From a small equatorial island to travelling the world onboard the largest ships

Crew Member Stories

May 10, 2023

By Sofyan Ahmad

From a small equatorial island to travelling the world onboard the largest ships

I was born on November 28, 1996 on a small island, called Bawean. It is a tropical island, sitting right on the equator, approximately 150 kilometers (93 miles) north of Surabaya in the Java Sea.

Growing up in a remote area was quite challenging for me. My hometown is only 197 km², with a population of 80.000, and well, that’s way too small for me to explore and expand my curiosity.

My journey really began back in 2011, when I decided to go to a high school outside my island. There is one in Bawean, but I wanted to challenge myself, push my boundaries, and learn other languages besides Indonesian dialects. To get to the island where the high school is, there are two options, either by Sea or Air, but at the time, the airport didn’t exist yet. So yes sir, I went by Ferry which takes 3 hours. It wasn’t my first time going by ferry but these daily trips filled a big part of my day, and that’s when the thought crossed my mind “what if I have my own ferry and I start my own journey whenever I want to”. Then and there, I decided to start my career as a seafarer.

In 2011 I started as a freshman in a boarding high school. Things went well, the only thing that was a hassle was the language… as I told you, Indonesia has more than 700 dialects that are spoken daily. Anyways, time flies and I was able to adapt to the new environment and culture faster than I thought. However, there was something that I was never happy with, it was the food. At the boarding school, they gave us industrialized processed foods, who knows what was in it… It always made me think of home and how good the food was there. I definitely feel better when I know where the ingredients are coming from!

I didn’t go back home for a long time, and oh how I missed it. It’s lovely to be on that island, enjoying golden-violet sunsets and sunrises, breathing pure oxygen, and a summer breeze all day long, in a tiny paradise.

2014 was my high school graduation year, but the plan didn’t go accordingly, so I took the time off to learn English. In 2015 I was accepted into the Maritime academy in Semarang, Indonesia.
It went smoothly because it was a similar system to the boarding school. The first year flew by successfully, and then the second year, we had to prepare ourselves for all the tests to practice as cadets. Thank God, I was assigned to a great German company BSM or Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, and well, my dream came true! I found a company that continuously challenges me. I always remember the first time I went on board and started working in a multinational crew, till that point in my life I had only met Indonesian people. That was real diversity!

Fast forward to the present and I have to say I feel very blessed with my current situation. I rank as 3rd officer on board, and I am always meeting people from other countries, from native English speakers from The United States and Australia to people who speak completely new languages and come from places I’ve never even heard of.

That is one of the biggest advantages of being a seafarer… even though there is always a downside. It is never easy to be far away from your family for long periods, and you have to endure terrible weather sometimes, but nothing is perfect, as they saw ‘the show must go on’.

Otherwise…all your stuff is not delivered on time…


Sofyan Ahmad

Sofyan holds the rank of third officer for Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, currently on the container ship MV. Maersk Shivling.


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