Tighter regulations and increased training requirements will not lead to a culture of safety. The MV Rena (2011), Costa Concordia (2012) and SS El Faro (2015) incidents offer the best proof. Sadly, the list of 21st-century maritime disasters is far from finished.
On the other hand, who can deny the fact that shipboard safety is a matter of habit? All living creatures are “bundles of habit”, wrote Ameican psychologiest and philosopher William James in his 68-page treatise simply entitled ‘Habit’.
After reading the limericks of Edward Lear, the English painter and writer, I felt that I should try my hand at this popular form of humourous verse. Traditional limericks are often nonsensical and even bawdy. But why not, I thought, put in some meaning and relevance to the times? The following nautical limericks are my first attempts at the craft.
For centuries, the kimono has been worn by Japanese women, men and children as an everyday garment or as a formal attire for ceremonial events. In either case, it is more than a piece of clothing. It is a work of art that embodies Japanese aesthetics, the craftmanship of weavers and designers, and the Japanese love for nature. The following kimonos are striking in their incorporation of sea and other water images.
Many crewing agencies in Manila regularly use cadets as unpaid office flunkeys and even as personal servants, in some cases for months on end. They are the main guilty parties in this egregious exploitation of young aspiring ship officers. But some others are complicit.
Why listen to the slogans blaring out of the IMO and its global maritime chorus? These incessant tributes to seafarers are not music to the ears. They are hackneyed and shopworn. They don’t mean a thing. It is more pleasant to hear the wonderful beat of commerce on the waterfront and the enchanting sounds of the sea and seagulls.
The shipping industry should stop this silly talk about seafarers being invisible. How can they be out of sight and out of mind? Seafarers love to post selfies on Facebook. And there is constant warbling from the maritime do-gooders about the rights and mental health of mariners that is louder than the song of a blue whale.
No sir, the really invisible ones are the fishermen who eke out a living from the sea. They are seldom in the media spotlight. Unsung, they face greater dangers in the course of their work than do merchant sailors. Yet, how many would spare a thought for these hardy folks?
Can the world do without fish? In 2018 humans consumed a total of 156.4 million tonnes (live weight) of fish, according to The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2020 published by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN. The following is a tribute to God-given, life-sustaining fish from various artists and from the great Irish poet, William Butler Yeats.
Any person with some ethical sense would say that the use of cadets as unpaid office flunkeys and domestic servants is wrong. But for most folks in maritime Manila, the practice is both normal and right.
Some even insist that it is beneficial to the cadets, like the manning executive who once declared, “You have to break them in”. He sounded as though he was talking about of a new pair of shoes that need to be loosened so it can be worn comfortably by the owner. Fair enough, but why subject the cadets to indefinite periods of servitude before deploying them oversas as apprentice-officers?
In his 1906 book The Mirror of the Sea, Joseph Conrad likened the sea to “a savage autocrat” with a “conscienceless temper”, the “irreconcilable enemy of ships and men.” The sea, however, has not stopped the centuries-old tide of emigrants. Today, people still cross the ocean to escape political or religious persecution at home, or simply to seek a better life in a foreign land. It’s a familiar narrative that is told in the following works of art.
American-born artist James McNeill Whistler is remembered by many for his iconic ‘‘Portrait of the Artist’s Mother’ and his dream-like paintings such as ‘Harmony in Blue and Silver: Trouville’. His etchings, however, are not less deserving of admiration. He created many such works, the most interesting being his etchings of waterfront scenes.
In Manila, cadets who serve as unpaid labour for manning agencies in the guise of internship are called “utility”. I have always found the use of this term both amusing and vexing. It sounds quirky and is one example of how Filipinos sometimes misuse or bastardise the English language.
French artist James Tissot (born Jacques Joseph Tissot in 1936) was enamoured with women. No, not with women in general but with the fashionably dressed women of late Victorian society. He painted them in such a way that one would be irresistibly pulled in by their charm.
It’s high time the Philippines took steps to end its Marcos-era bareboat chartering programme. For sure, the scheme is providing additional employment to Filipino seafarers as foreign ships temporarily registered under the national flag are required to have an all-Filipino crew. But almost five decades after it was institutionalised, bareboating has not resulted in the development of the country’s ocean-going fleet or the strengthening of its shipowning class. On the contrary, it has hastened the demise of both.