“I wanted varied work. I have always been a bit restless, always wanted something other than a 9-5 job where I must sit in the same place every day. I also like to travel, visit new places and challenge myself in many ways,” Andreas Arnesen, cadet in Odfjell, said.
Arnesen started his seafarer career with three years at university (Høyskolen på Vestlandet). Having finished his education at school, he was inspired to apply for a cadetship in Odfjell after talking to Sigurd Pedersen, 3rd Officer at the company.
“I had heard a lot about Odfjell from my fellow students through the years at school, and when I saw that the company was hiring cadets I reached out to Sigurd to learn more. He spoke very warmly about the company, about countries he had seen, new cultures and exciting work tasks - exciting cargo. It sounded very appealing, so I decided to apply”
Both have had a lifelong dream of becoming seafarers. With family members who used to work at sea, they grew up hearing stories about life on board.
Pedersen started as a trainee in 2012 and stayed on for two years before continuing his maritime education at university. After three years of studies, he again headed on board as a cadet for Odfjell in 2017 which led to a full-time contract. He recently came home from his first trip as 3rd Officer.
“As a trainee, I was pretty excited and nervous. Suddenly I was going to travel to South Africa and live on a boat. I was the youngest on board and completely new at this,” he said. “Everything was new but exciting. In the beginning, there was a lot to come to terms with, but after a while I started understanding why we have to do what we do the way we do it, and what I have to do in my position. The best part of the job is that you are never done, there is always something new to learn and understand. The more I learn and master, the more fun it gets”.
He advises seafarers to start off as a trainee as this is an excellent opportunity to find out at an early stage if it is the right career choice.
“When you’re a trainee you’re very young, so it’s easy to change paths if you find out that a life at sea isn’t for you,” Pedersen said. “And it’s also great if you decide that it is the right path, because then you already have some practical experience that helps make the education and the cadet experience easier.”
The life of a seafarer is not for everyone, but for these two 24-year-olds it is a perfect fit, and they both feel they have the requisite qualities.
“I think you have to be curious. You have to like what you do and aspire to do your best. You will be away from home for long periods. You live on top of each other a lot of the time, and some days are worse than others. I think it’s important that if you have a bad day, you don’t take it out on the others and ruin the mood for the rest of the crew.”
He also highlights an important point: it is all about teamwork.
“It’s important to be on good terms with everyone and be social with the rest of the crew. We spend a lot of time together, so a good environment is key,” Arnesen said. “Also, you can’t just do your own thing and follow your own ways. Everyone has to work together for it to go well.”
Between the shifts on board, there is time off to do other activities. Among the numerous facilities available, an Odfjell ship has Wi-Fi, a gym, and ping pong tables, and some evenings the crew hosts their very own karaoke sessions.
“A very important time of day is the 10:00 and 15:00 o’clock coffee. That’s when we chat with our colleagues and catch up with everyone. The atmosphere among the crew has been very good on all my trips on board”
Despite a positive environment, it is not always easy to be away from home for that long.
“You miss the ones at home, but the days pass quickly and Wi-Fi on board makes keeping in touch with family and friends easier than it used to be,” Pedersen said. “And then when you are home, it’s for a long stretch and you get to spend a lot of time with everyone, which is great.”
Arnesen agrees that he is always looking forward to seeing family and friends again after the weeks at sea, but he also feels that the time on board goes by quickly.
“At first, I thought that two and a half months was a long time, but you have so much to do that the time flies. There’s always something going on and you end up doing something almost all the time,” he said.
Travel the world while working
Odfjell trades worldwide, and a seafarer on board gets the opportunity to experience different cultures and visit new places.
“I remember when I first started as a trainee and a lot of my friends were still in high school. I got to go ashore in Brazil one day to have a look around. It was quite fun to text them and ask what they had done that day, to rub it in a little,” Pedersen laughs.
During his time as a cadet, Arnesen has signed on in South Korea, New Jersey, and Suez, and sailed up the Suez Canal. He has also visited New Orleans and Singapore.
“Even though you’re at sea a lot, the Captains give us the opportunity go ashore if possible. I think that’s really good,” Arnesen said.
Pedersen and Arnesen are enjoying their time as seafarers for Odfjell and appreciate that they can use what they learned in school and get to work with people from different cultures.
“The work tasks are very varied, and you learn so much. My experience is that the crew genuinely care about giving you good training, inviting you to join them for different work tasks. We work with many Filipino colleagues as well, which is very exciting – to work with different cultures and learn from them.”
Seafarers for the future
Pedersen’s goal is to become a Captain, and he hopes to sail all positions in Odfjell.
“I want to continue working here. My impression is that whether an employee wants to become a Captain or move to the offices ashore, Odfjell wants to keep us and make it possible for us to stay with the company,” he said.
Neither of them denies that it is a rough market for seafarers, but they believe that there are many opportunities as long as you put in the required work and effort.
Arnesen said: “The experience I have as seafarer so far has certainly inspired me to continue. There are jobs out there, and I believe that as long as you are willing to work your way up and put in enough effort, you won’t end up unemployed.” Pedersen agrees:
“Positive things are happening with the net salary scheme and other initiatives that make us a lot more competitive in an international market.”
“Even though there is still a lot more that can be done, we see now that the shipping industry and the Norwegian government are starting to do something.
I just hope they don't stop here, but continue working to keep the Norwegian seafarer tradition viable. We will certainly do our part as seafarers.”