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10 most common reasons Filipinos want to be seafarers

To be a seafarer is no joke. It’s a hard life, and there are many things that make it even more so (see my article, ’35 things that make life more difficult for seafarers’). So why do many young Filipinos want to serve in the Merchant Marine? Listed below are some of the usual reasons. I would have liked to include love for the sea and life at sea. However, I have known only a few Filipinos who were driven by such a passion — sea dogs who are now old or have passed away.

35 things that make life more difficult for seafarers

Life is hard enough for seafarers without other people making it harder. Alas, there is no shortage of individuals, often including one’s kith and kin, who would take advantage of this group of workers. Ironically, some institutions and regulations are the very source of the exploitation and the suffering. The following is a list of things many seafarers have to put up with as they struggle to build a better future for themselves and their families.

30 old proverbs for today’s seafarers to live by

Proverbs can offer more wisdom than one can find in a philosophical treatise. I like to compare them to a demitasse, the small cup used to serve strong black coffee. The following are 30 such sayings. I have collected and arranged them by theme in the hope that seafarers and other readers of Marine Café Blog would benefit from their homespun truths.

Outlook for Filipino seafarers amid COVID-19

It’s the worst of times for both ships and seafarers.

The World Trade Organization in Geneva has forecast world merchandise trade to plummet by 13% in 2020. If the coronavirus pandemic is not brought under control and governments fail to coodinate their policy responses, the drop could be as much as 32%.

A seafarer’s short guide to choosing a manning agency

There are good and bad manning agencies, but I personally would rather have a hiring hall do the crew selection and deployment. I have seen enough in maritime Manila to say that crewing companies are a necessary evil. But they are not going away anytime soon. The best that seafarers can do is be discerning enough to deal only with the decent ones — definitely not an easy task if there are so many to choose from.

Love in the life of a sailor (through artists’ eyes)

A girl in every port. The expression sums up the popular image of the sailor: an inveterate womaniser and skirt-chaser. The reputation, I think, is not wholly undeserved. With their pockets filled with dollars, seafarers get to meet women in all shapes and colours around the world. The temptation to have a fling can be too great to resist.
Some maritime Casanovas never change. They go on with their merry ways long after they have grown older and quit sailing. On the other hand, there are seamen who may have sown their wild oaths but eventually settled down and remained faithful to their wives. I have known both types. Many seafarers, I am sure, can identify themselves with the following artworks:

To be or not to be a seafarer, that is the question

In developing countries, it is poverty and lack of decent-paying jobs on shore that drive young men and women to become seafarers. It is the siren call of the dollar, not the joy of being at sea and sailing which British poet John Masefield eloquently expressed in ‘Sea-Fever’: I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide/ Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied; / And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying, / And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

Goodbye, old sea dogs. Hello, decaf ship captains.

Old sea dogs fascinate me. They are such interesting characters that writers and artists made them the centrepiece of their works. They even inspired the humorous circa-1905 photograph (shown above) from the defunct Detroit Publishing Company. Alas, these hardy...