Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Echo of a Traveller's Heart

Maersk Welkin renamed to Hoegh Chiba
When hubby was accepted with a big shipping company  last July 2008, it was like finding a new home for his career and for us too. It was the boldest career move he ever did, since we got married after working for twenty years with the biggest local manning agency in the country.
It was tough at the start, the deliberations were intense, the screening and the pre-employment process was very rigid. He even went to Singapore, and took the Leadership Assessment Course as the final determinant of his qualifications despite the 15 yrs of command experience. With God's grace, all goes well and after a year of service with the company, his family became eligible to sail with him.
He was in command of a two year old very modern car ship when I first visited him in Laemchabang, Thailand last September 30, 2008. It was the first time, I saw him doing a perfect 360 degrees turn, as the vessel gets to maneuver alongside due to the restrictions in the ramp location. It was fixed at the vessel's starboard side, so she needed to dock , starboard side always. I was impressed how well they did it. I was waiting for them at the dock for almost two hours , watching and observing how other vessels maneuvered docking, but it took them a while to made fast the vessel in the port. Indeed, it takes a very good pilot to do that, an A1 Master , a competent crew and reliable bow thrusters (fore and aft), to make it easy to dock swiftly in between two vessels in port. I beamed with pride as the wife to the man in command hearing the dock workers praised their quick made fast.
While on board, he showed me the bridge that he was very proud of. It's really magnificent. The very modern bridge equipment is fully automated. Most of the ship's equipment can be operated with just a push of a single button in the bridge monitor (the main engine, generator, ballasting and car deck ventilation, including fuel pumps). Now, I know why the lady Master in the fleet can readily handle the command responsibilities very well.
As a family, we endeavored to work as a team. Every undertaking is a collaborative effort, putting God at the center of our relationship, guiding our souls, as the Captain enriches the family's welfare, the Engineer nourishes the emotional and physical well - being of the family.
During a short trip with him last summer of 2009 from Laemchabang to Singapore anchorage, it was a smooth voyage at the start, the car ship runs at 20knots in calm seas, a perfect venue for moonlight cruising. There was a swimming pool on deck where we took a quick dip under the moonlight. The vessel's speed is adequate to make a good chasing game with the pirates at the Gulf of Aden, but not well enough during bad weather. It rolls heavily during rough seas, owing to the design configurations of a car carrier. With the accommodations, being situated at the forward part of the ship, it was very difficult for me to walk around and eat. As if, I was  in a roller coaster ride.
Having two Chinese lady cadets on board, for their on the job training made me realized, that the seafaring profession today is much kinder to the opposite sex. It has now fully opened its doors to lady shipboard executives. The Third Officer on board was an Indian national who is a permanent resident in Singapore. She impressed me, on how well she delivered her job and hubby concurred to my observations. The lady cadets were coping up well with the work load in a man's world but were quite handicapped with the English language and needed mentoring.
It is always a challenge to every seafaring professional who worked with multi-national companies under the shipboard leadership of Officers of mixed nationalities. They must show their best in the performance of their duties, because the pressure is multiplied, if you came from a third world country rubbing elbows against your foreign counterparts.
The Filipino Sr. Officers in the company today are still trying to prove their mettle by way of good performance vis a vis their Asian and European colleagues, who were ahead of them in terms of employment with the company and are known for their good command of the English language both in written and oral form, modesty aside. However, the adventure continues and the badge of honor goes not to the one that holds the seniority in the service, or the fluency of the English language but to the ones who consistently endeavor to "do" their job at the best of their abilities, from the terms and conditions set forth in their employment contract, at God's will, weather permitting, and in the attitude shown on how well they can manage every situation that arises when confronted with professional challenges while on board.

My journey back to Manila from my maiden voyage was filled with awe and gratefulness. At last, we belonged to a stable company that gives just compensation, with a short term on board contract,medical benefits , a regular employment status to Shipboard Executives, and grants joining privileges to all the Officers family. I'm glad we finally found our niche. Thank You Lord,  for leading us the way.
The condensed and edited version of this article was featured in www.philstar.com on August 12, 2010, ''Share your Story"  contest under the category: Relatives of Overseas Filipinos entitled '' The Search is Over" http://www.philstar.com/community/article201005.aspx?articleId=602051&publicationSubCategoryId=503

Eigh Chuahu Tiu is a loving wife to a Filipino Master Mariner working with AP Moller Maersk-Singapore, a Chemical Engineer by profession, a doting mother, a caring   sister, daughter and friend, blooming where she's planted. Loves the sea but hates the sun. Business and Travelling  are her passion, swimming,dancing, singing and writing are  her therapy to life's never ending challenges.

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