Having a strong work ethic, tenacity, punctuality, people skills, courage and diligence: all highly desirable attributes in many industries, however in maritime jobs they’re virtual necessities. The very nature of shipping; the living and working in an enclosed space, the long weeks or months spent at sea and the need to get along with people of different cultures, languages and backgrounds all require a very distinct personality. And it goes without saying that a very specific skill set is also mandatory for anyone wishing to forge a successful career at sea.

Hard skills v. soft skills for a life at sea

Having certain personality traits (soft skills) and being in possession of the necessary proficiencies (hard skills) are a must for working in any position on board cargo ships. Soft skills and hard skills play an equally important role too, so don’t make the mistake of thinking soft skills aren’t as important as their ‘harder’ sibling. Soft skills such as critical thinking, sound judgement, effective communication, decision making, social intelligence, problem solving and time management are all extremely valuable virtues for seafarers.

Obviously, a career in maritime jobs also demands a sound understanding of, and proficiency in, many different areas of knowledge. This of course will depend on the position held but typically an able seaman should be competent in lifesaving, CPR and first aid, telecommunication systems, sanitation, geography, general maintenance, and mechanics. That includes knowing how to operate, maintain and repair the machinery, safety equipment and tools used on cargo ships or other vessels.

An AB will also need to know how to look for obstructions in a cargo ship’s path, stand watch as a helmsman and lookout, use a compass and be able to read nautical maps, keep a steady course by correctly carrying out rudder orders, communicate using navigational terms, and be able to use semaphores and blinker lights.

Other useful skills to keep in mind

Possessing physical strength is also a huge asset - for obvious reasons. But there are other skills that might not seem relevant to the shipping industry, but in fact are increasingly valued in modern seafaring. That includes being able to speak a foreign language: crews are usually made up of any number of nationalities and being able to communicate with your fellow seamen will make life at sea easier, more productive, safer and more sociable.

Do seafarers need to understand tech?

Knowing your way around a computer, being able to use relevant software programs, and having a working knowledge of spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel are becoming more important. While some might even say that it won’t be long before essential skills for seafarers  will include computer programming and being able to code. After all as technology advances so too will the systems used on board, and subsequently the skills needed to operate and troubleshoot them.

Find your next contracts and jobs at sea with Martide

The demands on the modern mariner are increasing but if you relish a challenge, don’t want to be tied to a desk, are looking to acquire new skills, and want to work in a truly unique environment, register your account with Martide today. If a life at sea is calling you, we have vacant maritime jobs for crew members of all ranks and levels of experience.

And don't forget to download our mobile app either from Google Play (for Android) or from the Apple Store (for iPhone). It gives you full access to our cargo ship jobs and lets you apply with just the click of a button - no matter where in the world you are.