and even untrustworthy.
Besides, the truth often has a way of coming out in the end, anyway...
Remember, being nice costs nothing
Have you ever noticed that some people have a tendency to rant and rage no matter what the situation? People who prefer to inspire fear rather than kindness. You’ve probably been on board with seafarers like that. But we say, being nice costs nothing.
Offering a deck cadet a few words of encouragement as they start out in one of their first seafarer jobs could make a world of difference to them. Complimenting a fellow crew member on a job well done is...just a nice thing to do.
And it won’t stop you from being any more successful.
If anything it will make you more successful as you’ll be seen as the seafarer who other crew like and respect. And your superiors and employer will notice that.
The key thing to remember is that life on a cargo ship is all about teamwork. It’s about pulling together in what can sometimes be challenging circumstances.
Being likeable isn’t a weakness: it takes more strength to rise above gossip, ill-feeling and mistakes than it does to shout, bully or conceal errors.
Martide can help you find your next job at sea
Looking for your next contract? Martide are always looking for qualified seamen to fill our vacant seafarer jobs. And if you’re a team player and an all round nice person too, that will be a bonus!
We look forward to seeing you onboard soon!
Eve is Martide's content writer and publishes regular posts on everything from our maritime recruitment and crew planning software to life at sea.