Death comes in myriad ways to both men and ships. Some ships meet their end through an act of God; others, because of human folly. Many succumb to old age.
The Titan submersible that imploded on 18th June 2023, killing all five of its passengers, has led to voluminous talk about what exactly happened and why. While many of the published accounts are interesting, I wanted to get a different perspective on the mishap. And what better source for this than Frankie?
The series of unfortunate incidents on board cruise ships never seems to end. The mishaps range from breakouts of disease and drunken brawls to missing passengers and murder. The superstitious may be tempted to believe that a spirit of bad luck lurks on the decks and in the cabins to spoil a fun-filled vacation at sea.
Harbour pilots play an important role, but ship masters do not always appreciate their services. Some may feel resentful that a local chap is taking over control of their vessel. It’s a blow to their ego.
For well over a decade, the Philippines has been in the crosshairs of the European Commission and its inspection arm, the European Maritime Safety Agency. In total, EMSA has made eight inspection visits to the country (the last one n 2020) to check if it has given full and complete effect to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW).
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.
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’.
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.
“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.
Yesterday, the 20th of December, was the 33rd anniversary of the Doña Paz ferry tragedy. As usual, the event whizzed past most Filipinos like a fart in the wind. There was hardly any mention of it on social and news media. As I wrote more than 10 years ago, “Filipinos have such short memories and Philippine ship operators have amnesia.”
In a previous article, I shared some works of art to highlight the noble tradition of saving lives at sea. I felt that that was too meagre a serving for such a great topic. So here's a sequel. I trust that those who love art will find it as flavourful as the...
The Notre Dame Cathedral fire on 15th April 2019 overshadowed another huge event that occurred on the same day 107 years ago: the sinking of the RMS Titanic. Still, the world remembered the tragedy that befell the British passenger liner (pictured above prior to its...