Thank you for subscribing to Seavoices’ updates!

Please take a moment to check your email inbox and confirm your subscription to start receiving the latest news and updates.

02 Dec 2021
4 mins
Faces of SMOU: Kennedy Roberts, An Advocate for the Union

When it comes to championing SMOU membership, 3rd Engineer Kennedy Roberts would not bat an eyelid to give his strong support.

Ever since Kennedy joined as an SMOU member in 2018, the 28 year old, who is with Pacific Carrier Limited, has been advocating for the union by asking his seafaring peers to join SMOU as well.

“I thoroughly enjoy the perks and benefits that the union provides me with, such as the training grants and welfare benefits. I find the membership to be so worthwhile. Besides that, through SMOU events, we also get a chance to know more people in the industry. For example, during Mariners’ Nite*, members can redeem complimentary drinks from Lighthouse Bistro every month, and at the same time catch up with other seafaring members. The Union also organises events for members and their families to participate together and forge stronger bonds” he shared.

“In conjunction with SMOU’s 70th Anniversary celebration this year, I got to enjoy special deals such as the delicious monthly set lunch at Lighthouse Bistro for only $7 as well as $70 vouchers from SMOU,” he gushed.

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, “all the more we need the Union”. The care packs that SMOU present to the seafarers and the delectable meals that are brought to those who are serving their Stay Home Notice made a world of difference to welcome the members home.

To pay it forward, Kennedy joins his fellow SMOU members to serve the seniors from Henderson home and the community at Jalan Besar whenever he is on leave. As an active volunteer of the union’s CSR events, Kennedy revealed that it is the sense of satisfaction and pride he gets from volunteering which keeps him going

On the perks of working at sea, Kennedy who is under the Tripartite Maritime Scholarship (TMSS) highlighted that top on his list is the opportunity to experience the different sights and sounds the different countries offer; from the famous Bourbon Street in New Orleans to the winterland Hokkaido, Japan where Kennedy walked on a frozen lake and saw reindeers and foxes in the wild.

He was quick to add that it is “the people who make sailing enjoyable”. “So far I have been fortunate to have Singaporeans on board to talk to in every voyage and other crew members whom I now count as my good friends,” he said.

There is never a dull moment at sea. Kennedy explained that every ship brings on different challenges. “Even sister ships built in the same shipyard and have the same machinery can function differently. For us working in the engine room, teamwork is very important. When we encounter a problem on board, to troubleshoot and come up with solution requires for us to work together and think out of the box, regardless of seniority or experience. Ultimately, with a common goal, we want to ensure that the vessel and the crew are safely brought from one port to another.”

Life at sea, however, has not been the same since the COVID-19 pandemic. Some countries impose very strict rules and regulations that made it all the more taxing. “At some ports, we can’t step out of the vessel. The deck officers sometimes have to place a camera on the selfie stick, tie it to a rope and lower it to check on the draft of the ship. So, the seafaring job is a lot more tiring and tedious now. Crew change is made more difficult and it is not uncommon to hear of crew who have to extend their contracts by many months. The mental and physical stress is like never before,” Kennedy said.

Despite the high-pressure work, Kennedy, who is completing his TMSS bond soon, is eyeing on attaining his CoC 1 and to reach the rank of Chief Engineer.

As Kennedy sails on, he is sure to continue encouraging more seafarers to join the union.

*Mariners’ Nite has been put on hold during this period due to COVID-19 measures