The maritime landscape in Manila would not be complete without the cadets who work as unpaid labour for the manning agencies and some seafarer unions. Individually and collectively, these cadets are commonly called ‘utility’. The term is descriptive of the many ways these aspiring ship officers are utilised. However, I would rather use the phrase ‘cadet flunkey’ — flunkey, meaning a person who does menial or trivial work for another, especially with unquestioning obedience. It is less demeaning and more accurate.
The following are some of the tasks cadet flunkeys are made to perform in exchange for being deployed eventually as apprentice–officers. I have seen worse, but these would–be ship officers never complain. Understanbly so, since the 12-month shipboard apprenticeship is a requisite for graduation in Philippine maritime schools.
Greek mythology and the religion of ancient Greece have had a deeper impact on the shipping world than some people realise. The very word “ocean” can be traced back to the Greek Okeanos, the great river that flowed around the earth and was personified as Oceanus.
The gods and goddesses worshipped by the Hellenes have been memorialised in the names of such maritime companies as the UAE-basd Helios International FZC and Norway’s Poseidon Simulation AS. Some of the deities have even travelled the world, their names emblazoned on the hulls of ships. Here are some examples:
An act of God or the acts of men. Whatever the cause of the accident, a shipwreck is always a doleful sight. The following photographs from more than a century ago evoke images of fallen soldiers on a battlefield or bones of some ancient animal in a museum. They are all reminders of the heartless power of the sea, the dangers of seafaring, and the fragility of life. For all this, the world of shipping never stops. Young men and women continue to dream of becoming sailors. And disasters at sea still unfold.
Australia is famous for the Sydney Opera House, Bondi Beach, Great Barrier Reef, kangaroos and koalas, dairy products, wines, and many other things besides. It is less noted for marine art, at least compared with the UK and The Netherlands. This is unfortunate. Australia has a long history of marine art, and its contemporary artists are busy producing plenty of it. Here’s a serving that should prove quite filling:
The following is an updated version of an article that was originally posted on Marine Café Blog on 20th July 2021.
It’s interesting how the plight of seafarers can be encapsulated in a single word. The following list of transitive verbs (action words with a direct object) provides good examples. The words tell some of the ways seafarers are exploited or mistreated. I have defined each one with specific reference to seafarers, illustrating how the word is used with an example sentence.
Many folks who have fallen in love with The Wellerman (full title: ‘Soon May the Wellerman Come’) call it a “sea shanty”. Even Scottish singer Nathan Evans, whose version went viral on TikTok in late 2020, has labelled it as such. They are sadly mistaken. The Wellerman is not a shanty but a 19th-century whaling ballad or folk song from New Zealand.
Why is it important to know this?
First, because it prevents us from making the same mistake many people make when they assume that Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah is a sacred song or hymn. This highly popular song, which Cohen recorded in 1984, is actually about earthly, profane love that makes references to the Bible and has erotic connotations.
Everyone has a bit of the narcissist in himself or herself. Why else was the mirror invented? In a 1914 paper entitled ‘On Narcissism: An Introduction’, Sigmund Freud postulated that narcissism starts in infancy as part of the development of the ego and libido.
Some people outgrow this stage . Others don’t. They become obsessed with their self–image like Narcissus of Greek mythology, who fell in love with his own reflection in the waters of a spring, pined away, and died to be transformed into a flower that bears his name.
To call maritime cadets ‘utility’ as most folks in Manila do is dehumanising. The term ‘maritime flunkey’ or ‘cadet flunkey’, which I prefer, is more benign. However, it still does not give a true picture of the young aspiring ship officers who serve — for months on end in many cases — as unpaid labour for the local manning agencies and seafarer unions.
Slaves. Conscripted labour. These more accurately describe the cadets in question. The following excerpts from my e-book, ‘Close Encounters in Maritime Manila’, should shock anyone who has not become jaded and who sees these exploited youths as human beings, not as mere objects to be used.
The coronavirus is still on a rampage, spinning off new variants that cause even more sickness and death. These are gloomy times indeed. But why fret and wear a long face? La vida es bella y corta! Life is beautiful and short. Cheer up with some limericks — short, humorous verses that are often silly, nonsensical and even lewd.
The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights dates back to 1948. Long before that, the Parliament of England had passed ‘The Bill of Rights’ (1689) and the National Assembly of France, the ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen’ (1789). In the 21st century, the clamour for human rights has become more strident. And yet, those rights continue to be violated every single minute. The same is true of the rights of seafarers and others who toil at sea. What seems to be the problem?
“All nonsense questions are unanswerable,” wrote the British writer and lay theologian C.S. Lewis in his book A Grief Observed, which was first published in 1961. The following questions are not nonsense. In fact, they are valid and important questions. It seems, though, that they are seldom, if ever, raised by maritime folks. I myself continue to ask these questions, but I’m not sure if I have found the answers to all of them.
No matter how folks in Manila try to justify it, the practice of using maritime cadets as unpaid office help and domestic servants is wrong. It is not only wrong; it is disgraceful. It can also have harmful effects on the individual cadet and the maritime community at...
Marine Café Blog was launched on 25th August 2009. Twelve years and hundreds of posts later, it is still sailing through waters that can be quite choppy at times. Some readers may wonder why. How can a blogger keep going when blogging does not fill his pocket and there will always be those who will bash him for his views? In my case, I have four simple answers.