Days in the lives of Seafarers allows us to take a first-hand look at the real-life situation of seafarers as they share their stories. Join them on their journeys into the maritime industry and gain a true understanding of the past, and present challenges each has faced throughout their careers.  The identity of the interviewees and some facts, such as dates, have been modified at the request of the seafarers due to the nature of some of the information shared.  

Interview with First Engineer Jaya E Sanya

We recently chatted with Jaya E Sanya, a First Engineer based out of India about his career and experience as a seafarer. At present he has been ashore for the past 10 months and is unable to progress any new contracts due to the crew change and border control issues the pandemic has created.  He has a family of four and is frantically searching for a part-time job ashore, to allow him to support his family, restore his self-respect and put food on the table. Up until 10 months ago, Jaya worked for a well-respected shipping company. This interview will show, however, the impact the pandemic has had on Jaya and his family and what his views really are on what needs to change to ensure a Fair Future for Seafarers.  

Tell us about your early career and what attracted you to becoming a seafarer?

I achieved my Bachelors degree in engineering and wasn’t quite sure which direction to go in. A friend recommended joining the merchant navy. He painted a great picture of world travel, career and good earnings, it sounded great. So, I decided to take a Merchant Navy course for a year. At the end of my course the college placed me into a shipping company as a junior engineer.

How was your course funded and what type of training did you receive from your employer?

I funded the Merchant Navy course myself. When I joined the shipping company, they provided lots of great training. Safety was always a priority, lots of training materials and briefs all the time. It really helped me improve my knowledge and skills.  They are a fantastic shipping company to work for.  

How long have you been a seafarer, and do you enjoy what you do?

I have been in service for seven years and yes when I am at sea I do love what I do. It can be hard sometimes, but it is a great job when you have a good shipping company like I did. 

What impact has the pandemic had on your ability to work

It has been really hard not working for ten months. No salary, no social or welfare society doing anything to help us. I am really struggling to make ends meet. I can’t pay my bills. This is the worst situation I have ever faced in my entire career.  No shipping companies that I know of are making emergency payments to help cover these financial shortfalls. 

Have you considered contacting the charities to ask for assistance?

Yes, I contacted ISWAN to seek guidance. They have shared information about vaccination programs, which is good. 

I have not yet had any other help from any organisations. 

The situation is exponentially growing, many seafarers have been unable to resume their work, the shipping companies, the governments and the IMO forget we can’t work from home.  The financial crisis has really made me start to think that I need to quit this industry.  I have to feed my family, pay my bills and now I need to find a part-time job until I can be selected to join the next vessel.

Can you ask your flag state for support?

If testing positive for Covid then assistance will be provided, however, if you are in good health at home, they will not provide any support. So, the only way I can get help for my family is to catch Covid. 

What needs to change to secure a Fairer Better Future for Seafarers?

Everyone is saying we are key workers, but this is a joke. Nobody really sees us as key workers, we are not being treated as key workers. What makes you say this? 

Every country should allow us to join from any port or part of the world, this would allow seafarers stuck at home unable to work to provide for their families and regain their self-respect.  Companies need to stop decreasing seafarer salaries, a global framework needs to be agreed to stop seafarers being taken advantage of.  We should not always have to compromise our self-worth, commercial value or our financial stability. When we are at sea, we get paid, however, when we get home, we have no help. When we sign off from the vessel, we should be given some sort of small home allowance to help support our time ashore in times of crisis. 

How was life Pre-Covid

Rotation was smooth, and the internet was provided. Some colleagues have been onboard for a very long time, 12 plus months in many cases, stranded onboard and others like me unable to join vessels due to all the restrictions.  The situation is deteriorating and all everyone does is talk. 

Thoughts on the International Maritime Organisation and United Nations (UN)

I do not see they are doing anything for us, they make daily social posts about seafarers being key workers, they just say things, but I don’t see any work or change. I feel they are working for the companies and not seafarers. They are the biggest governing bodies for us, but on the ground, they are doing nothing for us. Had they been doing something great for us, I would be working right now to put food on my family’s table and pay my bills. My crew friends would be finally able to safely go home and seafarers who move all the world goods around would be happier.

Do you ever regret becoming a seafarer?

I don’t regret becoming a seafarer, it is often relentless and very tiring. Mentally we are very strong. I love my job and profession. I don’t want to quit it but the pandemic is forcing me to make alternate decisions to help support my family.

What words of wisdom do you have for the UN and the IMO

If you really care for seafarers, call them up and ask them what they are doing at home. Nobody seems to care for seafarers, they only care for the money and trade they are making. I would like to ask every country to open their borders to enable crew repatriation and change over across the board.  Many are facing mental, physical, emotional and financial ruin. I keep hoping things will get better, but nobody is calling me or any other seafarers asking us how they can help and how we are feeling. This is what needs to change, and it needs to be immediate. We want a better life, to feed our families and that starts with stability and self-worth. Respect for the position we held before, during and after this crisis has long since past, that is what I would like to see change.

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