Looking back from today after a long and varied life at sea and travelling the world it seems that after World War 2 was a much better time overall for seamen. Standards were improving as were ships, wages and life seemed more balanced somehow. From the point-of-view of retirement the years when we were young officers where actually pretty good. As the British, and French Empires finished, more so than the Belgian, Spanish and Portuguese, new nations wanted there own shipping lines. This resulted in the former Colonial countries starting to operate ships and it created - well change. Three decades later things had become quite confused and NAUTICAL LOG believes this has gradually led to the poorer conditions and multi-national poorly trained crews manning many vessels. The current cruise ships can have 35 nationalities serving aboard, we did in just a crew of 600, today the crews are 3 and 4 times that number in these ships. The whole is equally poorly led, or rather not led at all by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) with its hull numbers and voluminous paperwork much of it for crews whose education is that of the late 19th. Century, if they can read and write at all in this 21st. Century. Which leads us to two particular points from those Reports.
First once again we have remarks about piracy and however well intentioned that is just what they are - remarks. CAPT. Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB stated and we quote:
"Figures for piracy and armed robbery at sea in the past three months are higher than we've ever recorded in the first quarter of any year."
As a result of the pirates retaining hostages after a ransom had been paid the International Chamber of Shipping, ITF, Indian National Shipowner's Association, NUSI, MUI, IMEC, InterManager, Intertanko, and BIMCO issued a statement:
"A fundamental change to previous practice - just between shipowner and the pirates to being the pirates and a government - it is a major shift in the pirate-hostage equation which will need to be considered and addressed by the international commnunity".
The International Maritime Bureau's (IMB) global piracy report says the sharp rise was driven by a surge in incidents off the coast of Somalia, (no surprise there) where 97 attacks were recorded in the first three months compared with 35 in the same period last year. Still it remains what it is - more talk and no action.
|MT Hebei Spirit|
Our second point is actually in some ways more serious because it took place in a regular civilized port or at least one thought of as 'civilized'. Going back to December 2007 the MT Hebei Spirit was anchored in a tanker designated anchor berth at the Port of Daesan, South Korea. While at this anchorage she was hit by a Korean barge owned by Samsung, Korea whose tug lost control and holed the tanker spilling 10,500 tonnes of crude oil into the sea. This resulted in not the Korean barge crew being punished but the Indian Officers being arrested. The Master, and Chief Officer were taken ashore and jailed. They remained in jail for seven months. The Korean Court exonerated the Indian Officers however Samsung Korea appealed that decision and the Indian Officers were returned to jail. One year after the accident in December 2008 an appeal was finally heard and at this hearing the Court (if it may be called that) ruled Samsung Korea 10% to blame for the oil spill. The Indian Officers were removed from the Court in handcuffs and returned to jail. They were finally freed to return home in June 2009 but as a final insult the Korean Court still judged them to be partly to blame. While this treatment dealt to these Indian Officers is extreme it is by no means unique.
So after all that NAUTICAL LOG is hardly surprised that the shipping industry suffers from chronic and worsening manpower shortages. In this current world of civilised socialism where everything is taken care of from birth to death, at least for the chosen people who live under these systems, what reason is there for them to make an effort to work at all never mind going to sea as a career. These same countries of civilised socialism of the chosen ones are those of the shipowners who hire some 'umpteenth' world nationals to mann their ships, then allow pirates and such as Korean Courts to treat us seafarers like merde.
Please remember the seafarers held captive by pirates off Somalia and even if you think of us as second class citizens we are fellow human beings - so work with India and others to free them.