A life on the ocean wave

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 May, 2008, 12:00am

Chan Kam-lam, now a lawmaker for the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, spent nearly six years as a second-grade deck officer in the 1970s.

'I joined the trade right after graduating from a maritime college because I found it challenging. Most youngsters nowadays consider becoming a flight attendant a cool job as they get to travel around. But sailing is a much better choice, as not only are there more sea ports than airports, but also what you learn on deck is more solid and wide-ranging. You learn to be independent and tough in face of problems, and the years away from home actually strengthened family bonds.'

Wong Kwok-kin, chairman of the Federation of Trade Unions and Hong Kong deputy to the National People's Congress, was a ship's chief engineer for 20 years until 1991.

'Life on deck could be very tedious especially during festive seasons, when you miss your family dearly but know you won't be seeing them for a few months. But the dullness is easily forgotten when you find yourself at the world's largest carnival in Brazil, or in North Korea, where you are treated with nice food and accommodation.'

Paul Cheng Siu-hung, chief executive officer of Autotoll, spent four years as a second deck officer during the 1980s.

'Our vessel was in a bay in Iran the very night Iraq declared war on Iran. It was dead silent as we watched on the radar a large number of dots flashing away from where the pier was. That was my closest encounter with the war and it was not frightening. But a few days later I heard that some of my classmates from the maritime school had been killed in the bombing.'