Greta Thunberg: ‘I want you to listen to the scientists’

Greta Thunberg: ‘I want you to listen to the scientists’

It took only 55 seconds for Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg to make her opening statement before a US Congress hearing on September the 18th. The message from the 16-year-old was short and crisp. In lieu of a prepared testimony, she said she was submitting a special IPCC report on global warming. “I don’t want you to listen to me,” she explained. “I want you to listen to the scientists. And I want you to unite behind that science — and then I want you to take real action. Thank you.”

The report Ms. Thunberg submitted was from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It paints a grim picture of a world that is 1.5 °C warmer than pre-industrial levels and outlines what needs to be done. The full report and graphics can be found here.

Not everyone will have the patience to go through the report. For such individuals, the following abbreviated infographic from NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) should give a glimpse of one aspect of global warming: the rise in sea levels. The complete, full resolution infographic can be viewed and downloaded here.

~ Barista Uno

The Marine Cafe Blog

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The paradox in the EU threat to ban Filipino ship officers

The paradox in the EU threat to ban Filipino ship officers

The EU threat to derecognise the certificates of Filipino officers serving on board EU-registered vessels has not gone away. By all indications, the proposal is still on the table at the European Commission. It may well stay there for some time given Manila’s failure — despite repeated inspections by the European Maritie Safety Agency (EMSA) — to fully comply with the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW).

The situation seems paradoxical. According to the EMSA’s EU seafarer statistics for 2017 published just this August, a total of 30,615 Filipino masters and officers held endorsements issued by EU member states attesting their recognition (EaR for short). This figure represents more than a third of the 87,810 officers from non-EU countries whose original Ceritficates of Competency (CoCs) had been endorsed by various individual EU nations.

Distribution of masters and officers holding valid EaRs by region of the country issuing the original CoC:

Source: Seafarers’ Statistics in the EU: Statistical review (2017 data STCW-IS). You can download a copy from here.

If so many Filipino ship officers were deemed to be properly trained and certificated, why the threat to wtihdraw recognition of their certificates?

True, the EMSA has the right to inspect the training facilities and procedures of non-EU countries supplying crews to European shipowners. Such inspections are done on behalf of the EU member states. But doesn’t this imply that the European Commission, in whose name the EMSA inspections are conducted, does not trust the judgement of individual EU member states that issue the endorsements?

A more serious question: Is this another instance of Brussels dictating how things should be run in the sovereign nation states of the EU — possibly against the wishes of those countries? Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his fellow Brexiteers might think so.

It’s all food for thought in this season of uncertainties.

~ Barista Uno

The Marine Cafe Blog

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Behold the pirates seafarers are helpless against

Behold the pirates seafarers are helpless against

Pirates have always been a part of the shipping world. They may be nasty characters but they fascinate the public. Their exploits are commemorated in films such as the Pirates of the Caribbean series and in pirate festivals in North America. But there is a class of real-life pirates that seafarers abhor but have to contend with all the time.

These maritime brigands do not brandish knives or AK-47s. Neither do they venture out to sea to hunt for prey. They prefer to stay on shore. Yet, they manage to get rich on the backs of merchant sailors. Meet the rogue manning agents of the 21st century.

In Manila, these modern-day reincarnations of Captain Kidd and Madame Cheng operate with impunity. They openly steal from the dollar remittances of seafarers, withhold their family allotments and earn interest therefrom, and receive kickbacks from the training centres. Many of them even hold maritime cadets as hostages, using them as unpaid office workers on the promise that they would eventually sail as apprentice officers.

“Pirates. The make-up is different, but the results are the same”
Circa-1920 cartoon by Burt Thomas (1881–1964) for the Detroit News

The 19th-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche saw a clear correlation between merchants and pirates. In his 1911 book, Human All-too Human (Section 22, The Principle of Equilibrium), he wrote:

The robber and the man of power who promises to protect a community from robbers are perhaps at bottom beings of the same mould, save that the latter attains his ends by other means than the former — that is to say, through regular imposts paid to him by the community, and no longer through forced contributions. (The same relation exists between merchant and pirate, who for a long period are one and the same person: where the one function appears to them inadvisable, they exercise the other. Even to-day mercantile morality is really nothing but a refinement on piratical morality—buying in the cheapest market, at prime cost if possible, and selling in the dearest.) The essential point is that the man of power promises to maintain the equilibrium against the robber, and herein the weak find a possibility of living. For either they must group themselves into an equivalent power, or they must subject themselves to some one of equivalent power (i.e. render service in return for his efforts). [Underling mine — BU]

Nietzsche called for the punishment of rogue merchants as a way of restoring and maintaining equilibrium in society:

Disgrace is thrown into the scale as a counter weight against the encroaching individual, who has gained profit by his encroachment, and now suffers losses (through disgrace) which annul and outweigh the previous profits. Punishment, in the same way, sets up a far greater counterweight against the preponderance which every criminal hopes to obtain — imprisonment as against a deed of violence, restitution and fines as against theft. Thus the sinner is reminded that his action has excluded him from the community and from its moral advantages, since the community treats him as an inferior, a weaker brother, an outsider.

Unfortunately, the thieves in Manila’s manning sector go unpunished. They are not ostracised by the community. On the contrary, they are adulated. Some even receive international awards. To hell with Nietzsche’s principle of equilibrium. Where greed rules, money is the only thing that has weight.

~ Barista Uno

The Marine Cafe Blog

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Power of the small: tributes in art to tugboats

Power of the small: tributes in art to tugboats

“Power can be held in the smallest of things,” declared a 2001 movie poster for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. The maxim applies to magical rings as well as to tugboats. What would the shipping world be without the latter? Tugboats were on hand to assist the newborn RMS Titanic when she began her sea trials on the 2nd of April 1912 (pictured above). They remain part and parcel of the maritime landscape — pulling barges up and down rivers, nudging ships into position at the wharves, and heaving disabled vessels to safety. It is entirely appropriate that artists should pay tribute to these workhorses of shipping. Enjoy these handful of artworks!

Breezy Day, Tugboats, New York Harbor, ca. 1910
William Glackens (American, 1870–1938) / The Athenaeum

William Glackens’ whimsical oil painting gives the viewer a sense of the energy of tugboats and the vitality of New Yorik Harbor. The artist adds the silhouette of the Statue of Liberty in the distance as if to suggest the free spirit of American capitalism and its vigour.

Tugs and Crews near Battery, N. Y., no date
Fred Zimmer (American, 1923–2015) / Smithsonian American Art Museum

Fred Zimmer may not be an internationally recognised artist, but his death on 6th February 2015 was a big loss to American marine art. In this watercolour piece, he depicts three tugboats with a beguiling charm, their coats of red paint complemented by the beautiful skyline of New York. It is interesting that Zimmer chose to show the tugs from a certain angle and not in their entirety.

Tugboat Captain, no date
I. J. Sanger (American, 1899–1986) / Smithsonian American Art Museum

This linocut artwork is notable for its bold, well-defined lines and varied textures. The atmosphere of energy and vitality is enhanced by the smoke billowing from the boats’ smokestacks. The entire scene is very musculine, just like the tugboat captain sitting confidently on the quay with a pipe dangling from his mouth.

Tugboat in moonlight, circa 1896
Howard Pyle (American, 1853-1911) / US Library of Congress

Like all workers, tugboats and their captains need rest. Howard Pyle’s oil painting, which was used by Harper’s Weekly magazine in its May 1896 issue, shows his masterful skill as an artist and illustrator.

~ Barista Uno

The Marine Cafe Blog

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IMOcafe: imagining a new coffeehouse on the block

IMOcafe: imagining a new coffeehouse on the block

Imagine for a moment that the International Maritime Organization is a coffeehouse. The name is too long, so it will have to be called IMOcafe, IMOcha or something similar, a short and catchy name.

Enter, and you immediately realise that this is no ordinary coffeehouse. Instead of baristas or uniformed, young-looking service crew, you see an army of mature, if not elderly, bureaucrats. Don’t expect to be greeted with “Good morning. Welcome to IMOcafe.” Bureacrats are usually not service-oriented. In fact, they are very officious.

Once you reach the counter, you glance at the brightly lit menu on the wall. Going through the list takes a while. IMOcafe has a long menu, a very long one. Suddenly, a feeling of disbelief and dismay comes over you. This place is not cheap. Electronic edition of ISM Code & Guidelines, 2018 Edition: £20… SOLAS Consolidated Edition, 2014: £90… STCW including 2010 Manila Amendments, 2017 Edition: £50.

IMO publications partial price list (electronic editions)

“Sir, we also have the print editions. Would you like to see the menu?” the guy behind the counter asks.

“OMG, I think I lost my wallet,” you answer, touching the back pocket of your pants with a feigned look of concern. “I’m very sorry.”

Feeling slightly guilty for telling a white lie, you walk towards the door. Outside, you see a man on the sidewalk with a promotional sign that says, “Free drinks at ILOcafe”. It brings a smile to your face.

~ Barista Uno

The Marine Cafe Blog

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