To better discern the career concerns which the youth members might face, Young SMOU (YSMOU) organised a Fireside chat on 9 December. The session saw the participation of new and current seafaring members. Through the session, the union sought to listen and understand seafarers’ motivations at sea as well as address some of the obstacles that they are facing in their seafaring careers. The engagement allowed the union to gain more insight into the kinds of benefits or assistance which could be rendered to better the lives of seafaring members at large.
SMOU General Secretary, Sister Mary Liew acknowledged that it has been a challenging two years and spoke of how SMOU has worked with tripartite partners to address crew change issues as well as facilitate the procurement of vaccination for seafarers.
“We understand that seafarers continue to face new challenges. So today, we would like to have a dialogue with you on how we can make the industry better for all, and how SMOU can help you and other seafarers out there build a better maritime seafaring career,” said Sister Mary Liew.
Prior to the Fireside Chat, attendees input in an online survey their “topics of concern” which were discussed during the session. Topics raised included the motivations to stay in the seafaring career and some of the obstacles faced by seafarers. During the session, in response to the concerns raised, YSMOU shared useful information and recommendations on the support they can tap onto.
At the end of the sharing, the union opened the floor for further discussion.
Some questions brought up by the members were addressed immediately, while others were resolved by the union soon after the session. The feedback shared by the youths was constructive and had a common goal of bettering seafarers’ lives.
The Fireside Chat ended off with Emeritus General Secretary, Brother Thomas Tay encouraging seafarers to “keep up the positive mindset” and assuring them that “SMOU will always be ready to lend them a helping hand.”
4th Engineer Muhammad Hadafi Bin Kasman who found the session very engaging, told SeaVoices that he learned a lot from the Q&A segment where not only the SMOU officials, but also participants who shared their experiences. “This Fireside chat made me appreciate SMOU even more as I realised how hard they are working in order to help us, especially during this pandemic. Their support and effort in helping seafarers like us really go a long way,” he added.
First-time attendee, 3rd Officer Takamasa Ng expressed, “at this Fireside Chat we were able to better understand each other and address some of the challenges that we were facing. I am also very grateful that SMOU and even the top union leaders are looking into our concerns.”
Wrapping up, Hadafi and Takamasa told SeaVoices that they were looking forward to participate in future Fireside Chats with SMOU.
“We want the conversations and engagements to continue, and SMOU will make sure that it will not stop here,” Sister Mary Liew concluded.