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An interview with a Master Mariner

October 22, 2019
Capt Sharma 1

Meet Captain Siddarth Sharma, a Master Mariner from India. We spoke to Capt. Sharma about life on board and the special award he won in 2018 for a courageous rescue at sea.

What is your job on board and what does it involve?

My job onboard is vast but to start with, it includes aspects of operation such as the safe navigation of the ship, monitoring its cleanliness, maintenance and in short seaworthiness, safe handling of all cargo, management of all personnel, inventory of the ship's cash and stores, and maintaining the ship's certificates and documentation.

How long have you been working as a seafarer, and what made you choose this career?

I joined the Merchant Navy in 1996 as a Deck Cadet and am actively sailing as a Master Mariner. I have approximately 23 years of experience as a Mariner. The opportunity to travel around the world and the lure of adventure on the high seas made me choose this profession.

Capt. Sharma at sea

In 2018, you became the first person from India to win an International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF) Award for Outstanding Individual Contribution to a Maritime SAR Operation. Why did you win this award?

It was a difficult rescue operation to save two fishermen who had been stranded for three long days on their sinking fishing boat. The boat was adrift following engine failure and loss of anchor in severe weather. The fishermen’s food and water had been washed away through rogue waves, winds and heavy rain caused by tropical storm AVA.

This rescue took place on 11 January 2018 around 11:57 when I spotted the boat 2.5 kilometres away. I was on duty on the bridge and had to take action immediately, so I ordered and called all ship crew for the rescue operation, utilising the pilot ladder on portside with life jackets, buoys and LTAs (line throwing apparatus) on standby. It took three arduous attempts and three hours in the lashing wind and strong swells, firing three LTAs, before both weak and starving fishermen, aged between 38 and 45 years old, were brought to safety on board the ship. Their first words were ‘GOD DIEU GOD’ when they were onboard my ship.

The rescued fisherman were handed over to the French Navy at Mayotte which was out of our voyage passage, so we had to inform the owners and company for the permission, which all agreed immediately. We could do nothing except wipe the tears from our eyes that both the fishermen will return to their families, friends and homes safely.

I would say, it is every seafarer’s and Master’s solemn duty and obligation to save souls in distress at sea. I just did what a seafarer should do for a fellow soul in distress at sea. Yes, it was an instant decision, but not without assessing the risks involved. It was my duty as a Master of ITBASTAL-LORIDA with Trinitas Ship Management, based in India.

Capt. Sharma with his International Maritime Rescue Federation Award last year

What do you enjoy most about working at sea, and what do you find most challenging?

I mostly take a four- to six-month contract on board a ship maximum. Within that period I enjoy seeing the vast ocean, sky, new ports (mostly) and meeting new people (new crew). Yes, it is challenging – sometimes we have to birth in and out without getting proper rest – but then that's a part of our profession. I love everything at sea.

What qualities do you think make a good ship’s master?

Able to make decisions under pressure, responsible and diligent, good oral and written communication skills, literacy, numeracy, computer skills, able to lead and manage a crew from all around the world, learning new languages, willing to spend time at sea, often being away from home for long periods and still perform our best.

What advice would you give to any seafarer who wants to become a master?

To start with, I would advise my fellow members to be 100% focused. Be determined, plan your attack beforehand, embrace technology, learn from mistakes, keep the faith and lastly be a very good role model.

Would you like to talk to us about your life at sea? Do you have an interesting story to tell from your time as a seafarer? We would love to hear from you! Send an e-mail to Amy at amy.liebthal@iswan.org.uk.

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