Yrhen Bernard Sabanal Balinis is an ordinary seaman with extraordinary goals, an advocate for seafarers’ rights – and a maritime journalist.
You are a seafarer. What does that involve?
I am an ordinary seafarer or O/S, and my primary responsibility is to maintain the seaworthiness of the ship. I clean the accommodation, derust and paint, segregate garbage as per Marpol Annex V, and other support-level rank tasks. I am currently on MV Gwen en route from Sri Lanka to Suez [at the time of writing].
But I like to revise my job title a bit: I am an ordinary seaman with extraordinary goals. This removes the idea that we are just ordinary because we are not. I am not. Even though I am still a rating, I motivate myself to take on more.
Captain Ruslan, chief officer Sergiy, second officer Dmytro, and all my crewmates who have sailed with me on my contracts as a cadet, have supported my progress.
How did you get started in your career?
I have always been enthusiastic about exploring and before becoming a sailor, I was an active campus journalist during my college days. The promise of going places drew me into this profession.
In my country – the Philippines – there seems to be no shortage of maritime graduates and finding a berth for my shipboard training has been a challenge. I promised myself that I would get a sponsoring company before graduation. When I achieved it, my happiness was boundless!
What was your first experience of sea life like?
I was away from my family during my campus journalism days, but nothing really prepared me for the long months at sea.
I found solace in channeling my emotions and thoughts through my writing. I am blessed that people find it worth reading!
What are your career highlights to date?
Being featured by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) as their third World Maritime Seafarer Profile!
Out of the thousands of Filipino seafarers deployed worldwide, I have been chosen by the IMO! It’s rare for a support-level rank from a developing country to be given such an honour.
Having my voice amplified to an industry-wide audience through my published articles comes a close second. In the past year, I have been published in several prestigious maritime journals including Safety4Sea, Navigation News, Seaways, The Sea, Maritime Review, Marino World and Marine Professional magazine, issue 2, 2021.
I was once asked: are you a seafarer or a journalist? But why choose one when you can be both? I have first-hand experience of life at sea and the vivid realities of seafaring shape my writing.
You are an ambassador for seafarers…
“Human rights apply at sea as they do on land.” This founding principle drove me to become an advisor for Human Rights at Sea (HRAS); it is aligned to my core value of safeguarding the human factor of seafaring. I am officially their youngest advisor!
The Royal Institute of Navigation’s Younger Members’ Group (RIN-YMG) has also appointed me as their international and maritime representative.
How has the IMarEST helped your career?
At the height of the pandemic in 2020, I was searching for resources to widen my perspective of maritime. IMarEST was my top choice, and I am celebrating my first year’s membership.
Tell us about your career ambitions
My primary focus is to obtain my license as an officer in charge of navigational watch and then embark as an officer.
I will also continue to develop my craft as a maritime journalist with the hope that I can nudge the world a little bit for the better, and continue my work with Human Rights at Sea and RIN-YMG.
As a science and technology student, I aim to finish my grant on data science pathways by 2022. I strongly believe that seafarers need to be technologically advanced if they want to thrive in the new era of shipping.
Beyond my job title and relative newness in the industry, I firmly believe that maritime needs to safe, secure, smart, sustainable, and inclusive for it to move forward. I want to be part of that transformation.
Best career advice you have been given?
Assumptions shall not be made on the basis of scanty information, especially scanty RADAR information - Rule 7c of ColRegs.
It taught me to question everything I know; to tactfully ask for clarifications; to boldly speak up when need be.
… and your advice for others
Make every day about continuous learning.
Yrhen Bernard Sabanal Balinis, SIMarEST