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Working in a Greek ship
Working in a Greek ship was the sailor’s first sea voyage account. The dilemma of having a job overseas has been answered through the clashes and cohesion of different cultures (Greeks, Filipinos, et cetera in one ship).
“It sounds Greek to me!” This is the most common expression when someone didn’t understand what you’re saying about. Although, joking aside, it hurts whenever authentic Greeks heard this words. As if, some people make them as ‘laughingstock’ whenever a conversation becomes serious. Likewise in maritime industry around the world, when you work in a Greek shipping, your standard will be classified inferior when it comes to safety. For the information of fellow hubbers and readers, most maritime accidents were committed by Greek-owned vessels. Although, there are Greek shipping companies that you can single out for their good performance, still, most of Greek owners are not following standard rules when safety is the talk of the business.
Greek's contribution to world's civilization
The greatest conqueror who ever lived on Earth was merely five feet tall and a Greek himself, Alexander-The Great. The cultures of ancient Greeks were distributed in the conquered lands that are now independent from Greece. We are indebted to the great thinkers in literature that ancient Greece have, like Socrates, Plato and philosophers and scientists (formerly known as alchemists) as well. The world of medicine have revered the Hippocratic Oath of Hippocrates. How about Archimedes whose contribution in science will never be equaled in his time. Different sport disciplines converged in the most participated sporting event called Olympics (named after Mount Olympus-the place where gods and goddesses dwell). Even in ancient times, Greeks were circumnavigating the world already. They even made the first accurate map of the Mediterranean Sea and its tributaries. Their maritime skills were exceptional up to the present.
If you work as sailor in Greek ship, you will adjust to their behavior. The ‘you’ becomes ‘I’ and vice versa. Senior Greek seafarers who studied in their maritime academy seldom understand the difference of the two pronouns. At first, I was bewildered when my chief cook gave me an order to get some provisions at the refrigerated chamber at the upper deck of our panamax tanker (M/V Aztec, 2001). Well, I adjusted my understanding before we have a constant argument. He’s already in his 60s, divorced (no children to support) and a diabetic one. I easily adjusted to the routine in the galley. Every night, I had to ask him what will be the frozen ingredient to be thawed at the lobby (about 5 degrees Celsius), whether it will be pork, fish, beef, chicken or lamb. They’re 'lamb' people while Filipinos go for 'pork'. Later in my six-month contract (before the selling of the new vessel), I had to bake for loaf and Greek bread every morning and cook the rest of his planned meal in the afternoon (always boiled vegetable or baked vegetable briami and potato fries for dinner).
Greeks usually drink milk and eat bread or just cheese in the morning while Filipinos go for heavy breakfast (rice, noodles, eggs, bacon, sausages, etc.). Greeks usually order for a particular item to be cooked. My chief cook usually ask me why Filipinos didn’t grow big or fat even we are eating rice three times (or more) a day. Maybe it’s genetic, that’s why (depending on the kind of race we belong).
Our captain (who have British seafaring experiences) is considered an asset of the company (Tsakos Trading and Shipping, S.A.). He really followed the safety procedures onboard ship. We have weekly trainings and drills (fire, pollution, abandon ship, man overboard, bomb search, stowaway search, piracy watch, etc.) to keep us abreast with the scenario if it ever happened onboard ship. I cannot compare him to other masters, but his promotion is very fast that he became a junior port captain in Texas, USA in just a short span of time (due to his exemplary performances and credentials).
Saving lives at sea
Included in our worthy experiences as a sailors, was when we saved the officers and crew of Singaporean Tanker-owned VLCC (Very Large Crude Oil Container) in June 13, 2001 in Indian Ocean. The 23 saved crew boarded our vessel for a week while the other 16 went to the other panamax vessel (M/T Clovely). Most of the officers and officers were Korean and Chinese including Burmese. They’ve reached the waters of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates (UAE) after three days. Filipinos were awarded due top their bravery by saving lives; the same with Greek officers who (I’ve learned) also received monetary gifts from the main office of the company.
Witnessing illegal, unsafe acts
Greek officers are often accused of using ‘magic pipe’ to dispose their oily residues overboard. In the unholy hours of the night, they usually do this and made an entry to the Oil Record Book (ORB) that were often discovered by nosy inspectors if the violations have been committed. Lawbreakers of maritime protocol are still enjoying to be the major player in the maritime industry. Only those who cannot pay are being penalized, so they say. Mutual understanding of two parties are imposed to avoid further violations.
Working for the next eight contracts in Greek vessels gave the sailor a vast experiences to tell. Although his mouth used to be timid to tell this through his voice, but his hands can’t be stop writing it in HubPages. There are happy moments and sad phases, too. That’s seafaring is all about. Change plays a major role in the lives of many sailors. Families, back home have a huge contribution, too.
As for the Greeks, they’re not using their drachmas (local money) anymore. They’re now a proud member of the European Union. From what I’ve heard from my former colleagues, they are being paid in euro nowadays. They are enjoying an internet connection onboard the vessels of the sailor’s former shipping company. Although, several ships are member of the Philippine Seafarers Union, majority of its ship are not giving the benefits that Filipino seafarers should receive. They still cannot afford to give little percentage of their major earnings to their loyal crew.
Even other shipping are commiting violations to all seafarers around the world. It's time to give back the proper dues for these 'unsung heroes of the seas'.