To appreciate the Dutch genius in marine art, one need not look further than the seascapes of Hendrik Willem Mesdag (1831–1915). The Kunstmuseum in The Hague says of the artist (pictured above in his studio in 1903): “Mesdag was unequalled in his ability to produce atmospheric canvases depicting changing weather conditions on the North Sea coast at Scheveningen and the various activities of the fishing community that lived there.”
It may seem odd at this point for Marine Café Blog to criticise the audits conducted by the European Maritime Safety Agency. After all, the EMSA team has visited the Philippines at least seven times since 2006 to verify its compliance with the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW). More important, I have always regarded these inspections as a necessary gadfly to force the Filipino seafarer factory to shape up.
“To a philosopher all news, as it is called, is gossip, and those who edit and read it are old women over their tea.” Thus wrote Henry David Thoreau with unconcealed disdain for the press. The truth, however, is that most people are hungry for news and will gobble it up even if it is gossip disguised as news. Maritime professionals are no exception. The following are some headlines that should make them sit up and take notice:
Anyone who has been following Marine Café Blog knows that I frequently talk about seafarers’ rights and marine art. These two subjects are the main courses, as it were, on the menu — the recurring themes that have come to define the tone and character of the blog. But why art in conjunction with the rights of mariners?
There is nothing wrong with bandwagons per se. In fact, they are often necessary in bringing about change as the whole world is witnessing in the case of women’s rights and climate action. The problem arises when people are swayed by rhetoric, not reason, and unthinkingly hop onto the wagon just because it is fashionable to do so. Unfortunately, this is happening with the bandwagon that carries the banners “Wellness at Sea” and “Seafarer Mental Health”.
Corporate offices cannot be expected to serve as small art galleries. But why should shipping and manning companies display only ISM and MLC certificates on their lobby walls? Why not also marine paintings, even if they are only repros works by famous artists? Some art would help give the premises a more pleasant atmosphere. It would also send a subtle message to visitors that the CEO knows how to appreciate art and is not a certified philistine.
Who gives a hoot in Manila about maritime cadet exploitation?… In this part of the planet, manning agencies and some unions consider it perfectly normal to use cadets as unpaid labour, in many cases for months on end. The seafarer charities are aware of the practice, but none has come out to publicly condemn it. As for local maritime journalists, many would rather kiss ass than take up the cudgels for the cadets who are exploited in such blatant manner
There are few places in a town or city that are more interesting than the waterfront. Shopping malls certainly do not have the same kind of energy and atmosphere one finds on wharves and piers, on boardwalks and esplanades. With this in mind, Marine Café Blog is inviting all photographers to submit their photos for an upcoming special feature.
After writing about seafarers’ rights for almost a decade, I felt drained and defeated. The abuses against seamen were continuing. It was as if ILO Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (the so-called “bill of rights” of seafarers) had never existed… I began to realise that writers who speak candidly on seafarer issues would never receive popular support.
In June of 2018 Marine Café Blog exposed the rampant practice in Manila of shortchanging seafarers in the conversion of their dollar remittances to pesos. Uncrupulous manning agents are still at it in 2020. All told, they rake in millions annually without getting even a slap on the wrist for their financial mischief. Why this deplorable state of affairs continues is not hard to understand: the system facilitates the stealing.
Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg was Time’s 2019 Person of the Year. Given the amount of bashing the 17-year-old has had to put up with from adults, she deserves another title: Punching Bag of the Year. Greta has been called more names than Donald J. Trump, Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un combined — or Hitler and Stalin, for that matter.
Generally speaking, people tend be more impressed by things that are large than by similar things of smaller scale. Thus, a mansion is likely to draw more attention and plaudits than a bungalow; a limousine more than a compact car; and a cruise ship more than a catamaran. Yet, size does not — or should not — matter when it comes to art.