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23 Feb 2022
4 mins
Coming Full Circle: SMOU assists member Hamid with re-employment

If there’s a story to be told of someone having come full circle in career, it is the story of Hamid Mohamed Sepet, SMOU member since 1989.

Seavoices caught up with Hamid to capture his narrative on seafaring life and the role SMOU played.  

Born in the 1950s, Hamid, who identifies himself as Merdeka generation (“merdeka” meaning freedom in Malay), shared that life back then was not all rosy. Living conditions in Singapore then were poor, literacy rate was low, and unemployment was high. During those days, Singapore underwent a tumultuous period that led up to its independence in 1965, followed by the early nation-building years.

Hamid confessed, “In order to get good money, I preferred to sail.” After sailing for some 10 years, Hamid thought of a switch of career in maritime from sea to shore. So, he decided to take up an officer course in nautical studies and obtained a Class 5 Deck Officer certification by 1985.

Hamid first worked with TransOcean Liner as a 3rd officer for some 7 months. Then, he switched to the harbour craft industry and stayed for around 10 years, with Hong Lam Marine, in which he worked as a Captain before joining as a Chief Officer in Oxalis Shipping Co Pte Ltd for 20 years; managing and operating product tankers for marine transport of aviation fuel to Changi International Airport.

In 2019, Hamid was invited to join a newly set-up company, as an Expeditor, to monitor cargo and vessel activities of Changi International Airport operations on behalf of Shell. He enjoyed the work and was with the company for 2 years until COVID-19 hit the world. When the pandemic struck, Shell attempted to cut losses. By nature, the work of an Expeditor is a non-essential job. It was considered as additional for the owner or consignee to hire a person to monitor cargo and vessel activities and to protect against any delays. As a result, the company lost its contract with Shell, and had to close the Singapore office.

Then came SMOU to the rescue. The union stepped in to help Hamid by recommending him for job openings, where he landed back to the company he once worked with, Hong Lam Marine.

Hamid admitted, “I went one full circle. Wasn’t planned. It just happened that way. But thanks to SMOU for looking out for me. I am now 67 years of age. If I were to apply directly to any company, my chances of being accepted may be slim because I am not young.”

More than just helping Hamid with job placement in his later years, the union has been looking out for the interest of Hamid and his family, since he joined as member in 1989.

During his term as a member, his family benefitted from the union. All his three children – 2 boys and 1 girl, have been recipients of the SMOU bursary study awards.

In 1995, when the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) made it compulsory for officers and engineers to upgrade their certificates, refresher courses became a mandatory requirement. A lot of money was needed to pay for the courses. Hamid recounted that when he turned to SMOU for help, the union intervened by assisting to settle his membership obligations, which allowed him to get 90% subsidy of his course fees for CoC 5 revalidation. The courses included Emergency, Occupational Safety and Survival, Medical First Aid revalidation course, Certificate of Proficiency (CoP) as Seafarers with Designated Security Duties training, certificate of Bridge Resource Management, and many others.

Other benefits which Hamid and his family have tapped on included the NTUC/SMOU Care Fund (COVID-19); SMOU Annual Family Days, Sailing Cruise and Festival activities; Chalet stays at member special rates; and many more.

The one reason that compelled Hamid to join the union some 33 years ago was that he hoped it would be of benefit for him in the future. Looking back, Hamid’s story tells of one where the union is with him and for him always.