SHIPPING TIMES: Life on the high seas

Fishing vessels at the Suva wharf. Picture: FT FILE

Working on a fishing vessel has its fair share of challenges but most Fijian seafarers have grown accustomed to it like Captain Josefa Kopeta, a Class 5 Master holder.

While most people would think being a crew member onboard a fishing vessel is not interesting, Capt Kopeta says working onboard those vessels allows seafarers to put food on the table for their families after they return from the sea and it helps them meet their daily needs and obligations.

Capt Kopeta, who is commonly known as Capt Jo in the fishing industry, says sailors like him have faced so many challenges with some even losing their lives out at sea.

“As a captain, I didn’t go through all that, but I’ve heard about seafarers who are thrown overboard or have lost their lives because of disputes onboard the vessels they work on.

“There are a lot of disputes that happen onboard that can lead to a sailor getting injured and communication can be a barrier on foreign vessels at times.”

He said as captain on either local or foreign vessels he always tried to maintain a balance between his crew members.

“I always try to make things work for everyone on board, it’s important when we are out at sea.

“I make sure jobs are delegated well and works are done especially handling of fish stock that is caught. This fish stock is a big priority to us because it’s what gets us paid at the end of the day.

“For my crew and I, working conditions are fine. I’ve heard about other seafarers that are working in not so fine working conditions.”

He said he hoped to see changes occur in the sector.

“I hope more can be done about working seafarers on fishing vessels because it’s these seafarers who go out every day and try to earn a living and also try to survive in those tough working conditions.”

He said he’s from a community full of seafarers who board fishing boats in local and international waters so stories are often shared about working conditions.

He added talking about it allowed their voices to be heard about the challenges they faced.

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