Life At Sea.


At sea, you’ll discover a set of challenges that are very different from those you faced at college.  As part of a close team, you’ll need to be focused and vigilant, ready to help out and learn whenever you can. Many find life at sea a rewarding and interesting career, and we hope you’ll feel the same.

While completing your sea service, you’ll find loads of opportunities to learn new skills but you have to take the initiative. Take an interest in everything that’s going on around you…watch closely, ask questions and try and read up on what you see as much as you can.  You’ll notice that if you seem keen and motivated, your ship mates will pick up on it and be happy to give you lots of information and help. Sometimes, it’s a really good idea to ask if you can ‘have a go’ at doing something, but keep in mind that as a cadet, there’ll be some things that are off limits.

You might think that there’d be no problem calling friends and family as long as you’ve got your mobile but, at sea, that’s not always the case.  It’s possible that your phone might not work outside the UK, or that you can’t get a signal because there’s no receiver nearby.  If you can use your phone, remember that calls can be really expensive and some phone contracts even charge you for accepting incoming calls!  Also, don’t use your phone when on watch or when you’re meant to be working.

There’s always e-mail, but you might find that personal use is restricted on some ships or that you might be asked to pay for using it. Shipboard computers are usually monitored to see they’re not misused and it’s really important that you use any shipboard computer equipment sensibly. You’ll be allowed to use the ship’s facilities to get in touch with your college or SSTG if you need to and there’ll always be phones on shore that you can use to make personal calls.

Occasionally you may get the opportunity to go ashore, although it’s unlikely to happen very often and permission is completely at the Master’s discretion.  If you go ashore, you must remember that you are representing the Merchant Navy and should be on your best behaviour at all times.  Any bad conduct is likely to be taken very seriously and may affect your career. It’s also important to remember that standards in a foreign country might not be the same as they are in the U.K.  Your company will try and give you some guidelines but they will by no means be comprehensive, so be on your guard for anything that might offend or upset the local community. Finally, if you’re going ashore, you should wear something smart-casual.

The most important thing if you are granted shore leave is to arrive back on your ship on time, every time. Make sure you know when you have to return and when you’ll be required for any duties.

All cadets should be smartly dressed at all times, with neat hair above the collar and off the ears.

You may be required to wear your uniform while on watch or when dining in the saloon, although this varies a lot from ship to ship.  When on bridge watch, particularly at night when no pilot’s onboard, the rules may be relaxed a bit, but only at the Master’s discretion. When you’re in port, most companies will expect you to wear your uniform or company working uniform, or boiler suit if you’re working.  If you’re out on deck or working in the engine room, you must wear all the proper safety equipment, including steel toed boots and a hard hat. 

Studying hard at college and working on a ship can make life pretty stressful, so it’s really important that you take care of yourself.  Try and eat sensibly, do your best to exercise regularly and make sure that when you’re studying, you take regular breaks to unwind.  You’ve also got to keep yourself clean and tidy.  Your ship will have laundry facilities onboard so make sure you find them and the rules for their use. You may be allocated certain days and there will probably be separate facilities for work clothes and uniforms, casual clothes, etc, so make sure you find out all the proper procedures.

Whilst living and working onboard ship, and whilst training under simulated conditions ashore, care must be taken not to wear any clothing or accessories that might cause a hazard and any instructions given by ships officers in this respect must be adhered to.

When required to wear uniform either on board ship or at college, you are also expected to wear the uniform with pride.

Updated:     January 2017.