Seafarers discuss safety protocols dockside
Seafarers discuss safety protocols dockside Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: While most have a nine to five daily grind which revolves working around office and home, Al Hareth Jassem Al Ali’s routine involves spending months on end at sea ensuring the safe delivery of vital cargo supplies to and from the UAE.

As chief engineer for Adnoc Logistics and Services, Al Ali’s duties onboard include overseeing all operations for the technical department.

Alhareth Jassem Al Ali, chief engineer, Adnoc logistics and services

“As a seafarer our job requires us to be available 24/7 on the ship. Although our working hours are from 7am to 5pm, we are present on-site ready for any task that may need our attention anytime of the day,” Al Ali said.

“Unlike other jobs where once the daily tasks are over, we sign off and call it a day, but as a seafarer we are mentally prepared for potential emergencies and urgent job requirements throughout the day and night,” he added.

“On board a ship we are responsible for delivering valuable cargoes from one port to another that are critical for major industries and supporting communities, so while at sea we ensure the safe transport of these shipments that will positively impact many people, and this is our motivation,” he said, well aware of the important cargo being transported.

Al Ali acknowledged the difficulty of being away from family for long periods of time due to the nature of job, but says it is something he has gotten used to.

“As we are at sea for a long time, being away from friends and families for extended periods of time is indeed challenging.

“It was difficult for me at the beginning, but over a period of time, as professional seafarers, we adapt to the situation and it becomes second nature,” he added.

“With the advancement of technology, we are now able to stay connected while at sea with our families.”

Seafarers walk the docks at Khalifa Port
Seafarers walk the docks at Khalifa Port Image Credit: Supplied

Working at sea does it have its perks though, with the ocean being Al Ali’s daily office, which he describes as one of the best parts of job. “For me, it is the serenity that I feel when I am in the middle of the ocean and no one is around, I can breathe the fresh salty air that is blowing all the time.

“Once we have safely delivered a cargo to its destination and we are heading home, I usually take small walks around the ship and just experience the sense of calmness and peace that ensues when I am alone with the sea,” he said.

Al Ali, who’s foray into seafaring started all the way back in 2001 as a cadet, himself comes from a family of seafarers, a tradition he says he is happy to continue.

“My grandfather used to work at sea traveling from the UAE to countries within the region in the old wooden ships that were available at that time.

“I am really proud of our tradition as seafarers and I took inspiration from my family and I am very proud to be able to continue my family legacy as a seafarer today,” he adds.

Seafarers go through checks in Fujairah
Seafarers go through checks in Fujairah Image Credit: Supplied

And while most employees have been able to work from home over the last few months since the outbreak of COVID-19, for Al Ali, being a seafarer means the option to work from home is simply not there.

“It was imperative for seafarers to continue to work during the pandemic as 90 per cent of the world’s trade goes through sea and so we had to continue to supply energy both locally and globally.

“Once the pandemic hit across the globe, we were aware of the importance of our role in maintaining the regular supply of essential goods across the world. The Adnoc hierarchy were in daily communication with the crew on board to check on our health and general wellbeing,” he added.

And with such a long career as a seafarer, Al Ali admits that working through the coronavirus pandemic was his biggest challenge to date, with his role calling for him to look out for not only his own health and safety, but that of his fellow crewmen.

“At this critical time, it was understandable that many of our personnel were mindful of the impact of COVID-19 and as one of the managers on board of the ship, my challenge was to motivate and inspire the team to get the job done, while doing everything we can to keep them safe and healthy.

“We took a number of safety precautions including using facial masks, sterilisers and social distancing to control the spread of the virus,” he added.