Who's Navigating? - Preparing for safety at sea

01 Oct 2019 The Navigator

Navigation officer, Jestoni Cruz Balibat discusses his career to date and explains why we must never take the safety of ourselves and our crewmates for granted

What interested you in a career at sea?
Having a career at sea was never really my plan. I went to maritime college without much of an idea about what I was going to do afterwards. My interest really began during my academic studies when I got to hear personal testimonials about working at sea, and experienced boarding a ship during actual sea practice for the first time. It seemed to be an adventure of a lifetime that would give me the opportunity to meet people, see new places and experience different cultures.

What career path has led to your current position?
One of my goals is to become a ship’s Captain someday. This aspiration has led me to where I am now in my career. Currently, I am a Second Officer assisting the Master in voyage planning, acting as emergency radio operator, and deputy to the Medical Officer, among other roles. I obtained my higher licence last year and am now training to become a Chief Officer. This may seem a lengthy journey to traverse, but I know it can be done.

What do you like best about working at sea?
The best thing is when I meet people and talk to them about their way of life. This gives me a deeper understanding of the importance of our profession as seafarers and the significant role we play in worldwide trade. It keeps me motivated to work harder. Apart from supporting my family at home, I can also support other people by providing them with services and commodities they need for their everyday life.

How has your training to date helped you prepare for the eventuality of an accident or incident at sea?
Accidents and incidents at sea are events that people encounter due to several factors – human, machinery/equipment, environmental, et al. All the training I have undergone to date, both shore-based and at sea, has made me more aware of the risks involved in my work environment and helped me become more conscious of safety in every single routine or special vessel operation. I can now say that I am more physically and mentally prepared than I was before, should anything untoward happen.

How does your ship prepare for accidents and unforeseen events?
Our ship regularly conducts mandatory drills, as per SOLAS, and drills/ trainings as per our company’s safety management system and emergency procedures manual. We perform the drills in a realistic manner, ensuring that all actions are demonstrated properly. We also conduct regular safety meetings where all safety-related concerns and accident-prevention matters are thoroughly discussed. We make certain that all of the crew are well prepared for effective intervention in the event of an emergency.

Do you read accident reports and if so, what do you find most useful about them?
Yes. Lessons learned from other vessels’ experience are somethings that I have found very useful to read. The finer details of the accident, facts analysis, conclusion and probable cause, as well as recommendations, can all serve as a helpful tool in the future to prevent the same thing happening again. Whenever new accident reports are issued, our company makes sure that they are circulated across the fleet. Everyone is encouraged to read and discuss them with each other. This enables us to reflect and share insights that can be used as best practice on board.


What do you think is the most important thing to remember when it comes to avoiding accidents?
Always be mindful about safety – your own and that of the people around you. This is something that must never be taken for granted. Although accidents can happen seemingly out of nowhere, it is best to never let our guards down. Making safety part of our lifestyle can protect us and other people from harm and undesirable circumstances, or at least minimise the effects. As they say, it is ‘better safe than sorry.’