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Captain braves dangers of sea and sickness

Captain braves dangers of sea and sickness
Yashika F. Torib July 1, 2020

Being stranded at sea and unable to go back home in the midst of a global pandemic is one thing; working the frontlines and mostly in the country where the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) originated is another.

For the crew and captain of bulk carrier MV Golden Ioanari, this has been a constant cause of fear and anxiety.

“My crew and I are a bit hesitant and apprehensive but this is our reality and we have to face it,” said ship captain Marlon Dayag as his vessel heads straight to Zhanjiang, China to discharge a cargo of coal.

This is Golden Ioanari’s second time to be in China after Covid-19 broke our in Wuhan and spread to continents. But hardworking and resilient as they are, the Filipino crew immediately learned to rise above the situation and continued working the frontlines to keep trade lines and flow of goods open for countries.

“While we know that Covid-19 originated in China, we still have to continue with our trade routes and strictly employ safety procedures especially upon docking. Chinese dockworkers are also cooperative and no one is allowed to go onboard except for the port authorities with quarantine and medical clearance. We are also not allowed to have shore leaves or crew changes for the meantime that we are experiencing this health threat,” he said.

Dayag also observed how the Chinese dockworkers are keenly aware and careful with the observance of safety protocols. “They are taking safety very seriously and their quarantine officers are very strict in implementing policies. They even impose hefty penalties to vessels who are not complying with their procedures,” he added.

As for the crew of Golden Ioanari, Dayag has conditioned each one not to panic or rebel against their ship owner and manning agency.

Filipino seafarers must be resilient

“We instill on our seafarers to exercise caution, resilience and understanding,” he said. “We have to acknowledge that everyone suffers because of this pandemic – it is not only us. No one is spared. We all have to understand that the Philippines is a manning country for the maritime world. We don’t own ships; we only supply seafarers. This pandemic, and all the inconveniences and dangers it brings, is not an excuse to go against our companies for personal interests. If you cannot be relieved on time, then extend your patience; besides, us Filipinos have the reputation of resiliency in times of hardship.”

“The most we can do is adapt to the new normal onboard ships. While it is true that we are restricted from taking shore leaves and having delayed crew changes that leave us all extending and overstaying our contracts, we also understand how our company does an excellent job in sending support and monitoring of our situation,” he added.

Dayag further observed that the pandemic should serve as a wakeup call for everyone, especially for seafarers who are left jobless and broke. “No one know how long this will last but we have to endure. Seafarers are awaiting deployment should also look for alternative sources of income and be more creative. They have to change their lifestyle and never lose hope. There is always light at the end of the tunnel.”

Dayag, a seafarer for 20 years, five of which were spent serving as a ship captain, hopes that the International Maritime Organization ( IMO) would give clearer guidelines to maritime states in easing crew change measures. Accordingly, seafarers who are already overstaying onboard are in danger of over-fatigue, which can make a ship open to possible accidents and near-miss situations.

Six months into his contract, the Isabela native could only hope that he could go back soon to his wife, Lanie, and their three children. Dayag acknowledged that while his crew enjoys his company and leadership, his family is most likely longing for his “language of love” — cooking sumptuous meals and spending quality time.

“Seafaring is a difficult life. But dedication, perseverance and faith ease everything. You just have to ride the waves, reward yourself with rest and say a prayer of thanks for a life of meaning, hope and love.”