Our ‘Seafarer Stories’ column hosts seafarers’ views who present briefly the key challenges of life and work onboard, providing a picture of what a career at sea actually means. In this context, we are happy to host an interview with Mrs. Eleni Lykofridi who works as a Chief Officer on an oil tanker company and admits that her biggest challenge so far is to be able to cope with a male-dominated profession as a woman.
SAFETY4SEA: What do you love the most out of your career at sea?
Eleni Lykofridi: The seaman’s career does not give you a conventional life. This diversity and the specificity of the profession is what won me. It is an ancient profession, which, despite all the technology changes, keeps its character unchanged: seamanship.
S4S: What have you learned over the course of your career at sea?
E.L.: Being a seafarer, you realize how small the world is and how irrelevant racism is of any origin. We work in a multicultural environment, and we meet nationalities all over the world; we come together with different religions and perceptions. All this makes you look at things completely differently and respect diversity.
S4S: How would you describe your daily life at sea/ work in a few words?
E.L.: Everyday life on board includes my duties at work and rest hours. I carry out a shift on the bridge and follow Chief Officer’s responsibilities as defined by international conventions, the flag of the vessel, and managing company’s ISM manual. At rest hours, I like to watch movies and talk to my family onshore.
S4S: What is the biggest challenge that you have to face onboard?
E.L.: The biggest challenge I have encountered so far is to be able to cope with a male-dominated profession as a woman. In Greece, even today, in 2021, many shipping companies do not accept hiring a person based on gender criteria. Few shipping companies give opportunities to women, and even fewer support women in their career development. I am grateful to work in such a company.
S4S: What is your piece of advice to fellow crew members on board?
E.L.: I always advise my colleagues on board to take the safe road and invest in themselves by studying. They are two completely different principles, but they are both necessary foundations for a seafarer as well as for any other professional. With the study, we are not stagnating, and we are evolving while respecting all safety measures we manage to return to our family hole and healthy.
S4S: What inspires you every day on board?
E.L.: What inspires me every day onboard is the challenge of contributing to the best outcome of work’s daily tasks. It’s a secretly creative profession. Creativity is that you have a vessel, and you have to keep her alive and healthy in the safest and optimum way. This gives me enormous impetus and inspiration in everyday life.
S4S: What has been the most extraordinary thing that you have experienced on board?
E.L.: Some years ago, we sailed off India. Then we heard at the VHF some fishermen calling us. They have been on a not under command boat for a week. They had not contacted the Coast Guard or any other vessel in the vicinity because their antenna range was too short. We gave them water and food and informed the MRCC of India, where they eventually rescued them.
S4S: What is the one thing that should change to make life better on board?
E.L.: The nature of the profession is such that some requirements are completely utopian. But something realistic that can be done is free internet at fast speeds on all ships. Many companies still have the internet charged to seafarers for tremendously high prices and a small amount of data. It would give most people joy, as communication with family and friends is of the utmost importance.
S4S: What piece of advice would you give to someone thinking of a career at sea?
E.L.: That he must be aware of what he is going to gain from this job and what he will be deprived of. When you have a goal, and you are committed to it, you can deal with any difficulties that may arise.
S4S: What do you miss the most about your seagoing experience?
E.L.: I miss my job, having a purpose every day. If I am on shore, I don’t have any work beyond studying. So, yes, I miss that. It is a blessing to be mentally filled with the work you have chosen for your living.
The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and do not necessarily those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.