“I regret not being a SMOU member sooner,” said the 26-year-old 4th Engineer Lee Hao Yang.
“My friend, 2nd Engineer Kennedy Roberts, who is a SMOU member received care pack and meals from Young SMOU during his 21 day Stay-Home Notice in 2021. Sadly, I wasn’t a member at that point and did not have any touch point with the union.”
“Wasted!” he quipped.
Hao Yang also heard from a technical manager at Grindrod Shipping Pte Ltd where he works, how as a SMOU member, how the union has benefitted him over the years.
So, when Hao Yang became a member in 2022, he wasted no time in diving deep into building relationship with the YSMOU community and networking with the fellow seafarers gleaning from them lessons about trends in the maritime industry to the stuff of life.
“It feels good to speak the same language with a close knitted community,” he remarked. “And of course, the Members Monthly set meal at Lighthouse Bistro is unbeatable.”
Hao Yang’s decision to embark on a maritime journey started with flipping a coin — literally, when he was a secondary school student.
“It was either architecture or marine engineering. I flipped the coin and got my answer.” He also recalled googling “highest paying jobs” and discovered a career in the maritime was among the top in the scale.
That was enough to drive him to enroll at Singapore Maritime Academy. It was only in his third year at Singapore Poly that he realised he had to take his studies and his future seriously.
“It was an entirely different world as a cadet wearing a boiler suit working in a 50 degree engine room,” he recalled.
While a few of his course mates gave up after roughing it out at sea, Hao Yang chose to persevere through and stay on.
“The career prospect is good for Singaporeans in the maritime industry. I enjoy getting my hands dirty and finding ingenious ways to solve whatever challenges in the engine room. “My mother did say, “if can, choose another job”. But I have set my sights on COC Class 1.”
Hao Yang is among the 21 seafarers who were awarded the Sail Milestone Achievement Programme (SailMAP), an initiative of MPA, e2i, SSA, SMOU and SOS.
As a SailMAP recipient, Hao Yang receives a monthly allowance (capped at 6 months) of S$1,000 while attending COC 2/1 prep course. After attaining COC 2/1, he will be rewarded with S$4,000.
“This is a huge financial help especially when I am studying or on shore leave,” he said. His parents, both hawkers, are assured that their son is receiving assistance as he pursues a long-term career in seafaring.
“With the support coming from SailMAP and the constant encouragement from SMOU and Grindrod Shipping, I am all the more determined to be a Chief Engineer one day,” Hao Yang said.
The culture of affirmation in the maritime industry in Singapore goes a long way.