I just finished a four-month contract on a 100 meter passenger vessel - foriegn flagged - and a reliance of Philipino deckhands and Eastern European deck officers and engineers. Of 60 crew I was the only person from an english speaking country. And english was the ship’s language. Some observations:
- Everybody worked very hard and there were few if any complaints from the crew.
- On-shore mangagement could not care less about crew as long as there is a continuing crew supply from third-world countries.
- When in the Med do not be surprised if the ship you are hailing does not respond to your call. As I was told, “they are afraid of your english”.
- My dog can sit, roll over and lie down. That does not mean he can speak english. The requirement that crew be able to converse about boat safety should have some quantitative measure - and there are none. When someone shows up from the Ukraine on the day you are sailing, which is every day, do you send him home and sail shorthanded, or have him join the other crew members who also speak very, very limited english.
- Its only going to get worse in the foreseaable future.
- One of my lookouts explained the pay situation to me like this: " My wife teaches high school science in the Phillipines. She makes the equivalent of $275 a month." When I get home I am well off. He made about $1,000 a month including his share of tips.
I’m in my fifties and starting a new career with a 1600-ton mates license. I was in a new port every day. I had to look at a yellow stick-em to tell vessel traffic service what my last port was and where I was heading. It was a great learning experience. And I think my days sailing under a foreign flag are over. Perhaps I wil head to the Gulf of Mexico.