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Ah, the things they make Filipino maritime cadets do!

Ah, the things they make Filipino maritime cadets do!

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.

Performing multiple office tasks. No doubt, the cadet flunkeys could make use of such skills as operating a fax machine or inputting data into a computer. But doing it for months and without pay?

Serving as doormen to screen visitors, including seafarers who are desperate for employment. The cadets may be required to be in their spanking cadet uniforms — just like the uniformed valets and porters of luxury hotels. Putting one’s best foot forward, as the expression goes.

Acting as messengers and all-around gofers. What manning agency or seafarer union cannot make use of extra hands? To have cadet flunkeys come running at one’s bidding is convenient for the staff, especially when they are craving for hot pizza from a nearby mall.

Cooking and serving as waiters. Cadet flunkeys are useful when crewing managers need to stay in the office for lunch. Or when there’s a small office gathering and outside catering services are not needed. But what have these tasks got to do with a future ship officer’s job? The cadet flunkeys are aspiring to become master mariners and chief engineers, not ship’s cooks or restaurant waiters.

Performing janitorial tasks (without being paid, of course), What could be more demeaning to a would–be ship officer than to be ordered to clean the office toilet and mop the floors? Some cadet flunkeys actually work as household servants.

Giving the boss a massage and driving for him or the missus. This is not internship, but plain servitude. But who in maritime Manila gives a hoot? It’s par for the course for a young person who dreams of sailing and seeing the world.

~ Barista Uno

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The power of myth: Ships named after Greek deities

The power of myth: Ships named after Greek deities

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:

OCEANUS (built 1954)
Photo by Okänd fotograf, 1964
Courtesy of Sjöhistoriska museet, Stockholm

Named after Oceanus, the oldest Titan, the son of Uranus (Heaven) and Gaea (Earth), the husband of the Titan Tethys, and father of 3,000 stream spirits and 3,000 ocean nymphs READ MORE

Oceanus, 1588/1590
Woodcut print by Hendrick Goltzius (Dutch, 1558–1617)
Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

CRONUS LEADER (built 2008) at the Pierre Vandamme Lock, Zeebrugge, Belgium
Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Tvx1
Licence: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Named after Cronus (also spelled Cronos or Kronos), male deity identified with the Roman god Saturn. In art he was depicted as an old man holding an implement, probably originally a sickle but interpreted as a harp?, or curved sword. READ MORE

 

Saturn (Cronus), c. 1670
Etching by Girolamo Scarselli (Italian, active 1670)
Courtesy of the Philadephia Museum of Art

NEREUS (built 1957)
Photo by J. Robert Boman (1926 – 2002), 1966
Courtesy of Sjöhistoriska museet, Stockholm

Named after Nereus, sea god called by Homer “Old Man of the Sea,” noted for his wisdom, gift of prophecy, and ability to change his shape. READ MORE

 

Nereus, 1586
Engraving by Philips Galle (Dutch, 1537–1612)
Courtesy of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

DEMETER (built 2006) at Casablanca port, Morocco
Photo by Farid Mernissi, 2019
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) licence

Named after Demeter, daughter of the deities Cronus and Rhea, sister and consort of Zeus (the king of the gods), and goddess of agriculture. READ MORE

 

Figurine of Demeter with Pig, 5th century B.C.
Terra cotta sculpture, Athens, Greece
Courtesy of The Cleveland Museum of Art

NAVIOS HELIOS (built 2005) moored at Mercuriushaven, Port of Amsterdam
Photo by Alf van Beem, 2019
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Named after Helios, the sun god, sometimes called a Titan. He drove a chariot daily from east to west across the sky. READ MORE

 

Marble relief showing sun god Helios, between the first quarter of the 3rd century BC and 390 B.C.
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

SELENE (built 1894)
Photo by Okänd fotograf, 1952
Courtesy of Sjöhistoriska museets, Stockholm

Named after Selene, the personification of the moon as a goddess. She was worshipped at the new and full moons. READ MORE

 

The goddess of the Moon, with her cloak billowing above her head
Photo by Anthony Majanlahti on Flickr, 2005
Licence: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

POSEIDON (built 1957)
Photo by Okänd fotograf/Hansen & Pedersen, 1959
Courtesy of Sjöhistoriska museet, Stockholm

Named after Poseidon, god of the sea (and of water generally), earthquakes, and horses. READ MORE

 

Poseidon
Photo by Fernando Insausti on Flickr, 2014
Licence: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

EROS (built 1957)
Photo by Okänd fotograf
Courtesy of Sjöhistoriska museets, Stockholm
Licence: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Named after Eros, god of love. He was a god not simply of passion but also of fertility. READ MORE

 

Bronze statue of Eros sleeping, 3rd—2nd century B.C.
Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

ATHENA (built 2003) at Casablanca port, Morocco
Photo by Farid Mernissi
Licence: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Named after Athena, goddess of war, handicraft, and practical reason, the daughter of Zeus. READ MORE

 

Mattei Athena at the Louvre
Marble sculpture, Roman copy from the 1st century B.C./A.D. after a Greek original of the 4th century B.C., attributed to Cephisodotos or Euphranor.
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

ZEUS (built 2010) at Mississippihaven, Port of Rotterdam
Photo by Alf van Beem, 2021
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Named after Zeus, chief deity of the pantheon, a sky and weather god who was identical with the Roman god Jupiter. READ MORE

 

Zeus in Olympia, 1815
Quatremère de Quincy (French, 1755–1849)
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

~ Barista Uno

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Shipwrecks in century-old photographs: A never-ending story?

Shipwrecks in century-old photographs: A never-ending story?

Shipwrecks in century-old photographs: A never-ending story?

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.

“The sea — this truth must be confessed — has no generosity. No display of manly qualities — courage, hardihood, endurance, faithfulness — has ever been known to touch its irresponsible consciousness of power.”

— Joseph Conrad, from The Mirror of the Sea (1906)

Wreck of the SS ADOLPHE with mast of tbe SS REGENT MURRAY, Newcastle, NSW, September 1904
Courtesy of The University of Newcastle, Australia

HEREWARD wrecked on Maroubra Beach, May 1898
Courtesy of the Australian National Maritime Museum

“Ah Heaven!—behold her crashing ribs divide!
She loosens, parts, and spreads in ruin o’er the tide.”

— William Falconer, from Shipwreck (1762)

Sinking of the SS AUSTRAL, Neutral Bay, New South Wales, November 1882
Photo by John Paine (1833–1908)
Courtesy of the Australian National Maritime Museum

ENDURANCE final sinking in Antarctica, November 1915
Photo by Frank Hurley (1885–1962)
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Wreck of the GRADTITUDE, Macquarie Island
1911 photo by Frank Hurley (1885–1962)
Courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales

“A rotten carcass of a boat, not rigged,
Nor tackle, sail, nor mast; the very rats
Instinctively have quit it.”

— William Shakespeare, from The Tempest (1610–1611)

Wreck of ship DERRY CASTLE on Enderby Island, Auckland Islands, March 1887
Photo by David De Maus (1847–1925)
Courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand

~ Barista Uno

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Ahoy! Dandy marine art from Down Under

Ahoy! Dandy marine art from Down Under

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:

Manly Beach, 1895
Arthur Streeton (Australian, 1867–1943)
Oil on plywood
Courtesy of Culture Victoria

Bronte Beach, 1888
Charles Conder (Australian, 1868–1909)
Courtesy of the Google Art Project

Green Cape Lighthouse ca. 1886
Julian Rossi Ashton (1851-1942)
Grey wash heightened with white
Courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales

The camp, Sirius Cove, 1899
Tom Roberts (Australian, 1856–1931)
Oil on canvas on paperboard
Courtesy of the Google Art Project

Enjoy contempary Aussie marine art in these back issues of ‘Marine Art in Australia’ newsletter,

Click on each image to download. >>

Slumbering sea, Mentone, 1887
Tom Roberts (Australian, 1856–1931)
Oil on canvas
Courtesy of the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV)

From McMahon’s Point – fare one penny, 1890
Arthur Streeton (Australian, 1867–1943)
Oil on canvas
Courtesy of the Google Art Project

The City’s Toil, 1887
Frederick McCubbin (Australian, 1855–1917)
Oil on canvas
Courtesy of WikiArt: Visual Art Encyclopedia

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~ Barista Uno

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Words that speak loudly of how seafarers are abused

Words that speak loudly of how seafarers are abused

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.

abandon: to stop providing support to a ship’s crew and letting them fend for themselves without pay and necessary provisions

They were all on the brink of starvation after being abandoned by the vessel’s owner.

bilk: to get money from a seafarer unfairly or through deceit

They introduce more trainingr requirements to bilk more money from seafarers.

blacklist: to put a seafarer on a list of those who are undesirable and shouldn’t be hired

The poor chap got blacklisted for reporting shipboard malpracitces to the ITF.

commodify: to treat or regard seafarers as commodities (as something useful that can be turned to advantage or profit)

The extent to which seafarers have been commodified is appalling.

criminalise: to treat seafarers as criminals in case of a marine accident or to impose on them criminal penalties that are uncalled for

There has been a tendency to criminlatise ship captains for accidents that are apparently the act of God.

defraud: to take money illegally from seafarers through deception

The manning agent defrauded applicants with false promises of employment.

deprive: to prevent a seafarer from having or enjoying something, especially something which is necessary or to which he is entitled

Seafarers are deprived of free online access to the full text of the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW).

“Words can be like X-rays, if you use them properly—they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.”

 

— Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

exploit: to use seafarers for one’s own selfish end or benefit (usually financial)

Some maritime unions are the first to exploit seafarers.

harass: to subject a seafarer to initimidation, uncalled-for pressure or hostile remarks over a period of time

The able-seaman was continually harassed by the despotic captain.

hoodwink: to deceive or trick a seafarer

The cadet was hoodwinked into believing that he could sail in just a few weeks if he served as unpaid errand boy in the agency.

intimidate: to frighten a seafarer with threats so he will comply with what one wishes him to do or not do

The ship’s crew was intimidated into silence regarding the many abuses on board.

overburden: to give seafarers more work or tasks than they can deal with

Today’s ship officers are overburdened with paperwork.

short-change: to cheat seafarers by giving them less money than what they should receive (in ordinary usage, to give a buyer less change than what he should get)

The manning agent routinely short-changed the crew in the conversion of their dollar remittances to the local currency.

skim: to steal money from seafarers in small amounts over time so that the stealing is not so obvious

They thought nothing of skimming money from seafarers’ remittances.

stonewall: to give a seafarer a hard time by refusing to answer questions or by being evasive in order to delay or obstruct

His manning agency stonewalled him every time he followed up his claim for back wages.

~ Barista Uno

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