Ships and men: the spectre of greed

“There is no torrent like greed,” said the Buddha. The torrent seems to be rather strong in the shipping industry. It is not confined to corporate boardrooms but swells and surges all around, sweeping those on shore and at sea. Could greed be the root cause of many of the industry’s problems, not least the never-ending series of marine accidents?

We see greed (depicted above in a detail of Evelyn De Morgan‘s 1909 painting The Worship of Mammon) in the way the body of 22-year-old engineer cadet Dayra Wood was handled after her death in 2012 on board a Panama-flag product carrier — stored inside the ship’s refrigerator as the vessel continued to sail for two weeks through Panama and thence to Mexico.

We see greed in the ugly practices by shipowners and manning agents which still flourish despite the incessant talk about seafarers’ rights — double bookkeeping; non-payment of wages; shortchanging of seamen in the conversion of their US dollars; denial of shore leave; and withholding of disability benefits.

We see greed as well in the International Maritime Organisation’s refusal to make available online the full text of IMO-copyrighted The International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) — thus making more money for itself and denying seafarers access to the very document that governs their profession.

If it is not greed for money, it is greed for power and recognition. We see it daily in Manila’s manning community — in the oneupmanship and backstabbing amongst local crewing agents; the divisiveness which has led to the creation of several manning associations and seafarers’ unions; the obsession with maritime awards; and the loquacity of those who pretend to be champions of seafarers’ rights.

Human greed knows no bounds. But surely there is a way to slow down the torrent? ~Barista Uno


One Reply to “Ships and men: the spectre of greed”

  1. Gerd Nagel

    I can neither confirm nor endorse such practises. Maybe seafarers should be more selective of whom they are working for. My company would sack me if I ever endorsed such practices, and with my fullest approval. Maybe it is time for seafarers to not only look for the quick extra 100$, but think about what the company has done for them. If they offered cadetship and promotion – then why not to think about the company as well instead of leaving for the better offer. I do not know the details about Dayra Wood, but I know that this would not have happened on any of my companies’ ships.

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