Skip to content

Unveiling the maritime dream: an Ordinary Seaman’s journey to inspire future seafarers

Meet Zayber Araya: a remarkable seafarer whose maritime ambitions are filled with determination, curiosity, and an unyielding wish to excel. From missed opportunities to extraordinary achievements, Zayber's story serves as a testament to the vast possibilities that can come for aspiring seafarers worldwide.

With five voyages spanning seven to thirteen months under his belt, Zayber has proven his seafaring prowess. Starting as a talented 19-year-old cadet at Odfjell on board Bow Saga, where he honed his skills for 12 months and 20 days, he has steadily climbed the ranks, experiencing the spectrum of ships in Odfjell’s fleet – from one of the oldest vessels, Bow Flower, which has since been recycled, to one of the newer, the Bow Engineer, where Zayber currently serves as Third Officer. 

When asked about the allure of a career in shipping, Zayber highlights the many advantages, including an attractive salary that exceeds that of many other professions in the Philippines. However, for Zayber, the true joy comes from the opportunity to combine a challenging career with traveling and exploring different countries and cultures.

His cadetship allowed him to visit Europe, Asia, and America, and he takes great pleasure in sharing his exciting adventures with his family and friends. 

While the life of a seafarer may seem routine, Zayber appreciates his favorite aspects of being a member of the Odfjell team: the time spent with colleagues and engaging in various activities during their free time on board. Being able to work and have fun simultaneously is a positive aspect that Zayber greatly appreciates. 

“We're always telling stories, cracking jokes, and having a good time. In our free time, we also get to do things like karaoke, basketball, and swimming, which I really enjoy.” 

From the chemical laboratory to the high seas  

Zayber's entry into the maritime industry was unanticipated but fruitful. Having a keen interest in the massive universe of chemicals, he initially aspired to become a chemical engineer, but fate intervened when he missed the admission deadline.

At this crossroads, his father, who had long dreamed of becoming a seafarer himself but never had the chance, encouraged him to explore a maritime career. Inspired by his father's dreams, Zayber pursued a bachelor's degree in Marine Transportation at John B. Lacson Colleges Foundation in Bacolod City, near his hometown of Pangarap. With this, he became the first seafarer in his family. 


One year into his studies, he decided to join the esteemed NSA Program at the Norwegian Training Center (NTC) under Odfjell – an opportunity Zayber jumped at, as Odfjell's expertise in chemical vessels would allow him to pursue his passion for chemistry: 

"I am thrilled to be part of a chemical tanker company like Odfjell. There have been moments when I've found myself in the ship's laboratory, eagerly mixing chemicals like a scientist, observing their reactions. This way, I feel I can pursue my interest in chemicals and merge it with my career.” 

In 2020, he graduated with flying colors as the top student in his batch, earning him the title of “the most outstanding graduate at the university.” However, he humbly acknowledges that he's not the only outstanding graduate from Odfjell: 

"Getting the title of "most outstanding graduate at the university" is kind of a legacy for the Odfjell graduates. But that doesn't mean other NTC companies aren't tough competitors. Everybody wants to be the best.” 

As of 2021, the Filipino seafaring community is the largest nationality group in the global maritime workforce, with an estimated 400,000 seafarers actively serving on ships worldwide. In the Philippines, seafaring remains a vital avenue of employment.

Each year, approximately 300 cadets are enrolled at the renowned Norwegian Training Centre (NTC), a longstanding collaborative partner of Odfjell.

Having fostered this partnership for almost 22 years and recruited Filipino seafarers since the mid-1980s, Odfjell has been instrumental in shaping maritime careers in the country. Today, Odfjell employs more than 1,400 Filipino seafarers and around 70 shore colleagues at the Manila office. 

Bridging the generational gap 

Zayber’s achievements in school weren't just limited to academics. He was the editor-in-chief of the university's magazine and wrote a literary book together with the publication staff of the university. His writing skills earned him a literacy prize and a spot in “the search for the ten outstanding maritime students” competition, where he won a prestigious trophy and a monetary award.  

In his student research paper about millennial seafarers, Zayber's enthusiasm for research was also evident. His two co-researchers were his seniors in Odfjell at the time, now 3rd Officers in the company – 3rd Officer Sirzyrus Estrabo and 3rd Officer Kyle Flores.

Their research centered on the differences between the characteristics of their generation and the older generations, what the new generation can do aboard ships that older generations cannot and vice versa, and how they can best interact when aboard ships.  


The key takeaways from their research are that the maritime industry is filled with tech-savvy individuals who excel at quick thinking and thrive on challenging tasks.

To unleash their full potential, initiatives must leverage their strengths and address weaknesses, particularly in the affective/emotional dimension, by developing coping strategies for handling stress, diffusing tensions, and managing distractions. This will empower millennial seafarers to excel in their roles and overcome obstacles in the workplace. 

Zayber was one of ten Odfjell’ers selected to participate in the unique ‘One Ocean Expedition’ in 2022. The group of ten included two seafarers and eight colleagues from Odfjell’s international offices, with various professions and experiences. 

During the program, which included a five-day sail from Ishigaki, Japan, to Manila, Philippines, on the majestic three-masted Statsraad Lehmkuhl, his research on intergenerational interaction proved invaluable.  

Zayber, who is usually apprehensive when speaking with people in higher positions, overcame his hesitance. 75 maritime professionals from a range of different companies from 16 nations across four continents took part in the expedition. The age range was between 16 and 66, and the professional positions varied from CEOs to students. It was a great chance to put theory into practice: 

“The One Ocean adventure assisted me in overcoming a period in my life when I was nervous to talk to others. During the expedition, I learned that the things I was concerned about before departure were nothing to worry about. CEOs approached me first, and we could talk without being too formal but still with respect for each other.” 

Zayber together with Odfjell colleagues Bryan Anderson (Senior Port Operator, USA) and Kristoffer Ramstad (Manager Fleet Performance, Norway)

A Lifelong Journey of Learning 

Looking towards the future, Zayber aspires to become a captain, but he intends to continue there; after achieving captain status, he hopes to continue his research and teach others his methods. He has already been asked to return to John B. Lacson Colleges Foundation to teach but turned down the offer as he believes he will benefit from gaining more experience at sea first.  

While many may have a specific role model or mentor, Zayber does not want to focus on just one:  

“If I choose a single person, I will learn a single technique. My strategy is to seek out as many mentors as possible. I want to acquire as much information from as many sources as possible so that I can develop my distinctive strategy. Eventually, I hope to share my knowledge with others.” 

His story and ambitions resonate with Agnes Enesio, newly appointed President of Odfjell Philippines Inc.:    

 “I joined Odfjell in 2001 as newbie in this industry and I can relate to Zayber’s amazing experiences.  My 20+ years in this industry has been an extraordinary ride, still is, and exceptionally rewarding too!  Being in a company like Odfjell will inspire you to be brave, ambitious, self-disciplined, grateful, value others and most importantly integrous.  I guess I can also learn from Zyber’s story as I traverse my new role, I will continuously look for ways to improve in what I do.  As I always say, I will always be a work in progress.”  

“The good thing is that here in Odfjell, we have wealth of colleagues who are willing to impart knowledge enabling others to learn and be the best we can be.  I see that Zayber is off to a good start, and I am confident that his unrelenting aim to excel will make him a good leader someday.” 

Related stories

Rising through the ranks: Odfjell promotes first female Captain

Read more