I have journeyed long enough in the maritime world as a writer to know that things are not always as they seem. Appearances can deceive.
Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). is the foundational document for all human rights laws, including ILO Maritime Labour Convention, 2006. Any discussion on the rights of seafarers and other maritime workers must hark back to it. So how has the shipping world fared in observing its tenets?
Flogging and other harsh shipboard punishments may be a thing of the past, but it would be naive to think that it’s the best of times for seafarers. A litany of sins is still being committed against them — some blatant, others subtle. Major changes in existing laws as well as societal values are in order.
Simply put, an irony is an aspect of a situation which is contrary to what one would normally expect. A seagull perched on a No-Fishing sign is thus ironic. The incongruence between expectation and actuality, which frequently happens in the world of shipping, can be jarring.
It was not too long ago that strident voices filled the air with talk about depression at sea. The hubbub now seems to have subsided. The problem that was said to plague many seafarers, driving some to commit suicide, is no longer a hot topic for discussion.
The APA (Amercian Pschological Association) Dictionary of Psychology defines empathy as “understanding a person from his or her frame of reference rather than one’s own, or vicariously experiencing that person’s feelings, perceptions, and thoughts.” Clearly, there should be empathy if seafarers are to be treated more kindly by those who profit from them. So why is this word not used more often by advocates of seafarers’ rights?
A candid writer should not expect to be popular with those who wield some power and influence in the shipping world. On the contrary, he should prepare himself to be despised or, worse, ignored. This much I have learned in the 13 years that Marine Café Blog has been in existence.
Many folks in maritime Manila continue to justify the use of cadets as unpaid office workers and even as domestic servants. It instills discipline, according to one argument. What a silly statement to make.
I was an early supporter of the seafarer charities. I wrote about their fund-raising activities and praised them for their good deeds. Then they started to make a lot of noise about depression at sea. That made me pause and ask: why the sudden concern with seafarers’ mental health?
The shipping world was ecstatic when ILO Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, came into force in August 2013. It was as though a new dawn in seafarers’ rights had come. But did it really? The reality is that the Convention, inclusive of the 2018 amendments, has some serious flaws.
Marine Café Blog had a post-Thanksgiving Day chat with Frankie the Sage Cat. As expected, he said a mouthful about maritime conferences, seafarer charities and other matters. For those not familiar with Frankie, he’s a real cat who understands humans in an uncanny way. He must be at least 12 years old now, but he still has a sharp mind.
I have always objected to the use of the term “the human element” to refer to seafarers. It not only sounds as cold as the periodic table of elements invented by the Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev. More important, it objectifies seafarers and detracts from their humanity. The following works of art show just how human they are — no less driven by love and libido than the maritime bureaucrats and pedants who label them “the human element”.