There is a lesser-known story about Third Officer Mohamed Farhan Bin Mohamed Fadillah that deserves attention: he is adamant that Singapore, ranked as the top global shipping centre, should have a strong Singapore core.
As a firm believer of training a Singaporean core for the maritime industry, Farhan does whatever is within his power to motivate the Tripartite Nautical Training Award (TNTA) cadets to persevere in the promising industry.
Besides having heart-to-heart talks with those who need motivation and encouragement, Farhan, on his own accord, lends a helping hand to cadets who require help in their studies by coaching them face-to-face. His pep talks and personal tutoring are paying off.
“Thankfully, there are quite a few cadets whom I have helped who have managed to get their CoC 3. They are currently sailing right now. The best part is they in turn are motivating their juniors to not give up,” Farhan said. To him, seeing his peers and juniors succeed is true contentment.
His tried-and-tested formula of success is studying from 8am to 5pm, almost on a daily basis for two weeks, with a buddy or two, to prepare for the examinations. For Farhan and his study buddy, the discipline and mutual encouragement did the trick.
“The accountability pushes you to overcome the ‘no mood to study’ mentality,” he said.
Farhan’s influence as a ‘big brother’ includes getting short-term stints for those cadets who need employment while waiting for their license to sail. He shared that he just did not want anyone to leave the maritime industry prematurely.
So, how did he himself end up accepting the training programme offered by Wavelink Maritime Institute?
Farhan was driven by curiosity to understand what it takes to be a captain of a ship when he was working in his brother-in-law’s ship repair business after he left his job of four years in an online directory company.
“I thought I needed to be in a navy or have some doctorate in maritime studies,” Farhan recalled. He soon found the answer when his best friend, Azhar, enrolled into TNTA cohort 5 and encouraged him to do likewise.
Farhan joined TNTA cohort 6. He shared that his brother-in-law, Ikmal Hamzah, also followed suit in cohort 8. Interestingly, Farhan’s father-in-law was formerly a seafarer as well, a chief officer, now turned surveyor.
SeaVoices (SV) pursues Farhan’s story.
SV: Tell us more about your family.
Farhan: My dad was a tennis coach in the 1990s. Thus, keeping fit and being disciplined is ingrained in my 5 siblings and me. I was once a fitness instructor as well.
I took an 8 month break from the TNTA studies to take care of my late mother. She was unwell and I had to bring her back to Singapore from Malaysia for medical care. She passed on when I was taking my CoC 3 but I hope she is proud of me now. My mum used to say that I have a soft heart and she always encouraged me not to just live for myself. Hence, when I have the free time now, I will always find time to volunteer to give back to society.
SV: Thus your involvement in SMOU’s CSR events ?
Farhan: SMOU is doing really good work and I am glad to have the chance to be part of it. When I am available, I also make it a point to help out wherever I can too. I also find it enjoyable to do good with my peers. For example, painting the orphanage in Batam and distributing care bags to the elderly – seeing the smiles on the children’s and elderly’s faces is priceless and unforgettable.
SV: Tell us about your first sailing experience.
Farhan: I had my first training onboard a vessel at Tianjin, China, which was headed for Australia. When I was picked up at the airport in the freezing month of November in 2015, I thought to myself, “There goes my kidney”. I didn’t know where I was going and I don’t speak Chinese. But the whole voyage turned out well as the captain and crew were really nice.
SV: How is the COVID-19 pandemic affecting you?
Farhan: I was onboard another vessel and was supposed to sign off in March this year but I could only get back a month later because both China and New Zealand (NZ) did not have any flights to Singapore. So I was sailing to and fro from NZ to China and back to NZ. Fortunately, we had to discharge a cargo in Korea and from there I managed to sign off and fly home. At that time, the vessel captain from Myanmar had been sailing for a year and could not sign off because of the pandemic and the situation back home.
The pandemic also affected my income. I am one of those who benefitted from the NTUC/SMOU Care Fund (COVID-19) as well as the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore (MPA)/SMOU Seafarers’ Relief Package. I received close to $2,000, which tide me over 3 months without any income.
SV: How was the Stay Home Notice (SHN) experience for you?
Farhan: The union messaged me regularly to find out how I was doing – when I signed off from the vessel to the SHN hotel. I felt really happy when SMOU sent some meals while I was on SHN. The meals from Lighthouse Bistro were delicious, and it definitely made my SHN more bearable. I also received the SMOU Care Packs. No one really knows the perils we face at sea and those thoughtful gestures made me feel appreciated by my union.
SV: Deepening competencies and proficiencies is something you take seriously?
Farhan: Yes, right now, I am taking a degree in Sustainability in Maritime Operations. I am grateful that for this course, MPA has pre-approved up to 90% co-funding of the course fee under the Maritime Cluster Fund (MCF) funding support; in which SMOU came in to assist me in applying for the support. I hope to enhance my employability with the degree. Also, I shared with my juniors on all the training opportunities and I am happy to know that some of them are hence, using the lull time to do something worthwhile.
I am also thankful for the union’s education subsidies, which allows me to complete some of the courses, such as Bridge Resource Management, without much worries about the fees.
Farhan concluded the interview with SeaVoices with a sobering reiteration that cadets need all the encouragement, inspiration and motivation they can get to succeed. When it comes to championing the Singapore core, he is a positive force to be reckoned with.