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The MV Doña Paz in the deep sea of oblivion

The 20th of December 2021 marked the 34th anniversy of the Philippines’ Doña Paz ferry tragedy. As usual, the day whizzed past with nary a tribute to the 4,341 who died on that fateful day in 1987. No, it was not because of the mad holiday rush. As I pointed out in my 2010 blog post, Filipinos have such short memories and Philippine ship operators have amnesia.

The force of habit and the culture of maritime safety

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’.

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.

Some hard maritime questions in search of answers

“All non­sense questions are unanswerable,” wrote the British writer and lay theologian C.S. Lewis in his book A Grief Observed, which was first published in 1961. The following questions are not nonsense. In fact, they are valid and important questions. It seems, though, that they are seldom, if ever, raised by maritime folks. I myself continue to ask these questions, but I’m not sure if I have found the answers to all of them.

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