Seafarers face a different set of issues during the pandemic which might not be widely known to people not of the trade. This ranges from topics that have garnered media attention like crew change challenges, to fears and mental struggles implicated by the COVID-19 pandemic, that is often unspoken and kept to oneself.
On 30 July, Young SMOU organised a Fireside Chat attended by 20 seafaring junior officers and senior cadets from various companies, to find out some ongoing challenges faced by the younger group of seafarers. The youth participants were forthcoming and candid in their sharing, with some expressing concerns on career progression of seafarers as they face delays to sign on ships due to the postponement of courses or unable to get vaccinated during the initial stage. Other attendees communicated concerns over job security. SMOU Officials shared that seafarers who face issues with regards to employment or welfare onboard, can seek SMOU’s assistance, so that the union can take swift action and put forward its position collectively.
Mental wellness of seafarers was another matter raised at the session. SMOU General Secretary Sister Mary Liew and Emeritus General Secretary Brother Thomas Tay assured that the issue of mental health has been on SMOU’s radar, and a few mental wellness workshops have been conducted for our local members, shipping companies and foreign seafarers. SMOU will continue to work with the young seafarers for more opportunities to equip members to identify symptoms of mental struggles among themselves especially during this period.
Sister Mary encourage participants, “When you (seafarers) are being equipped with the skill, I hope that you will also look out for one another while out at sea. If you know of any seafarer who requires assistance, do reach out to SMOU.”
Finally, the youth also shared feedback on the importance of attracting other young talents and retaining them in the industry. Noting that Singapore is an international maritime hub needing a Singapore seafaring core, Young SMOU will further explore ideas with the youth members, which may be helpful for the rejuvenation of the seafaring workforce for the future.
Besides the feedback, the youth also got to hear about the SMOU ongoing workgroup, together with tripartite partners, on exploring the career pathways for the different COC holders, as well as the Sectorial Operations & Technology Road mapping.
After the session concluded, SMOU further reached out to the respective individuals to follow up on the concerns raised to assist them accordingly. The dialogue provided SMOU with a better understanding on the situation of young seafarers. Beyond the fireside chat, YSMOU will continue to engage and have active discussions with our youth to more effectively support seafarers at their points of need.
“The session was really beneficial as it provided us the opportunity to hear suggestions and solutions that are being put forth by SMOU for the concerns raised by us seafarers. The interaction helped us understand issues and challenges faced by the maritime community and it gives us hope to know that our concerns matter.”
Abid Salwan, Deck Cadet
“I was pleasantly surprised that SMOU was willing to listen to issues raised and responding with accountability, not brushing things aside. I very much appreciate the two-way street that exists between SMOU and its members.”
Muhammad Fareez, 2nd Officer