NEWS and current affairs, decades before the advent of the internet, reach shipboard seafarers through company newsletters, satellite calls and single sideband (SSB) radiofrequency. Queries and clarifications on the changing maritime regulations and policies were typically addressed to ship captains, manning agents and oftentimes, from a fellow seafarer who was on vacation at the time the news breaks.
With the dawn of email and social media, maritime news was easily disseminated wherever in the world a seafarer may be sailing. The sources of information varied over the years as well. Today, the industry sees hundreds of Filipino seafarers taking to social media to help their brothers in the profession to understand the constantly changing maritime regulations.
Amidst this throng of social media-savvy seafarers, and arguably one of the most popular, is Cidreck Lued O. Ferol, commonly known as "Kuya SEAd."
The Surigao del Sur native started video blogging in 2016 when the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) launched the Marina Integrated Seafarers Management Online (Mismo) System.
Mismo is an online appointment system that unifies all the existing information systems being utilized by the different divisions of the STCW Office of Marina.
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Those who were on board at the time of its launching posed endless questions and clarifications to fully understand the system. This was when Ferol stepped in.
"I saw the need to educate and inform people of the latest technological developments in the industry, especially the introduction of the Mismo system. I created online content like tutorial videos, infographics, and how-to videos to guide seafarers on smooth and hassle-free transactions," he said.
Ferol, more than his seafaring skills, is also a good communicator with in-depth knowledge and understanding of maritime policies. He was relaying administrative regulations in a language understood by Pinoy seamen so much so that he was receiving an average of 50 inquiries every day.
Since then, Ferol has been the go-to person for Filipino seafarers who needed updates or simplified explanations of the typically lengthy and technically written policies.
"The top three most common questions in my inbox are: what are the requirements to process Certificate of Proficiency/Competency, how to follow up on pending application from Mismo, and how to get a company without a backer," he said.
Ferol has been working as a deck officer for the past 11 years since he graduated from the University of Cebu-Maritime Education and Training Center. His experience serving onboard handymax and capsize vessels with fellow Filipinos and foreign seafarers, along with inherent resourcefulness, allowed Ferol the advantage of speaking based on experience and knowledge.
"It is an honor to help my fellow seafarers ease up their worries and burdens in different maritime-related transactions and problems. In my little way, I can impart my knowledge to the current system. I see this as my advocacy in helping uplift their profession. It is also my way of paying forward to the industry that helped me sustain my family. Vlogging for a cause is indeed fulfilling," he said.
As with many seafarers in the country, Ferol chose the maritime profession for its lucrative salaries which are a guaranteed way of economically uplifting a family.
"I saw this as an opportunity to uplift our economic status. This also helped me travel the world, get to know different cultures, and learn maritime history. I also have a few cousins and relatives who are also seafarers," Ferol shared.
Behind the screen, however, Ferol does not see himself as a celebrity. "Kuya SEAd is just another simple, average seafarer. Whenever I am not online to assist my fellow seamen, I cook healthy food for my wife and play with my Labrador-Japanese Spitz dog. I am also a plantito."
"I am far from perfect but I have changed for the better. Right now, I am focused on building my own family and excited to raise our future God's Gift, a little Kuya SEAd in the making," he concluded.