things to carry before joining a ship

14 Things to know and carry before joining a ship: A complete checklist

Whether you are a first-time sailor or a skilled one, getting your bags ready for a lengthy contract is never a simple chore. Joining a ship is a very important task for every seafarer and knowing the right things to carry is crucial. Especially if you are joining a ship for the first time, you might be very confused about what is required to carry from home.

In this blog, we’ll take you through all the things that you should keep in mind while joining your first ship. 

Here is a seafarers packing list that serves as a heads-up to anyone joining a ship for the first time.

  1. Documentation
  2. Clothes and medicines
  3. Personal care items
  4. Stationery items
  5. Eatables
  6. Forex exchange | International credit/debit card
  7. Emergency contact list and Copy of all documents for home
  8. International sim card / Skype / Whatsapp / Nymgo (international calling app) / IMO (audio and video calling app)
  9. Official documents and packages

Let’s have a detailed look at all of them one by one.

9 things to carry while joining a ship for the first time

1. Documentation

This is the first thing you should think about when preparing to join a ship. It is essential that all of your required documents are in good condition and have a validity period of at least 6-12 months. Employers typically keep a record of each seafarer (employee) and notify him well in advance of any pending documents, as well as give a checklist for all required documents.

However, it is your responsibility to do your research and confirm that all your documents are in order for your first joining. Here’s the list of documents to help you get started:

  • Passport with at least one year validity
  • Relevant Visas as per the ship’s trading area
  • Continuous Discharge Certificate with at least one year validity left.
  • Vaccinations and Immunizations – Cholera, Yellow Fever, etc, one year validity left.
  • STCW 2010 Certificates (Basic or Basic + Advanced as per requirement) with one year validity left
  • Any Relevant Dangerous Cargo Endorsement (depending on ship type) with one year validity left
  • Employment Contract letter (signed by both employer and employee)
  • Employment Service Terms and Conditions (signed by both Employer and Employee)
  • Emergency Contact and Beneficiary Registration (provided to Employer, copy to you)
  • OK to Board/Guarantee Letter (provided by employer)
  • Medical Certificate from DG Shipping approved Doctor with at least one year validity left. (assistance from employer)
  • Flag state Continuous Discharge Certificate (normally Employer applies for it and provides you this)
  • Maritime Union of India Registration Card (copy to be left with beneficiary)

Also Read: 10 Things Seafarers Must Remember Before Signing Off From Ship

2. Clothes and medicines

A majority of you will be very confused about the clothes that you should carry while joining a ship. Many first-time joiners tend to stuff a lot of clothes that are not even required onboard. An exhaustive list of clothes that you should carry is as follows:

  • T-shirts 5-6 in number
  • Casual shirts 2-3 in number
  • Formal shirts 1-2 in number
  • Jacket/Sweatshirts 1-2 in number
  • Sando/Baniyan 6-8 in number
  • Jeans/ casual trousers 2-3 in number
  • Formal pants 1-2 in number
  • Lowers/pajamas 2-3 in number
  • Shorts 3-4 in number
  • Underwear 6-8 in numbers
  • Pair of socks 10-12 pairs
  • Handkerchief 3-5 in numbers
  • Towel 1-2 in numbers

Check your company policy on prescription and over-the-counter medicines and carry them accordingly. Always carry a first aid kit, crepe bandage, and hot water bag for personal use. Though everything is available onboard, it is best to be prepared.

3. Personal care items

There are many general items that you have to carry on the ship along with you from home. Below is an exhaustive list of the things that you’ll require. You can add or subtract items as per your requirement.

  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrush 2-3 in numbers
  • Shaving cream or foam
  • Razors or shaving blades
  • Trimmer
  • Face wash
  • Hair Oil
  • Shampoo
  • Comb
  • Moisturizer
  • Waterproof watch
  • A Torchlight
  • Nail cutter
  • A pair of formal shoes
  • Casual shoes
  • Sandals
  • Some pouches of liquid detergent like EZEE to wash warm clothes
  • Deodorants
  • Talcum Powder
  • Hand Sanitizer

4. Stationery items

Most of the time you get all the stationery items onboard the ship for free, but you must carry some of the stationery items for yourself that include

  • A Pocket diary
  • A register or Notebook
  • Pens
  • Pencil
  • Eraser
  • Sharpeners
  • Ruler
  • Permanent markers
  • Paper cutter and its blades

5. Eatables

It might happen that you won’t get access to many eatables onboard, so it is always a great choice to carry some of them in your baggage for your cravings. These items can include dry fruits, homemade sweets, cookies and biscuits, etc.

6. Forex exchange | International credit/debit card

This is one of the major necessities. Just like most of the seafarers, you will be coming across international shores for the first time. Thus, for your convenience, it is necessary to carry at least $200 in cash. This buffer money can come in handy in a lot of situations. 

Say, for example, if you miss your connecting flight, or didn’t meet your pickup person at the airport, or didn’t get a veg meal on the flight, the money that you carry will refrain you from getting stuck. From the 200 dollars that you carry, keep at least one 100 dollar bill in smaller denominations of 5s, 10s, and 20s.

And if you fall short of cash, an international credit or debit card can help. Owing to the scarce availability of cash on ships, a card allows you to better manage your expenses. 

7. Emergency contact list and Copy of all documents for home

This is the most basic thing that you need to do as a seafarer before joining a ship. Give your loved ones all of your contact information, including your ship’s email address and phone number (calling on the latter would be pricey, but it’s always helpful for emergencies). Also, keep a copy of your all employment documents, employer address, contact numbers, email with your parents/guardian/immediate family.

Here are some contact details you can exchange with your family:

  • Personal email address
  • Ship’s email address (this you will most probably know once you reach the ship)
  • Ship’s phone number (For extreme emergency only)
  • Your phone number (In case you have activated international roaming or have taken the number of the ports your ship visits)
  • Crew personnel’s Contact details (Important)
  • Also, give any of your colleagues’ email addresses in case your account is not able to receive emails because of some technical glitch.

8. International sim card / Skype credit/ Whatsapp / Nymgo / IMO

Having access to personal communication on a ship is almost a luxury. Calling cards are always available on the ship but they are generally very expensive. However, there are several other options that you can choose from to avoid spending a lot from your savings.

A good thing to do is research the ship’s route on websites such as marinetraffic.com or vesselfinder.com. Ask your employer’s liaison officer for the ship’s trading area. On the basis of the search results, choose an international sim card to keep you connected to the world at foreign shores. 

Also, more and more shipping companies nowadays are providing access to the internet on ships. Find out about the ship you are joining from your liaison officer. Install and ‘login’ the commonly used communication apps such as Whatsapp, IMO, or Skype. IMO works really well for audio and video calls on a restricted bandwidth. Nymgo is an app that will help in making cheap international calls.

9. Official documents and packages

It might happen that you will be handed over some documents or packages from the shipping company to carry with you while joining. It can be anything ranging from logbooks to safety posters, from ship’s stationery items to survey certificates. Thus, you need to have some extra space in your luggage to be able to accommodate these things.

Some additional points to consider while joining a ship for the first time

10. Give your bank account details to your family

Make sure to give all your bank details to your family so that your loved ones can use the money you transfer to the account. To make things easy for them, get a debit/ ATM card and keep it at home for your family to use. Bank account details that you must share include account details, debit/atm card details, cheque book, and net banking details. You can also sign a few blank cheques for your family to use in case of need.

11. Pre-familiarize yourself with local conditions and laws

Different countries have different laws and it is imperative to follow them. For e.g. Pirated movie DVDs are not allowed at Singapore airport. Make sure you research and know about any such laws to avoid getting in trouble on foreign land. 

12. Keep your valuables at home

Keep all the things that you would hate to lose at home. There are high chances of losing valuable things while traveling or on the ship. Things you should leave at home include expensive gifts given by your loved ones, any kind of jewelry, accessories, social security card, library card, club membership cards, and all the extra debit/credit cards that you won’t require on the ship.

13. Extra warm clothes

Warm clothes will be required in case you work in rain, cold areas or meet bad weather. Having extra pairs of warm clothes with you will make sure you don’t suffer in extreme weather conditions. 

14. Travel light

We know this list of things to carry might already seem like a lot and you would also want to add some things on your own, however, try to travel as light as possible. If you stick to the above list of required items, you will definitely be able to pack light. Avoid carrying fancy clothing or other things that you won’t actually use on the ship. 

The bottom line

The checklist mentioned above will help you reach the ship safely and completely prepared for your contract. If you have an addition to the list, let us know in the comments!

P.S. If you wish to join the Merchant Navy (course or onboard training) or need any help in obtaining any official document, contact us at +91 8160370087 and we’ll help you out!