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Seafarers of SVG: top tips for working on a ship

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Working on a ship is an exhilarating decision to make. This “life on the high seas” allows you to experience the ocean from a perspective few ever get to see. There are, however, a few things you should bear in mind:

1) Ask for a contract: Do not work on a ship without having a written contract and a personal signed copy in your records. Many seafarers start their employment on good faith and while this has historically been a practice, it is not a good idea. Ask yourself how can you prove that you work for the ship owner/operator? What are the proper conditions of employment at sea?

2) Keep proper records: this is important to prove that you have been working and invaluable evidence in securing your wages if there is a dispute. It also helps you keep track of your income and can work to keep your employer accountable.

3) Spend wisely: too many seafarers go off to work abroad and spend their money without consideration of the future. You will not always be able-bodied; companies can be wound up and you may lose your job for reasons in and out of your control. Always keep a wider perspective by putting into place a financial plan. Speak to your local bank or credit union. Set yourself a monthly spending limit and save for a rainy day.

4) Keep away from debt: whatever lifestyle you enjoy, debt is not the ideal and it would be unfair to children you may have to go sailing, potentially lose your job and still have a significant debt to pay.

5) Know your rights: get acquainted with the Shipping Maritime Labour Convention Regulations 2017 and know your rights. If you do not know your rights you can be mistreated and just “take that,” without knowing you have proper recourse and remedy for your seafarer claim.

6) Invest in yourself: education is the way out of poverty and sharpening the skills you can offer to a ship owner can only benefit you. Take note of courses around the Caribbean and that your employer may offer.

7) Ask for freebies: many cruise lines offer medical insurance, pensions and other benefits and try to consider asking for more. Always seek out those who know more about working on vessels like maritime lawyers.

Working on a ship is exciting and you get to journey to exotic locations as well as a high salary, but always consider that “an investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

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