8 Things You Should Never Do When Working in a Job at Sea

Jun 11, 2020 · 9 mins read ·

Life at Sea
traffic light sign partially under water

As a seafarer you know that working in jobs at sea can come with very specific challenges. And just as there are different types of maritime jobs, there can be different types of hurdles to overcome when working in them.

In fact all jobs come with issues that need to be dealt with - it’s just that cargo ship jobs can have some very individual ones!

And because working in seafarer jobs can be challenging: both physically and mentally, even just on a regular basis, it makes sense to try and keep the obstacles you need to deal with to a minimum while you’re working in jobs at sea.

And that means avoiding certain things which could get you into trouble.

The thing is, everyone makes mistakes - no matter whether you’re working in different types of maritime jobs at sea or in jobs in ports and shipping offices. Therefore it's always good to be armed with as much knowledge as possible.

We’re all human after all, but when you’re under the type of pressure that many seafarers are under onboard their vessel, it can be even harder not to make errors of judgement.

Read more: These 5 Things Could Get Your CoC Suspended or Cancelled

With that in mind we thought we’d take a look at 8 things you should never do when working in seafarer jobs. We hope this list will be especially useful for anyone starting out in entry level cargo ship jobs.

Let’s take a look at some real no-no’s you should avoid when onboard.

Don't make these 8 mistakes when you work in a job on a ship

1. Don’t ignore warnings and alarms

Being alert is a huge part of the role in all different types of maritime jobs. When you’re onboard you need to be aware of everything that’s going on around you. Hear an alarm going off? Jump to attention. See a warning light flashing? Find out what it means.

Drill or no drill, never ignore something which could have very serious repercussions.

Read more: 3 Wellness Tips for Officers of the Watch

2. Don’t show up to work under the influence

This is unfortunately a recurring issue in the maritime industry and we can’t say it enough. Don’t drink and then show up for your duty or watch. This relates to the ‘don’t’ above - because if you’re under the influence of drink (or drugs) your judgement will be impaired and you won’t be nearly as aware and alert as you should be.

Do you really want to be held responsible for an accident or injury - your own or someone else’s? The guilt, the possible suspension, the impact on your career in seafarer jobs...the list goes on.

3. Don’t forget to keep an eye on the time

Punctuality plays a big part in jobs at sea. You need to show up for your shift or watch on time to relieve your fellow crew members and ensure a tightly run and efficient ship.

The same goes for shore leave: if you’re able to go ashore, it is crucial that you return to your vessel at the allocated time.

Making your vessel and fellow crew wait for you to return is disrespectful, could potentially cause problems and cost money, and if you make a habit of it, be a black mark on your career in cargo ship jobs.

Read more: How to Make the Most of Shore Leave

4. Don’t ignore errors in paperwork

Correct any mistakes you make in paperwork or documentation. It is vital that your vessel’s records are correct in order to make sure they are operating within laws and regulations.

Your entries might seem insignificant and just another task to check off the to-do list, but you never know when the information could be needed - for example in an insurance claim or dispute.

5. Don’t cover up your mistakes

On a similar note, if you have made any mistakes - whether in paperwork or in the course of your duties, let your superior know. It is usually far better in the long run to come clean and ‘fess up rather than trying to hide a mistake and getting called out on it at a later date.

Not only will it mark you down as untrustworthy but even the smallest error, if covered up, could lead to a much larger problem.  

6. Don’t take anything home from the vessel

It might be tempting, especially if you’re starting out in entry level cargo ship jobs, to take a little ‘souvenir’ home from your time on board. Resist that temptation. It doesn’t matter how small, pointless, replaceable or trivial an item seems, if it belongs to the ship, it doesn’t belong to you.

Get caught and this won’t go down well with your superiors or the shipping company you work for.  

7. Don’t carry packages for others

While we’re on the subject of what shouldn’t find its way into your luggage, we should mention that you should always politely refuse if one of your fellow crew members asks you to carry a package for them.

It doesn’t matter how friendly you are, it doesn’t matter that you’ve been working together for a decade since starting out together in entry level cargo ship jobs; if you didn’t pack something yourself, don’t get involved.

This goes for playing messenger both when embarking and disembarking. The last thing you want is to get into serious trouble with customs for carrying something illegal.

8. Don’t be that ‘difficult’ crew member

We get it - life at sea and working in seafarer jobs can be stressful. Furthermore, chances are you’re not going to get along like the proverbial house on fire with every single crew member you work with.

But being a decent crew mate will not only make your life onboard easier but will also help you line up subsequent jobs at sea.

If you’re known for being difficult to work with or unpleasant, a manning agent or shipping company will hear about it. And that’s not going to do you any favors when it comes to lining up seafarer jobs in the future.

Read more: 5 Ways to Improve Life Onboard by Being a Better Crewmate

The good news is, there are plenty of things you can, and should, do when you’re onboard. Positive things such as creating a community with your fellow crew members, finding ways to chill out in between shifts or watches, and learning to take real pride in your work, no matter what seafarer job you do.

Are you looking for jobs at sea?

At Martide we are hiring now for different types of maritime jobs. From entry level cargo ship jobs to master and chief marine engineer jobs.

Take a look at our vacant jobs at sea and apply if you meet the requirements.

Meanwhile, if you want to be one step ahead, download the Martide mobile app today. The app gives you instant access to all of our cargo ship jobs, and helps you stay in touch with employers and manning agencies too.

Get the app now from the App Store for Apple or from Google Play for Android and we look forward to seeing you onboard soon!

Eve Church

Eve Church

Eve is Martide's content writer, publishing regular posts on everything from our maritime recruitment and crew planning software to life at sea. Eve has been writing professionally for more than two decades, crafting everything from SEO-focused blog posts and website landing pages to magazine articles and corporate whitepapers.


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