In the instability of the ship, he sinks into longing. In the one that evokes family, friends… Maybe he won’t get back in time to see the birth of his son, or the wedding of his sister, who before leaving to the tide already had promised. The work to be done on board brings his thoughts back to the reality of the ship at a stroke. But only temporarily. Insomnia in his break time, caused by the need to be alert at all times, will bring those ideas back to his head, just thinking about being able to catch a good catch to bring his family as much money as possible, and that his sacrifice has meaning.

Working at sea, for months, at the mercy of inclement weather, anywhere on the ends of the earth. A profession of extreme harshness. Being a sailor, skipper, officer, cook on board, boatswain, or engine crew, are tasks unlike any other. From his work emanates the possibility that we have in Spain, and throughout the world, of being able to consume any type of fish daily. In recent years, the practice of the trade has changed, mainly in two directions. Wages are not as above average expenses on land as they used to be, but safety on ships and modernization make working at sea much easier than it was years ago.

Deep-sea fishing takes multiple people to venture on a long journey to different parts of the globe. The range of destinations ranges from the most dangerous waters, such as Newfoundland (Canada), or Gran Sol (in the vicinity of Ireland), to other fishing grounds such as Morocco, Mauritania, Angola, Namibia, and countless other places. From each geographical point comes a type of fish.

How much do those who work at sea earn? Well, as a Galician could say: “it depends”

The profession is in a difficult moment. The life of a sailor, captain, or other ranks of the crew is hard. Months away from your land and your family. Working in a small space and surrounded by waves and seagulls. Fewer and fewer people want to make a living at sea. The generational change in Spain is difficult to give. The main cause, that the money earned in the tides does not give to live as well as it did in the past. “Before there was a lot of difference between what was charged at sea and what was charged on land, now it is not like that”tell several sailors with years of experience consulted by this newspaper.

many years ago, working at sea was an opportunity that offered as a great attraction a large salary and well above the average for any job. It was a dangerous profession, much more so than now, but as a counterweight it paid reasonably. The key is there, it is not that the salaries of people who work at sea have gone down, but that the salaries of other jobs have been increasing and at sea there has been no such increase.

How much do those who work at sea earn? Well, as a Galician might say: “it depends”. It is a variable salary. Difficult to calculate. It varies in relation to what the boat catches, you pay for it, in percentage. The money they earn depends on several factors. Mainly from the area in which they work, the rank they have within the boat and, of course, the amount of fish they get, and later, the market price and what the shipping company manages to sell the product.

The differences between a higher rank, and a lower one, such as sailor, are usually great. In the percentage distribution of money, the captain is the one who receives the most. He is the right hand of the owner and the man of confidence to obtain good fishing results. He is responsible for everything that is done, for better or for worse. “Just as Madrid looks for a superstar to achieve the best results and pays whatever it takes for him, the same happens with shipowners and captains.”, exemplifies the renowned captain Antonio Soage. The next highest earner is the chief engineer. Then the officers, both bridge and engine. A step below in salary are the boatswain and the cook. And, finally, the crew and the kitchen helper, who are the ones who receive the least part of the cake. Around 1%, or less, of the total value of the fishery usually fluctuates the salary of the latter. Of course, depending on multiple factors, such as the assembly company, and the place, that percentage may vary, it is simply an approximation.

A high percentage of active Spaniards work in positions of high responsibility, that is, as ship masters, officers or chief engineers. Job roles they have years of preparation, previous experience and study behind, and that This translates into a higher economic remuneration.. On the other hand, the sailors, who take the least part of the cake, do not need a long academic preparation and there is a very small percentage of Spaniards who are active in this position. The reason is that what you earn as a sailor does not cover the sacrifice that the job entails, and therefore, they prefer to opt for jobs that earn a similar salary on land, close to the family and without risks. Because of this, the vast majority of sailors are hired from so-called ‘third world’ countries, since in their countries they do not have the possibility of much higher wages, and for them the sea is a reasonable outlet.

The waters in which one works is also an important factor that determines the amount of profit. If you go to work in the most dangerous areas, such as Newfoundland or Gran Sol, that is taken into account and more money is charged. In places where there are usually no bad storms, and the work is not so dangerous, the money earned is usually more ‘standard’.

More modern boats and more humanized shipowners

The instrument with which you work is key to doing a good job, and for the safety of the worker. The great progress that has been made in recent years in the fishing sector is the modernization of boats. Today, the vessels in which they work are more prepared and safer to face the different circumstances that arise. The sea is fearsome and the work is difficult, which is why much has been invested in the optimization and development of ships, which does not prevent accidents and misfortunes from occurring every so often in the tides.

The most modern boats, and with fewer years, are those that are destined for the most laborious places, where the waves are intense and the conditions are harsh. In other places, such as Namibia or Angola, there are fishing boats that are a little older, but with a series of means that help a lot to safety inside the boat and to carry out the fishing correctly.

We are running out of sailors, is the profession too tough for millennials?

Linen Vargas

Over the years, development has been key for the assemblers, since from their position they have always wanted good results. In addition, something that has also changed in recent times, according to several sailors, is the humanity of the shipping companies with respect to their workers. “In the past, you used to say that you wanted to rest a tide to be with your family, and they could tell you: “you’ll see, but we still won’t count on you later”, now that has changed for the better, the assemblers are much more understanding and have a rotation system that allows you to be at home more than before”, says Soage, contrasting the situation several years ago with the current one.


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