Article

Volunteer Crew: Frequently Asked Questions

Tuesday, Feb 13, 2018

Thinking of volunteering as a crew member on one of Sea Shepherd Global's vessels? Read these frequently-asked questions to learn more, then visit our Volunteer at Sea page to download your application.

Bob Barker's Bridge crew on Operation Icefish. Photo Simon Ager/Sea Shepherd.
Deck crew volunteer on Operation Albacore. Photo by Nellie Huié/Sea Shepherd.
Deck crew cleaning anchors on Operation Albacore. Photo by Tara Lambourne/Sea Shepherd.
Deck crew removing rust on Operation Albacore. Photo by Tara Lambourne/Sea Shepherd.
Bob Barker's Galley crew on Operation Icefish. Photo Simon Ager/Sea Shepherd.
Crew on a Faroe Islands campaign in 2015. Photo by Michael Artemis/Sea Shepherd.

GENERAL INFORMATION

How many ships are in the Sea Shepherd Global Fleet?
There are currently four ships in Sea Shepherd Global’s fleet.  These include our flagship the M/V Steve Irwin, and other vessels including the M/V Bob Barker, the M/V Sam Simon, and the M/V Ocean Warrior.

Where are the ships located?
Our vessels can be found all around the world, from Europe to Africa, to the Americas, Asia and to our Australian berth in Williamstown. Our vessels are undertaking campaigns or maintenance work all year round, which means we are always in need of dedicated crew, whether to assist in port or sail on a campaign at sea.

What about the other Sea Shepherd ships?
It is not clear from the outside, but Sea Shepherd is split into two entities as far as ships and crew are concerned.  Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in the USA manages several vessels, which undertake their own campaigns.  These vessels include the M/V Farley Mowat, the M/V John Paul DeJoria, the M/V Sharpie, the M/V Brigitte Bardot, and the R/V Martin Sheen. The application process to join vessels with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is separate but similar. Please make sure you are applying to the entity which operates the ships or geographical area that interests you the most.  You can also apply to both.

There are also several boats operating worldwide through various Sea Shepherd entities, including the Loki in New Zealand, the Grey Nurse in Australia and the Emanual Bronner in Germany. These vessels are operated by local onshore teams and managed by the Sea Shepherd entity in their region of operation.  These vessels are not crewed by Sea Shepherd Global. For more information on joining a local onshore volunteer chapter please select ‘Get Involved’ from our drop-down menu above. 

Please note that we have many land based campaigns, and in the past these have included our Cove Guardian campaign in Taiji, Japan as well our campaign against the Grindadráp in the Faroe Islands.  Our land based campaigns are not run through our offshore crewing department and are managed by other arms of Sea Shepherd.  For more information on how to get involved with a land based campaign please contact info@seashepherdglobal.org. 
 

What campaigns are happening?
The best way to find out about our upcoming campaigns is to visit the ‘Our Campaigns’ drop-down menu on the home-page of our website or follow us on social media. We don’t necessarily announce future campaign plans for various reasons and will not provide campaign information which has not already been published online. If you are selected to volunteer, you may spend a significant amount of time on board helping to prepare the ship for a campaign. Most often volunteers earn their place on board before joining an actual campaign, however it is sometimes possible to directly join a campaign whilst in progress.

How often are the ships on campaign?
We aim to have our ships as active as possible, but a lot of work goes into campaign planning and ship preparation. And, of course, having ships actively on campaign requires a lot of support so sometimes our ability to start a campaign is restricted to raising the required funds.

Can I apply for a specific campaign?
No, not necessarily.  But, you can make a note on your application regarding your interests and skills but if you are selected to volunteer, we would expect you to join the ship where you are needed most.

Can I do an internship, work experience or school training placement through Sea Shepherd?
Unfortunately, we are rarely able to accommodate such requests.  Most schools or work placements have set start and end dates and also require reporting based on your experiences.  We do not have a strict timeline for campaigns and plans can change unexpectedly. It is recommended to apply as a volunteer when you are free and able to commit and focus only on being a crew member.

How many crew on are each ship?
The number of crew on board at any one time varies and is also dependent on the ship. But, you can expect to join anywhere from 5 to 30 other individuals.

WHAT TO CONSIDER BEFORE APPLYING

What is the minimum time commitment for volunteering at sea?
We ask that you commit a very minimum of three months for volunteering at sea. It takes some to train new crew members and have them adjust to live on board. As you can imagine, changing crew too frequently can be disruptive to the overall mission. 

Do I have to pay for my own airfares and other travel expenses?
Yes.  You will need enough funds to get yourself to and from any port in the world. When you are on board we provide you with a place to sleep and 3 vegan meals a day plus snacks - all you need!  Anything beyond that (extra food you personally want, entertainment, phone calls) is your responsibility.

Do I need a Visa?
It is possible you will need to acquire an appropriate visa. Visa requirements are different for each country and will vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. Please do not obtain a visa for any country until such time as you are selected and confirmed to crew onboard one of our ships as our vessels do not always remain in the same port and you may be selected to crew anywhere in the world.

Can I apply for specific dates?
You can specify on your application a date range or ‘open availability’.  When a position becomes available, we search for crew available during that time period. The larger your window of availability, the more likely an opportunity will come up in that time frame.  When we have a suitable space available, you may be contacted you for an interview.

Can I apply for a specific role?
Not necessarily.  When we are looking to fill a volunteer position, we search for crew members with a specific skill set.  We do our best to utilize your skills and place you in the most appropriate position on board.  For example, if you are chef, it’s unlikely we will ask you to work in our engineering department.  We can’t necessarily take your personal preferences into account all of the time.  We’ll put you in a position on the ship where you will most benefit Sea Shepherd.

What if I have no previous seafaring experience?
Sea Shepherd accepts volunteers with all sorts of backgrounds.  In fact, many of our volunteers have never worked on a ship before joining us!  They learn everything they need to from veteran crew, professional mariners and those with specialized skills.

Are certain skill sets in demand?
We are always on the lookout for people with the following qualifications:
 - Medics including doctors, nurses and/or paramedic.
 - Experienced, skilled and ticketed seafarers including: marine engineers, bridge officers, oilers, bosuns and/or deckhands.
 - Tradespeople including: electricians, carpenters, welders, and mechanics.
 - Communications specialists with a background in IT and/or navigational equipment.

APPLYING FOR CREW

How do I apply to become a crew member?
The first step in becoming a Sea Shepherd Global crew member at sea is to fill out a crew application form.  There is a link to the form located near the bottom of our crewing page: https://www.seashepherdglobal.org/get-involved/volunteer-sea/

APPLICATION FEE

Why is there an application fee to crew?
In the early days, crew application fees were what helped us put fuel in the ship tanks for campaigns!  Due to the manpower and time required to process applications, this fee helps us effectively recruit new crew members into service.  Furthermore, as all volunteers must arrange and pay for their own travel expenses to and from the ship, if the application fee is too difficult to make, the travel expenses may be even more so.  This further assists us in keeping the non-serious applicants away.

Will it be refunded if I am not selected for crew?
The Application Fee is a non-refundable, one-time donation and hopefully one you feel is going toward a worthy cause.

Is there a maximum time I can stay on board?
For new volunteers, we normally don't commit to allowing any service for longer than 3 or 4 months.  If things are progressing well, which is typically evident quite quickly, you are welcome to ask your department head, ship manager, or captain if you may extend your stay.  We do appreciate it when people can stay longer and continue to use the skills they have learned!  We always reserve the right to ask people to leave at any time if things aren't working out.

How do I apply for the other Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ships?

If you would like to apply to join a vessel with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society you can visit their website at https://seashepherd.org/get-involved/crewing-at-sea/ and fill out their application.  Their website will provide you with all the instructions you need to submit your application.

AFTER I SUBMIT MY APPLICATION

Has my application been received?
Once you submit your application you will receive an email confirming that it was received.  If you haven’t received an email confirmation after two weeks, please feel free to contact crew@seashepherdglobal.org.

What happens after my application is received?
Once you submit your application to Sea Shepherd, we enter your details into our crewing database and your name could come up in any number of searches depending on your location, skills and availability.  Unless you specifically ask us to 'retire' it, your application will remain actively on file with us and you could be considered for any crewing needs.  If we select you as a candidate, we'll email you to schedule a phone or Skype interview and, if that goes well, invite you to join a ship.

At any time you can contact us at crew@seashepherdglobal.org and request and update on your application, update your availability or skills, or request that we remove your information from our systems.

What are the qualities you are looking for in crew?
We love to receive applications from passionate individuals willing to work hard and take on any responsibility on board to contribute to the campaigns.  The more flexible you are on time, the more likely we will have a position become available that you may be suited for.  Seafaring skills are definitely an asset but not essential, your ability to be committed, hard-working and get along with others means a lot to us as well!  We are always looking for qualified experienced Captains, Officers, Bosuns, Engineers, Doctors and vegan Cooks to join our team.

Does everyone eventually get selected?
As we receive a large amount of applications from all over the world we are unable to guarantee all applicants a place onboard.  We would love to be able to select all applicants but we receive more applications than there are positions onboard to be filled.  The selection process is therefore somewhat competitive. 

BEING ACCEPTED AS CREW

How will I know what to bring?
If you are selected to join the crew we will send you a welcome package containing all the information you will need to know including ship and crewing policies.

Where will the ship be and how do I get there?
If you are selected to join the crew we will communicate individually with you to provide instructions and further information regarding your travel.

WHAT TO EXPECT WHILE ON BOARD

What will my accommodations be like?
The crew accommodations can be tight and depending on the vessel you may be sharing a cabin with anywhere from one to seven other people!  You will get to know your teammates well!

Will I need to bring my own food?
You can bring your own snacks and treats but we will feed you three nutritious vegan meals per day!

What is the work schedule like?
As you can imagine, while you are at sea, the crew work 7 days per week with no time off.  In port, crew work 5 and a half days a week.

What about Internet, Email and Phone calls while on board?
Most of the ships in our fleet have some form of satellite connection on board that allows for crew to email occasionally.  Normally, due to bandwidth and security concerns, all crew on board share a communal email address that is checked by the communications officer for any campaign-sensitive information.  Sometimes this email privilege is taken away temporarily during critical points in a campaign.  In port, we typically try to find a local Internet connection, which may be available to the crew.  Phone calls can be made with our satellite phones at the discretion of the captain and communications officer, but crew are responsible for the costs their calls incur (normally about $1/minute).  Your Captain will let you know the best way for your family to reach you while on board.  Each ship is different.

Will I get arrested?
It is unlikely.  We operate a professional organization and work in cooperation with governments and maritime enforcement agencies around the world.  However, you need to understand that participating in any Sea Shepherd campaign carries with it some risk of arrest, fines or other consequences.

Are there any other policies and procedures I should know about before applying?

Sea Shepherd maintains a zero-tolerance policy to drugs and drunkenness and that anybody in violation of this policy will be removed from the ships immediately.

No smoking is allowed on the ship.

The ship is not a democracy; you will be expected to follow the chain of command.

Any dangerous, disrespectful or insubordinate behavior will result in a crew member being asked to leave.

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