Mediterranean migrants: quotes from their life-savers

Mediterranean migrants: quotes from their life-savers

French artist Alfred Guillou depicted the horror of being shipwrecked and drowning at sea in his heart-wrenching 1892 painting, Adieu! (pictured above). Today, life is imitating art as people continue to flee from Libya to seek asylum in Europe. Thousands have died on the perilous journey. Many more would have died if not for the few NGOs which operate rescue vessels in the central Mediterranean.

Sadly, those who try to save the migrants are not always seen in a positive light. They are villified, accused of aiding human traffickers and dismissed as a bunch of social activists. The following quotes cast light on what drives these life-savers and the scenes of human suffering they have to endure.

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Europe didn’t give us a port of safety so we had to bob up and down in international waters for several days with that boy in the freezer, with his mother onboard, and you were really wondering what you are going to tell that woman whose child is in your freezer about the Nobel peace prize-winning European Union.

~ Pia Klemp, captain of rescue ship Iuventa, as quoted by The Guardian newspaper

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I have white skin, I was born in a rich country, I have the right passport, I was allowed to attend three universities, and I graduated at the age of 23. I feel a moral obligation to help those people who did not have the foundations that I did.

~ Carola Rackete, Sea-Watch captain, as quoted by the Deutsche Welle newspaper

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Instead of assisting people in need, Europe prefers to support the so-called Libyan Coast Guard, which continuously causes the deaths of many people with their brutal interference, including the illegal abduction of displaced and fleeing persons back to Libya. The situation we currently find ourselves in is perverse. It could not be further away from the humanitarian principles we believed the European community to be based upon.

~ Michael Schwickart, Head of Fundraising / Crewmember, Sea-Watch

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My strongest memory from the Aquarius was the day I hugged a tiny baby – just a few weeks old – as his mother boarded the boat. His skin was all raw from scabies. Wrapped in his blanket, he was so light that he seemed not to weigh anything.

~ Viviana, lifeguard aboard the Aquarius, from SOS Mediterranee Log entry #79

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We don’t want to hear the praise of those who consider us heroes. Because it shouldn’t happen, because the world shouldn’t need such heroes.

~ Edouard, SAR-Team member aboard the Aquarius, from SOS Mediterranee Log entry #83 (translated from German by Anna Kallage)

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People, including underage minors, have described being tortured with electric shocks, beaten with guns and sticks, or burned with melted plastic. They tell me how they still feel the pain from their wounds and scars sustained during their time in Libya.

~ Dr Luca Pigozzi, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) medical doctor on board the Ocean Viking

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Saving lives is non negotiable. Saving lives is what we do, what we will continue to fight for, and what we urge you to defend. Saving lives is indeed a fundamental part of the Global Compact. Whether states choose to endorse this compact or not, they are bound by national, regional, and international law. This compact is based on existing responsibilities, that prohibit treating people like commodities, wherever they are. Regardless of why people left their place of origin, they need protection from violence and exploitation.

~ Dr Joanne LiuInternational President, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) 

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The accusation that humanitarian rescuers are a pull factor for migrants is akin to saying that “NGOs working in a refugee camp are the reason for refugees.”

~ Médecins sans Frontières (MSF), DEFENDING HUMANITY AT SEA

~ Barista Uno

The Marine Cafe Blog

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IMO raking it in from STCW and other publications

IMO raking it in from STCW and other publications

In contrast to the ILO’s policy, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) does not provide free online access to the full texts of the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) and other IMO conventions. How ironic! The IMO wants seafarers to conform to the STCW standards and follow other IMO regulations. Yet, it is depriving them of ready access to the very information that would help them do so.

I had always thought that the STCW and other publications served as IMO’s golden goose. However, I never realised how much money the goose generated until I read the UN agency’s Financial Report and Audited Financial Statements for the Year Ended 31 December 2018. It was an eye-opener, to say the least.

Publication sales actually rank no.1 in the IMO’s commercial “revenue streams”. In 2018 they totalled £13.91 million (US$16.89 million) compared with £9.98 million (US$12.12 million) — or a 39% jump. The increase is attributed to the sale of new editions of the GMDSS Manual (2017 edition) and STCW (2017 edition). The report points out that “a high proportion of the Organization’s sales are made through distributors rather than directly to the end user.” Even so, the IMO is clearly raking it in.

Source: IMO financial statements for 2018

I can understand that the print editions of IMO publications have to be paid for by customers. The poor folks at IMO London have to recover the cost of printing, handling and delivery. Perhaps one can even forgive them for selling the electronic versions. But £50 for a digital copy of the 2017 edition of STCW (including the 2010 Manila amendments)? This is plain highway robbery.

~ Barista Uno

The Marine Cafe Blog

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The wellness training craze: compassion for seafarers?

The wellness training craze: compassion for seafarers?

The international maritime community is going gaga over wellness training. One UK-based seafarers’ charity even wants to make it mandatory for seafarers. That idea is pinheaded but not really surprising. The shipping industry has a weakness for buzzwords which tends to create a kind of maniacal obsession. Remember the phrase “invisible seafarers” concocted by the International Maritime Organization and mouthed by every maritime Tom, Dick and Harry?

In the case of wellness training, the maritime press is just as guilty as the charities of pushing the catchphrase without giving it much serious thought. Do the advocates of wellness training really have the well-being of seafarers in mind? Or are they just hitching on to the bandwagon to suit their own interests?

It’s a fair question to ask. The fact is that the “wellness” tide has been sweeping the whole world for the past several years at least. In the United States, the origins of the phenomenon can be traced back to the late 1950s, when Dr Halbert L. Dunn introduced the concept of “high-level wellness”. Why is the maritime community blabbering about wellness only now? Why not three or five years earlier?

Proponents of wellness training for seafarers say depression at sea is a common problem. They cite studies that purportedly show a rise in the number of suicides involving depressed mariners. Maybe so, but why are they raising the issue only now? Did depression amongst seafarers suddenly pop up from nowhere?

~ Barista Uno

The Marine Cafe Blog

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Lighthouse photographs and reflections on life

Lighthouse photographs and reflections on life

A lighthouse is more than what the Cambridge Dictionary says it is: “a tall structure by the sea with a flashing light that warns ships of dangerous rocks or shows them the way into a port.” It serves to inspire writers, painters, photographers and anybody whose mind has not been jaded by the mundane and the practical. As a piece of architecture, it shares one thing in common with cathedrals, mosques and temples: it appeals to the eye as well as the spirit.

Cockspur Island Lighthouse, 2016 (merged from two photos)
Photo credit: Billy Birdwell, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District.

You see, the point is that the strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone. ~ Henrik Ibsen

Lighthouse in Azores, Portugal, 2019
Photo credit: Tom Swinnen

Good fortune will elevate even petty minds, and gives them the appearance of a certain greatness and stateliness, as from their high place they look down upon the world; but the truly noble and resolved spirit raises itself, and becomes more conspicuous in times of disaster and ill fortune... ~ Plutarch

Anacapa Island and Lighthouse, 2016
Photo credit: NOAA, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries

Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god. ~ Francis Bacon

Unidentified lighthouse, 2019
Photo credit: Mael Balland

How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world. ~ William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

The light, 2015
Photo credit: Linda Watts

Seeing into darkness is clarity.
Knowing how to yield is strength.
Use your own light
and return to the source of light.
This is called practicing eternity.

~Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching (translated by Stephen Mitchell)

Lighthouse in Rethimno, Greece, 2017
Photo credit: Jim Kalligas

A light here required a shadow there. ~ Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse 

Cape Byron Lighthouse, Australia, 2011
Photo credit: Bernard Spragg

I call on your pride. Remember what you’ve done, what you dream of doing, and rise up. Great Heavens, consider yourself with more respect! ~ Gustave Flaubert

Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse, Nova Scotia, Canada, 2016
Photo credit: Brad Penney

Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead. ~ Louisa May Alcott

Newfoundland–42, 2011
Photo credit: Alan Schmierier

If the path be beautiful, let us not ask where it leads. ~ Anatole France

Mellum Lighthouse, North Sea, 2016
Photo credit: Nane Kratzke

I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. ~ William Faulkner

~ Barista Uno

The Marine Cafe Blog

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What’s in a name? The boat vs. ship question revisited

What’s in a name? The boat vs. ship question revisited

What is the difference between a boat and a ship? I am posing this old question again because, try hard as I may, I cannot find a satisfactory answer that would put the matter to rest. If the conundrum can befuddle seafarers and other maritime professionals, what more in the case of the average person who is unfamiliar with watercraft?

Dictionaries are virtually useless for resolving the issue. The Cambridge Dictionary, for one, defines a boat as “a small vehicle for travelling on water” whilst a ship is “a large boat for travelling on water, especially across the sea”. This is begging the question. How large does a vessel have to be in order for one to call it a “ship”?

The information offered by Wikipedia is a bit more helpful:

A boat is a watercraft of a large range of type and size. Ships are generally distinguished from boats based on their larger size, shape, and cargo or passenger capacity, and their ability to carry boats.

A ship is a large watercraft that travels the world’s oceans and other sufficiently deep waterways, carrying passengers or goods, or in support of specialized missions, such as defense, research and fishing.

The above definitions are still vague, though. They fail to specifiy what length, breadth, tonnage and cargo or passenger capacity are required for one thing to be called a ship and another, a boat. The phrase “ability to carry boats” appears to provide a handle for dealing with the slippery question. However, one can make the argument that a boat can carry another boat provided it is large enough.

How large does a vessel have to be in order for one to call it a “ship”?.

Wading through legal definitions can be as tricky as walking on a minefield. Consider these two definitions from the United States Code, both of which seem to place boats under the same category as ships:

From Title 46 of the Code:

The term “ship” or “vessel” includes every description of watercraft or other artificial contrivance, except aircraft, used or capable of being use as a means of transportation on water, whether or not it is actually afloat.

From Title 18 of the same Code:

“ship” means a vessel of any type whatsoever not permanently attached to the sea-bed, including dynamically supported crarft, submersibles, or any other floating craft, but does not include a warship, a ship owned or operated by a government when being used as a naval auxiliary or for customs or police purposes, or a ship which has been withdrawn from navigation or laid up;

The definition of “boat” laid down in the US Federal Boat Safety Act of 1971 offers some hope for addressing the boat-ship dilemma:

“Boat” means any vessel —

(A) manufactured or used primarily for noncommercial use: or
(B) leased, rented or chartered to another for the latter’s non-commercial use; or
(C) engaged in the carrying of six or fewer passengers

The six-passenger cap in this definition seems arbitrary. What if a seventh passenger jumped on board? Would the boat then be transformed into a ship? The Federal Boat Safety Act covers only recreational boats. What about boats used by Colombian drug lords to smuggle cocaine into the country?

Forget the international conventions dealing with ships. They don’t try to distinguish between boats and ships and may even trigger more confusion. Take this definition of “ship” in the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL 73/78):

“Ship” means a vessel of any type whatsover operating in the marine environment and includes hydrofoil boats, air-cushion vehicles, submersibles, floating craft and fixed or floating platforms.

So much for definitions. “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” Juliet tells Romeo in William Shakespeare’s play. She makes a good point. In the nautical world, does it really matter if it’s a boat or a ship if the captain is dumb enough to cause it to run aground or sink?

~ Barista Uno

The Marine Cafe Blog

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