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When NAUTICAL LOG started going to sea professionally in 1953, having already worked in fishing boats during Summer holidays, the world pace was considerably slower. Not counting the passenger liners vessels were on average of slower service speeds and stayed longer in Ports loading and discharging cargoes. Since it was before the days of containers TEU box ships were unknown and a week in port was quite normal. In the Far East this could easily stretch to a month moored to buoys in the Hooghly River below the Howrah Bridge off Calcutta or in the Calcutta Docks - it was a choice of smells. Indonesia, Malaya, Singapore and Hong Kong were equally smelly - though different - rather more interesting as ports ashore. Japan was very clean but far too quick port turn-rounds and becoming more expensive each voyage. We left the Far East and could not wait to get back. The United States was rather a pain in the butt, Europe and Canada were pretty good however there was nothing that compared to East of Suez.

After the hustle and bustle of port operations both cargowise and ashore activities, it was time to sail and navigate along the coast plotting bearings every twenty (20) minutes or so, watching tides, the current, set and drift. Finally the land slipped away astern and one settled down to the slightly boring but familiar routine of ocean watchkeeping. The big event of the day being completing the "Noon Chit" and giving copies to the Master and Chief Engineer. Time to relax and think about things, perhaps that very nice girl from Surrey at the Calcutta Seaman's Club or the stunningly beautiful Indonesian ladies - always double check just to make sure.

The Cold War was on but it all seemed organized and one knew which side countries were on, it all had very little to do with seafarers or so we thought. The United States made a huge fuss of course with Immigration, Customs, and Health inspections (gross, crude and insulting), seaman's landing cards, those yellow 'shot' cards. Such an objectionable people one thought at the time, little did NAUTICAL LOG ever imagine coming to live here and actually becoming a U.S.Citizen - strange world never know where it will lead you.

Many of the ships carried Gurkha or Sikh guards while in the Far East and there were gates fitted in the outside passageways and on the companionways. The Sikhs are very serious chaps and it was not unknown to hear a thump and splash during the night watch. When one asked if all was well the reply from the Sikh deck watch was "Ek ardmi bar gill gia, all well now Sahib". It was of course best to leave it at that!! People knew areas of piracy and seafaring dangers, basically did not go there, made arrangements for protection if they had too and then did not pry too deeply with inquiries as to how matters were resolved. Local issues local methods worked out best.

Which brings one to today and our current unsolvable problem with piracy in the 21st. Century. There are two main types of piracy and neither is being dealt with in any particular way in spite of ancient maritime laws condemning piracy and laying out clear and permanent punishment - hanging from the yardarm or life in prison. The problems are insolvable because most current Governments lack the will to make hard and necessary decisions in complex circumstances. The leadership is weak, indecisive and inexperienced in many countries including here in the United States. Just looking at the handling of the situations in the Middle East and North Africa tends to confirm that opinion NAUTICAL LOG believes whatever ones political thinking, religious belief (if one follows one), or ethnic background.
One of course is the deplorable nautical thuggery of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) engaged in anti-whaling and anti-blue tuna fishing activities. To date not a single nation has actually acted against this SSCS Group in spite of clear evidence in photos and video provided with pride by themselves. In fact to the contrary, The Netherlands has provided Flag State Certificates of Registry to these pirate vessels. Australia, New Zealand and many other nations have provided fuel, supplies, crew and financial support to them. Their personnel travel freely between nations to join these vessels and also sell SSCS souvenirs dockside to support the violence, clothing items which are publicly worn by Government elected and appointed officials.

The other area of piracy is the Horn of Africa now extending out from Somalia across the Indian Ocean further and further each month. The Naval Force is so restricted by its Rules of Engagement as to be Rules of Stupidity, pirates are caught then released to rob and now kill another day. Add to this the sheer total irresponsibility of recreational yachtsman sailing in the area, then being boarded, murdered, and a family including children captured. The lack of leadership by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is absolutely deplorable, any IMO official with the slightest sense of honour would resign. The United Nations has made its usual diplomatically worded statement which will have not the slightest effect. Nations who support and register one type of pirate group, the SSCS, send their naval vessels to patrol against the other pirate group off HOA. Does this make any sense? - not to NAUTICAL LOG.

Now finally some principle shipping organisations have formed SAVE OUR SEAFARERS to seriously try to resolve the problem. These organisations are ITF, International Chamber of Shipping, INTERTANKO, INTERCARGO, BIMCO. Notably absent from the Group is the IMO which should be the lead Organisation - why are we not surprised. The Naval Force Commander must still be given clear Rules of Engagement that actually allow serious counter-piracy action which will solve the problem - permanently - as stated in International Maritime Law.

Well reflections from here in my office with traffic noise and aircraft coming into land at MIA is not as peaceful has the wing of the Bridge with a sea breeze. A seagoing lifestyle now gone, greatly missed in retirement, in a World vastly changed unfortunately it would seem not for the better. However as the calm comes after the storm at sea we move forward in hope - we are seafarers.

Good Watch.


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