While young workers often need to work long hours for low incomes, navigation officers are keeping their sights on the sea, where starting salaries are twice and sometimes even three times higher than average incomes for young people.
The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) yesterday released the names of those who had passed the seafarers’ examination.
Previously, the exam was hosted by the Ministry of Examination and students in navigation and marine engineering who were still at school were barred from taking the exam.
This year, the exam was held by the MOTC, which lifted those restrictions. The results showed that 94 of the 385 examinees passed the exam. Among the successful entrants were 22 women.
Students still in school excelled in the exam this year, accounting for 75 percent of those who passed the exam for first-deck officer and 36 percent of those who passed the exam for first-class engineer officer.
Chi Wen-jong (祁文中), director-general of MOTC’s Department of Aviation and Navigation, said students who are in school can now take the seafarers’ exam as long as they finish the basic training as laid down by rules set out in the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) Convention.
The exam would allow those studying navigation or marine engineering to enter the job market for seafarers right away, Chi said.
Chi said the ministry was considering offering postgraduate degrees for those who had not studied navigation or relevant subjects while they were in school, but were interested in working at sea.
According to the National Chinese Seamen’s Union, those passing the exam can start working as third-deck officers or third engineering officers with ocean-going shipping lines, where the starting wage ranges from NT$96,000 to NT$146,000 per month.
The union added that new industry entrants can climb up the career ladder to second or first-deck officer or second or first engineering officer with a simultaneous monthly increase as well.
A captain’s monthly salary could range from between NT$246,000 to NT$265,000.
To follow the labor standards set out by the international STCW convention, seafarers are banned from working overtime, the union said.
Despite higher wages and better working conditions, the union said marine transport services were still about 6,000 workers short.
Maritime and Port Bureau Director General Li Juel-der (黎瑞德), who worked on a shipping line between 1977 and 1982, said he was promoted from third-deck officer to second-deck officer within one-and-a-half years. The money he earned during this period helped him buy his first house.
“If I had not switched my career to the public sector, I might have continued working on a ship and eventually become a captain,” Li said. “I kind of missed the time working on a ship. The only thing was that it was a bit lonely.”
For those eager to earn their first pot of gold after graduation, Li said that working on a ship may be one of the fastest ways to do so.
Jeng Yi (鄭怡), a captain at Yang Ming Marine Transport Corp, has been in the marine transport service since 1997. He said he has forgotten how much he made per month as a beginner.
“What I do remember is that I was on a ship for only one month, and the money I made during that month helped support my family for about four to six months,” he said.
Cheng said those who pass the seafarers’ exam can earn a starting wage of about NT$120,000 — much more than most college graduates are likely to make, adding that people working on a ship have a relatively stable and long career.