International Journal
on Marine Navigation
and Safety of Sea Transportation
Volume 3
Number 4
December 2009
Working on board ships is becoming less attractive
for students coming out of the schools and colleges.
In the past, seafarers were paid better than their
peers on shore, and they had the opportunity to trav-
el across the world. However, both of these have
changed. The salary gap between seafarers and those
working on shore is minimal. With ports and termi-
nals located away from the city, and ships not stay-
ing at the port for a longer period, seafarers do not
have an opportunity to explore various countries ac-
cording to Mr. S. Hajara
Several studies indicate that there is currently a
world-wide shortage of officers, corresponding to 4
percent of the total officers (16,000) and the predic-
tion is that by 2012, the shortfall will rise to
46,000(Kumar, 2007).
The shortfall of seafarers has negative impacts on
the shipping industry as a whole whereas both the
on- board and on- shore maritime related work posts
face manning problems that may directly threaten
the existence of shipping activity and the sustenance
of maritime know- how (Chaterjee, in Kumar,
Japanese shipping companies plan to hire 10,000
seafarers from the Philippines between 2008 and
2010. ( This was stated by
the president of the Philippine-Japan Manning Con-
sultative Council, Mr. /Eduardo Manese. He further
said that Japan will increase its merchant fleet of
2,223 as of 2006 to 3,000 by the end of 2010, and
further to 4,000 by 2015.
The same opinion was shared by Ambassador
Stale Torstein Risa of Norway during the two-day
International Maritime Conference hosted by
JBLFMU on January 29, 2008. He encouraged mari-
time schools in the country to give importance to
quality-based maritime education and training to
meet the demands of the global shipping industry.
Risa noted that most of the world’s global trade is by
sea and that globalization has entirely changed the
world’s trading patterns with new emerging markets
requiring more transport services than ever before.
Aside from the expanding off-shore explorations of
petroleum resources, the cruise industry also contin-
ues to grow. This entails a growing demand for mar-
itime workers. He further stressed: “I believe
schools should even seek to follow up and evaluate
their graduates’ employment experiences. They
should keep track of their graduates and to get feed-
backs after spending some time at sea and it would
A Noble Profession Called Seafaring: the
Making of an Officer
M. Magramo & L. Gellada
John B. Lacson Foundation Maritime University, Iloilo City, Philippines
ABSTRACT: This study aimed to determine the perceptions of the managers in the shipping and manning
companies in the Philippines and the seafarers regarding the nobility of the seafaring profession in the light of
the shortage of competent officers. It utilized the interview approach in gathering data. It was found out that
in other countries especially in OECD or highly industrialized countries, the youth today are no longer inter-
ested in the seafaring profession. Working on board ships is becoming less attractive for students coming out
of the schools and colleges. In the past, seafarers were paid better than their peers on shore, and they had the
opportunity to travel across the world. In the Philippines, it is still preferred by some students whose fathers
or relatives are seafarers. They have seen that the profession is financially rewarding and it is perhaps the
best, if not the only way to improve their quality of life. This study also looked into the perceptions and opin-
ions of the practitioners, the master mariners themselves who once also struggled in order to realize their
dreams and aspirations in life. Most of the officers interviewed believed that it takes determination and focus
in the job in order to be successful. Thus, students aspiring to become officers and ultimately captains or mas-
ter mariners must study hard, persevere and be disciplined to be able to overcome any problem along the way.
be a valuable input in determining if the level of
training is adequate, and even offer advice on job
Given the shortage of maritime officers for inter-
national vessels, the manning industry is turning to
re-packaging what its players say is a “wimpy” im-
age of the Filipino seafaring career according to
Stene (in Alzona, 2008). It is on this premise that
this study was conducted.
This study aimed to determine the actions and
measures taken by the different stakeholders in order
to entice the youth of today in pursuing a career at
sea. The perceptions of the various managers of the
shipping and manning companies in the Philippines
and other stakeholders, especially the seafarers, re-
garding the nobility of the seafaring profession in
the light of the shortage of seafarers was also looked
This study utilized the descriptive-qualitative meth-
od of research. It utilized the phenomenological ap-
proach, using an in-depth interview of the key in-
formants. The participants in this study were the
managers of the manning companies and the various
representatives of the owners of the shipping com-
panies in the Philippines, deck cadets who recently
disembarked after completing a one- year training
program on board and active seafarers occupying
management level positions on board.
3.1 Modes of analysis
3.1.1 Filipinos are excellent seafarers
The Philippines is number one (1) in the world as
far as seafaring is concerned. There is no other in-
dustry or profession the country that can boast of be-
ing number one. There are some personalities who
are number one in the world like Manny Pacquiao or
Lea Salonga, but in an industry or profession, no one
individual can claim being number one in the world.
Thus, in the office, the seafarers wear necktie be-
cause they feel that they are real professionals. So
there are reasons to promote seafaring profession as
a better paying professional job. It is better than
most of the professions we know. These were the in-
spiring words of Mr. Erickson Marquez, president of
several manning companies owned by his family and
a legacy left to him by his father, the founder of the
company. His appeal to the students: “Study! Have
an ambition! Don’t be satisfied to be able to go on
board ships only. Aim to be a captain or chief engi-
neer; your life will not be fulfilled if you don’t be-
come one. And you can only do that if you study.
And let’s get rid of the notion: ‘pag mahina, mag-
seaman ka na lang; pag magaling ibang profession(
“if the intelligence is below average, go for the sea-
faring profession, if above average go for other pro-
He added: “So how come we are not doing our
best to improve the quality of our students? Without
the seafarers our economy would probably suffer
more than what we are suffering now. Seafarers are
not given attention, despite the fact that this is the
profession that the Filipinos will dominate in the
years to come.”
Let us therefore change or re-direct our mindset,
let us treat seafaring as a very old and a noble pro-
3.1.2 A very old but noble profession
The statements by Mr. Ericson Marquez are the
same words shared by Mrs. Carla S. Limcaoco,
Vice-Chairman of the Philippine Transmarine Carri-
ers, Inc. She said: “to enter this career is a special
calling. Seafarers should not just do it to see the
world free or just earn dollars. They must do it be-
cause they believe in the value of the course. They
should remember that without ships where would the
world economy be? When you find something im-
ported in the supermarket, don’t you start to think
how it got there? It got there because of ships. How
do the cars of Japan go to Europe? How did the gold
from China get to the United States? Without ships,
the world economy would collapse. So when some-
body (sic) decides to be a mariner you become part
of a very old but noble profession. It is much more
sophisticated now because the level of education re-
quired is amazing. I sit here and listen to the compe-
tence requirements and berthing requirements; port
state control and flag state requirements. And I sit
there and tell my senior officer (she is referring to
senior deck officers in their company), you cannot
imagine how proud I am of you because one day, if
you decide to work ashore you can probably sit and
do what I am doing. I can never do what you are do-
ing, I have a great respect for what is it they have to
(sic) know. And so to me, it’s a profession that re-
quires a high level of education and it is a profession
that if you conduct yourself properly will give you a
very fruitful life.
According to Capt. Jessie Martinez, the president
of Global Training Systems Phils., Inc. “Students
should do everything, including motivating them-
selves.” He further adds: “They have to give it their
best shot. Don’t settle for the second best. Try to be
the best always. If you will do all these things, this
profession becomes easy. In this profession, there is
no glorious moment than the first day that you as-
sume the position of the master.”
Capt. Rainier Salcedo, 1986 graduate of
JBLFMU-Arevalo said that his profession as a sea-
farer earned him the respect of people both at sea
and on land. People in his community appreciated a
lot his little contributions that he shared to them.
3.1.3 A lonely but a challenging job
Any seafarer will find it difficult to work on
board. First of all we are far from our family. The
feeling of being away from your family and loved
ones is the hardest part according to Capt. Lopez,
even harder than the work on board ships. “But life
is in itself a sacrifice. So in order for me to provide
for my family….I have to work on board but I have
no choice because I love my family.” Capt. Lopez
added: “Being away from my loved ones is the big-
gest challenge that I have been confronted with. It is
a challenge to me as a human being for I have bio-
logical needs and must have a biological fulfillment.
Thus, when I am in port surrounded by beautiful
women, sometimes I can surpass it but at times I
This was also shared by Capt. Genona who con-
siders that being away from family requires a large
amount of patience to work efficiently. “It was diffi-
cult but because of training and motivation, I was
able to surpass such difficulties”. He overcomes
homesickness by concentrating in his work.
Capt. Rainier Salcedo, feels the same way. It is
not the work on board that he considers difficult but
rather, it is the feeling of being away from his fami-
ly. For him work becomes routine on board the mo-
ment that you (sic) have mastered it. He looks at his
work as a passion or an art. It is fun working on
board because he enjoys it and he doesn’t find it bor-
ing. He always looks forward that each day is a dif-
ferent day from the previous days. The challenges
that he encounters on board makes him a stronger
and better person.
Difficulty is a state of mind. Physically it is diffi-
cult; mentally it is very difficult, if you are not pre-
pared. But if you are physically and mentally pre-
pared and you know how to sort things out, then
everything is easy, and fun according to C/M Arse-
nal. This is something that a deck cadet must endure
and must fully understand in this profession. He
must carry on his shoulder a big responsibility when
he is on board especially when he becomes an of-
ficer. There are instances when he does not get
enough sleep in a 24- hour period because of emer-
gencies on board requiring everybody to be alert all
the time. He has to deal with the indifference of his
senior officers, and if he is not emotionally prepared
he will end up crying. But all these are part of being
a cadet aspiring to be an officer someday.
3.1.4 Adjustment with other nationalities
Most of the key informants interviewed admitted
they find it difficult to adjust with other nationalities
primarily because of language barrier, not to men-
tion the cultural differences. As a Chief Officer,
Capt. Lopez has to adjust to the culture of the Indo-
nesians who are Muslims. He found it difficult at
first because, in some instances, Muslim crew mem-
bers disappeared on the deck in the middle of the
work for they must go back to their cabin to pray.
Despite the fact that he was a senior officer on
board, Capt. Philip Genona still felt a certain level of
discrimination, because Europeans are feeling and
thinking superior. But he was not intimidated at all.
He simply told them that they were on board to
work, that their responsibility, which was to keep the
shipboard organization work, and being the officer
on board, it was his job to implement company regu-
For Capt. Rainier Salcedo, he never found it dif-
ficult to adjust with Japanese officers even when he
was still a deck cadet. Japanese are just like Filipi-
nos or other nationalities; some are arrogant, some
are good. Japanese people are polite people. It pays
to be courteous and respectful to everybody on
board, especially to the officers.
“What the hell is this company in the Philippines
It sends me a 51 year old ordinary sailor and a 20
year old third officer. What is this? A joke!” These
were the words that C/M Arsenal had to bear when
he was first assigned as a Third Officer. So he told
the chief officer that it is something that is not with-
in his hands and added: “I will do my job as much as
I can and I will prove to you I can do it.” Little did
he know then, that he was to face the biggest chal-
lenge in his career when the captain told him while
they were on the bridge: “You know, son I asked
from the company to send me a man; they send me a
boy. What do you think about this?” C/M Arsenal
who was third mate then replied: “Sir, I will prove to
you that this boy can do a man’s job. And if this boy
can do the job better, then shame for the man. And
then his captain said: “Yeah, yeah I have a third of-
ficer. The boy was able to meet the challenge of his
chief officer and captain because he was mentally
and emotionally ready even at a very young age.”
Capt. Derwin Limpiado never finds it difficult
sailing with other nationalities because he can al-
ways adjust. “While it is true that European officers
think superior over their Asian counterparts, they
cannot do otherwise (sic). If you are a Filipino of-
ficer and you have Europeans as junior officers or if
you are a Master and you have a European Chief of-
ficer, there is no problem dealing with them. All that
you have to do is prove to them your true worth and
that you completely know your job, then there is no
problem. Just stand your ground, and later on they
will just say sorry. And that is what is good with Eu-
ropeans, they know how to apologize when they
know they are wrong. Sometimes there are Filipinos
who will not even admit their mistakes. They will
never say sorry.
3.1.5 What does it take to be a cadet on board?
“Any ship officer before assuming the position of
a third mate must be a deck cadet first. As a deck
cadet aspiring to become an officer someday, he
must be mentally and spiritually mature. Mentally,
because he has to cope up with his studies and phys-
ically because he must be prepared for any challeng-
es that would require his physical strength and also
the spirituality to always have faith in GOD that HE
will never leave him behind and will support him in
whatever he does that is right.” These were the
words of Deck Cadet Lamasan when asked: “what
does it take to be a deck cadet on board?”
According to Cadet Lamasan, there were many
challenges that he had to face while he was on
board- one of them, the environment. “The first time
I experienced big waves at sea and the swaying of
the vessel whenever we encountered storms at sea
are some experiences I will never forget (sic). It is
difficult to get up and do my work… so that’s one
factor that makes the life of cadet difficult. Another
difficulty that a cadet will likely experience on board
is the challenge that the other crew member poses
against young deck cadets like us. But the training
that we had in the dormitory had really prepared us
for shipboard practice. In the dormitory we were
trained how to get along with other people because
anywhere we go later on, we will be encountering
people with different personalities, attitudes, charac-
ter, culture, beliefs and values. The training we had
prepared us physically, mentally and emotionally.
He wants students to study hard, persevere because
there is nothing easy. There is no goal that is easy to
reach. A student must believe that he is capable of
doing it, of becoming an officer, he could do any-
thing including the impossible if he has the determi-
For deck cadet Borja, a cadet, especially a scholar
of the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association, must
sacrifice a lot. “To whom much is given, much is
expected” he further stressed. “The company is giv-
ing a scholarship grant and it is also expecting a
good output from the scholars. To be an NSA cadet
aspiring to be an officer, you really have to sacrifice
and love the profession because if you love what you
are doing, then it will be easy as though you are not
working at all. There are a lot of challenges on board
that I have to hurdle; for instance, the company pres-
sure, second is trying to overcome fatigue because
there is this big issue about commercial challenge
whereby the company is expecting more so the peo-
ple on board are pressured. However, these are nor-
mal activities on board. As a cadet, I have to work
for 12 hours and it is part of the commercial pressure
imposed upon by the company on the crew… that’s
the least that I have to work sometimes even 16
hours to 24 hours.”(sic) There are a lot of pressures
and I was thinking about giving up, but then if I am
going to let myself be carried away by my way of
thinking, but then it is mind over matter.(sic) It’s
how you condition your mind. Although there are a
lot of challenges you will still be able to overcome it
with prayers and as much as possible, find some-
body to talk to. And after that, the problem is gone.
According to Capt. Derwin Limpiado, a master
mariner in command of one of the many vessels of
the Norwegian Gas Company, a cadet must have the
mind-set or focus of really becoming an officer, not
just because he want to be an officer but to know
what the job is of a rating. “How can a cadet become
an officer if he has never been exposed to the job of
a rating?” he ask? “How can one supervise the rat-
ings later on?” A cadet aspiring to become an officer
must know the rudiments of the job, the routine job
on deck, not just how to navigate. These things are
easily learned with the advent of computer technolo-
gy today. It will be difficult for a chief officer to su-
pervise later on if he himself does not know how to
tie knots or how to splice a rope.
An able-bodied seaman must be a good steering
man or helmsman, and a good look-out. It is not a
matter of memorizing the rules of the road, it will
always be there. (sic) There are books on board that
he can review from time to time. There are officers
who are always on the radar. They have become
technology dependent. The best way to navigate a
vessel is not through the radar or any other electron-
ic gadgets on board; it is done through visual obser-
vation through look-outs. See for yourself the situa-
tion, go to the bridge window, or if necessary, the
bridge wings to assess the situation. There are new
and young officers today who cannot even identify
the characteristics of lighthouses, bouys, etc. The
basics of piloting are still very helpful. A good steer-
ing man does not only look at the compass; he
should look at the ship’s head and then look at the
compass only to check the heading of the vessel. It
must be remembered that the compass reading is de-
pendent upon the ship’s heading. So a good helms-
man looks at the ship’s head and then looks at the
compass to check the direction that the OOW or the
Master orders to be steered.
3.1.6 What does it take to be an officer on board a
As the bars on your shoulder board increase, the
responsibility also increases according to Capt. An-
gelo Lopez. “Since the position is already a man-
agement level, the chief officer is in-charge of the
deck department, and all the work in this department
is his responsibility. It is difficult to handle people-
more difficult than any task assigned to a chief of-
ficer. You have to consider people’s moods and deal
with their problems at home because it affects the
performance on board. You still have to deal with
individual differences. No two persons have the
same principles in life, the same work ethics, and as
a Chief Officer I have to understand all this. It is re-
ally a matter of accepting people as they are and
making the most of what they can contribute to the
organization on board the vessel.”
To be an officer, you must have the courage, the
knowledge, intelligence and the skills and most of
all you must have faith in GOD according to Capt.
Rainier Salcedo. “The three stripes on my shoulder
board representing my position as Chief Officer real-
ly is (sic) a big load or responsibility that an officer
(sic) must carry. As the cargo of the vessel is the
chief officer’s responsibility, stability and trim of the
vessel must be properly attended to. The life of eve-
ryone on board is dependent upon the hands of the
cargo officer, that of the chief officer.(sic) An of-
ficer, 2
officer or 3
officer on board must always
be alert especially during the time of his watch.
Rainier also believed that the knowledge, virtues and
values that he had learned in school is a big part of
his being a captain today. He further stressed that a
student aspiring to become an officer must have the
courage and determination. He should aim to be-
come an officer, not just an ordinary or able-bodied
seaman. “When I took command as master of the
vessel, my fear was when I gave the order “Let go
all lines”. It was a controlled fear within me and a
temporary one. It was the signal that I am in full
control of the vessel. There is no turning back, the
ship will be at my complete disposition. It was tem-
porary fear because I know I have enough training
and everything went smoothly after that. I was able
to conquer my fear. Capt. Limpiado considers it as
his most frightening experience in his career as a
master mariner. After that brief moment of fear,
everything was normal and the feeling just subsided.
He had worked in a gas carrier since he was a se-
cond officer until he assumed the position as chief
officer at age 32, and a master mariner at age 39.
3.1.7 The profession is financially rewarding
“You will earn well. The higher you go up, the
more money you will earn. Why? This is because
captains are paid 7,000 or even 8,000 US dollars ac-
cording to Mrs. Carla S. Limcaoco. While they are
on leave, they are paid and the pay is more when
they return on board.” She adds: “I mean money is
being thrown to them like it is grown on trees. And
if you are done with your work at sea, you can come
ashore and there will be 10,000 jobs waiting for you,
here or abroad as superintendent, port captains, fleet
managers, general operations managers, crewing
managers, take your pick. So it is something that
will start from your position as a deck cadet to the
being a captain on board or ashore. It is a very spe-
cial career in that sense, but very noble. It is endur-
ing(sic) but very financially rewarding.”
The profession is indeed financially rewarding,
enabling the seafarers to help their families. Ac-
cording to one master mariner who had been to sea
for 13 years in this profession, he was able to help
his family financially, and he also provided some
revenue for the country.” Capt. Angelo Lopez also
said that it is also his ambition to see the world and,
being a graduate of a government maritime school,
he has an obligation to return something to his coun-
try. He disclosed that his family was financially
hard-up and when he started sailing on an overseas
vessel; he was able to help his mother who was rais-
ing the family alone for his father had long been de-
Capt. Philip G. Genona, who just passed the
board examinations for master belongs to the new
breed of officers. He belongs to the 2
batch of the
NIS Class Project sponsored by the Norwegian Ship
owners’ Association. He chose this profession be-
cause of the background or his environment tells
him to. Living in a town with many seafarers who
are financially stable, he found himself drawn to the
seafaring career. Of course he considers that besides
the financial rewards the profession is giving him
personally, he sees himself as a contributor to the
worldwide progress of the trade.
C/M Arsenal believes that the job of a ship officer
is fulfilling and also financially rewarding. Filipino
seafarers today are well compensated especially at a
time when there is a world-wide shortage of compe-
tent officers.
3.1.8 On what students should do in order to realize
their dreams
“No influence from other people, your parents or
anybody else, could help you but yourself. You need
to have the determination, the focus if you want to
become an officer, and eventually a captain like me.
You have to become an officer by taking one step at
a time.” This is what a student must keep in mind in
choosing this profession according to Capt. Limpi-
Capt. Lopez said: “If you believe that you can
survive the difficulties in this profession, by all
means go for it. The seafaring profession is a noble
profession, and if you decide to take this course, you
must take pride to preserve the integrity of the pro-
fession, of the Ilonggo in particular and as a Filipino
in general.”
Capt. Philip Genona strongly advises students to
enhance their knowledge and skill in computers and
in both spoken and written English. “They have to
know where to source the prevailing maritime regu-
lations from and to get updates especially from the
internet because they have the responsibility to be
well informed. They have to be disciplined and to
take their studies seriously and must do well in class.
Cadet Lamasan believed that there is nothing easy
in this profession. “There is no goal that is easy (sic)
to reach but it is on (sic) oneself to do including the
impossible. One can make the impossible possible if
one has the determination.”
Cadet Borja says that there is a bright future in
the maritime profession. “I know that there are many
students out there who dream of becoming captains
in the future or perhaps presidents of a shipping
company and I want to tell them this: “Yesterday is
just but a dream; and tomorrow a vision, but today
well lived makes yesterday a dream of happiness
and every tomorrow a vision of hope. So look to this
day. If you want to have a bright future later on, you
must start right now. Anything that is started right
will end right. If you do good while you are in
school, you will also land a good job later on. If you
do good in academics, in reacting or inter-acting
with people, make yourselves ready to face the
challenges, I am sure you can achieve a lot in the
seafaring profession which has become a very lucra-
tive profession.”
From the discussion, the following are the findings
of this investigation:
1 There is indeed a need to build the image of the
profession among the youth of today.
2 Some shipping companies are already doing
their part to build the image of the profession
by requiring their seafarers to be as presentable
as possible when reporting to the office. They
go through a process of orientation where they
are encouraged to become captains or chief en-
gineers not just mere crew members.
3 This is a profession where Filipinos excel in
and the chances are good for the country to its
position in the world as the number one suppli-
er of competent and qualified officers and crew.
4 The seafaring career is a noble and a challeng-
ing profession.
5 It is a lonely profession having to be away from
loved ones, but it is at the same time a very
challenging profession.
6 The profession is financially more rewarding
than any other profession.
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