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The force of habit and the culture of maritime safety

The force of habit and the culture of maritime safety

This is an updated version of an article that was originally posted on Marine Café Blog on 10th June 2013.

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.

James’ paper was published in 1914 and contains some scientific and psychological jargon. However, he explains the principles of habit in terms that can be understood by ordinary folks. In addition, he offers some practical suggestions that are relevant to the education of young people today.

James makes the incisive observation that “habit simplifies the movements required to achieve a given result, makes them more accurate and diminishes fatigue” (itals by the author). He goes on:

“Man is born with a tendency to do more things than he has ready-made arrangements for in his nerve-centres. Most of the performances of other animals are automatic. But in him the number of them is so enormous, that most of them must be the fruit of painful study. If practice did not make perfect, nor habit economize the expense of nervous and muscular energy, he would therefore be in a sorry plight.”

Habit simplifies the movements required to achieve a given result, makes them more accurate and diminishes fatigue.

— William James

There are some precious lessons in James’ seminal work for maritime mentors, safety experts and others interested in marine safety:

Education boils down to instilling good habits.

“The great thing, then, in all education, is to make our nervous system our ally instead of our enemy. It is to fund and capitalize our acquisitions, and live at ease upon the interest of the fund.”

Training requires persistence and dedication.

‘As we become permanent drunkards by so many separate drinks, so we become saints in the moral, and authorities and experts in the practical and scientific spheres, by so many separate acts and hours of work.”

It is best to learn good habits whilst one is young.

“For this we must make automatic and habitual, as early as possible, as many useful actions as we can, and guard against the growing into ways that are likely to be disadvantageous to us, as we should guard against the plague.”

 It is high time that the shipping world discarded old ways of thinking and adopted new approaches to marine accident prevention. William James has shown one path.

Click here to get a free copy of William James’ Habit!

~ Barista Uno

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A serving of BU’s nautical limericks to pep you up

A serving of BU’s nautical limericks to pep you up

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.

NOTE: I have used the traditional five-line structure of the limerick with a rhyming pattern of aabba. Otherwise, I have followed my own instinct and style.

There once was a priest named Riley
Who pitied the men who worked at sea;
He gave them gifts when they were at port
And preached the teachings of the Lord —
“Okay, lads,” said he. “It’s time for a selfie.”

© Barista Uno (BU)

 

A cruise ship captain named Francesco
Liked to show a woman some bravado;
So he sailed the ship very close to shore,
Then it ran aground and floated no more.
He was first to escape on a lifeboat — oh no!

© Barista Uno (BU)

 

A rich ship owner named Olaf
Was so fat he made folks laugh;
He loved to eat legs of mutton
And wouldn’t stop, this glutton —
Till he soon died of a heart attack.

© Barista Uno (BU)

 

There was a seaman with a lovely wife
But had a mistress to spice up his life;
During a storm his ship sank and he died.
When his lover hugged his coffin and cried,
The angry wife kicked it with all her might.

© Barista Uno (BU)

 

There was a manning agent named Carlie
Who made a pile sending lads off to sea;
He strutted like a peacock around town,
But in truth, he was a thieving clown —
Stealing dollars from seamen was his S.O.P.

© Barista Uno (BU)

 

An ageing boatswain named Mar
Sat drinking alone in a dingy bar;
A woman offered him a good time,
But he didn’t want to spend a dime —
She left, muttering “Stingy old tar.”

© Barista Uno (BU)

~ Barista Uno

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Eye-catching kimonos with sea and water motifs

Eye-catching kimonos with sea and water motifs

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.

Click here to read Britannica’s short but informative article about the kimono.

With its straight seams and right-angled edges the kimono, unlike most western fashion, is cut to neither trace nor exaggerate the human form.

— Jess Cartner-Morley, ‘V&A hosts Europe’s first major exhibition on kimono‘, The Guardian (9 October 2019)

Boy’s miyamairi kimono with bouncing carp, 1920 – 1940
Courtesy of Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

According to the Rijksmuseum annotation, this is a formal kimono for a boy on his first visit to a Shinto shrine. The two carp leaping from stylised waves, the rocks, bamboo, and stylised clouds together symbolise academic aspiration and success.

Boy’s miyamairi kimono with the battle of the Fuji River, 1920 – 1940
Courtesy of Rijiksmuseum, Amsterdam

Like the foregoing, this is a miyamairi kimono worn by Japanese boys for their first visit to a Shinto shrine. Rijksmuseum says it probably depicts a scene from the 1180 battle of the Fuji River. At any rate, young boys are usually fascinated by battle scenes. So the design seems quite appropriate, especially given Japan’s traditional martial culture.

Kimono, 1800–1941
Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The design accentuating the lower part of this black kimono is reminiscent of a traditional Japanese woodblock print. The motion of water swirling around the rocks and cranes flying overhead complements the soft, fluid lines of the garment.

Kimono with Stylized Flowing Water, second quarter of the 20th century
Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Simplicity and elegance are wedded in this lovely kimono. “The virtuosity of the weavers and dyers who collaborated on this kimono is best revealed when the garment is viewed in a raking light, and the gold- and silver-painted stream shimmers against the underlying woven water pattern,” The MET points out in its annotation.

Women’s kimono with flying duck, 1950 – 1970
Courtesy of Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

A solitary white duck flying against a backdrop of concentric white lines gives this kimono a wow factor.

Men’s nagajuban with rising dragon, 1920 – 1940
Courtesy of Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

A nagajuban is a kimono-shaped robe worn underneath the outer garment. This one bears the beauty of traditional Japanese ink paintings and depicts a green dragon rising from the ocean waves. To the Japanese, as is the case with other cultures, green is a symbol of spring and life.

Set of three women’s kimonos with cranes
(furisode with cranes over the sea), 1920 – 1940
Courtey of Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

What woman wouldn’t be tempted to try on these gorgeous kimonos?

~ Barista Uno

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Who’s complicit in the exploitation of cadets in Manila?

Who’s complicit in the exploitation of cadets in Manila?

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.

 Maritime schools that supply the cadets to the manning agencies and don’t bother to check how they are being treated

Shipowners with cadetship programmes in the country who are mum on the issue of cadet exploitation (their sponsored cadets are given priority by manning agencies that take in flunkeys)

Maritime unions that fail to speak up against the practice (two local unions are known to use cadets as unpaid labour)

The local maritime press, which has failed to take up the issue and would rather praise the manning bigwigs

Academics and researchers who uncritically use the common term “utility’ to refer to cadets, thus helping to perpetuate their objectification.

If it were an arrestable crime to use cadets as unpaid labour, all of the foregoing entities could be considered accessories before or after the fact. Alas, exploiting cadets in this manner is no crime. In fact, it is considered normal practice in this part of the planet.

~ Barista Uno

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Seven sounds more meaningful than maritime slogans

Seven sounds more meaningful than maritime slogans

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 following audio clips are from Freesoundslibrary.com and are covered by a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) licence.

~ Barista Uno

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