Frankie the Philosopher Cat consented to one more interview before the close of the year. Speaking with him is always a pleasure and a privilege for us. How many people will give you their honest opinion on maritime matters and not dish out motherhood statements and the usual catchphrases? Certainly not the maritime bureaucrats. Here’s how our conversation with Frankie went:
Marine Café Blog: How would you describe 2014 maritime-wise?
Frankie: More of the same.
MCB: That’s sounds a bit cynical. Surely, there were some significant developments?
Frankie: Like IMO introducing more safety regulations? But they’ve been doing that all the time!
MCB: Don’t all these rules enhance maritime safety?
Frankie: That’s what Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu wants to believe. The bloke has been talking about cutting the number of casualties from sea accidents by 50%. He should watch CNN more often.
MCB: 2014 saw more strides in marine technology. There’s even talk of pilot-less ships in future. Aren’t you excited over these trends?
Frankie: Technology changes, people stay the same.
MCB: You never run out of aphorisms. Please explain what you mean.
Frankie: Seafarers continue to be treated like commodities.
MCB: But the number of inspections and detentions under ILO Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, has been on the rise. And there’s greater awareness of seafarers’ rights.
Frankie: Yeah, right. Those Port State Control chaps detain the ships for a couple of hours, then let them go like mice.
MCB: Are you suggesting giving MLC 2006 more teeth?
Frankie: Well, penalising shipowners who are in breach of the Convention would be a good idea. I suggest a US$25,000 fine for every violation, such as failing to provide toothpaste or wifi for the crew.
MCB: That could drive some shipowners to the poorhouse!
Frankie: So be it.
MCB: Let’s talk about Manila. Are Filipino seafarers now getting a better deal?
Frankie: Don’t be silly. The only ones getting a better deal are the local training centres, thanks to the mandatory Management Level Course (MLC) for ship officers. Maritime cadets still work their butts off as unpaid office help in manning agencies and seafarers’ unions. Want me to go on?
MCB: Can’t you see at least one improvement?
Frankie: There is one. Seafarers no longer have to start queueing up before sunrise to get their documents from the Maritime Industry Authority. I am told processing is faster now. You should buy those MARINA folks a case of beer.
MCB: The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) conducted its fourth inspection visit in the Philippines last October. Do you think the EU will finally give the country a thumbs up?
Frankie: Should it?
MCB: What’s your overall forecast for 2015, particularly where it concerns seafarers?
Frankie: More of the same.
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