It’s the Year of the Dragon from 10 February 2024 to 28 January 2024 according to Chinese astrology. Shall we see some major changes in the shipping industry? No, not innovations in technology or marketing, but a shift in the values and outlooks of those who deal with ships and the men and women who man them.
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.
The world at large is full of dishonesty, and the world of shipping has its fair share of it. I have seen and heard enough over the years to say without hesitation that dishonesty in the maritime sphere is commonplace. It comes in many forms, in both words and deeds....
The United States ranked no. 11 in the 2022 UNCTAD table of countries with the largest fleets in terms of carrying capacity (deadweight tonnes). It was way below the top three fleet owners — Greece, China and Japan. Nonetheless, Americans can take pride in having an enviable maritime heritage and preserving and keeping it alive in their art, music and literature. That legacy is even embedded in the official seals of 13 states.
British English has a certain flavour that can make it quite pleasant to hear. The plural noun “docks”, for example, means the man-made structures for the mooring and loading/unloading of boats and ships. But when Brits say “I’m going down to the docks,” they refer to the area of water where the docks (quay walls, piers or wharves) are located and the offices and warehouses around them.
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 is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words. The reverse can be true. A poet who is not banal can paint, with just a line or two, a picture that is worth a thousand words. Such a poet can even convey certain sounds that a mute painting or photograph cannot.
The important role played by the boatswain (often called “bosun”) cannot be gainsaid. He is the senior crewman of the ship’s deck department — the major-domo, as it were, in charge of planning, scheduling, and assigning work to be carried out by the other deckhands.
Save for a few survivors, the steamboats of yore have long vanished. Gone are their captains and passengers, the sound of their whistles, and the fumes from their smokestacks. The ghosts of the past, however, linger on in old photographs to tell their stories.
The nautical terms “starboard” and “port” are often a source of confusion for landlubbers, including journalists and writers. It could be, too, for some seafarers. Here are some ways to always remember the difference between these two terms.
Old photos of steamboats are not likely to evoke feelings of nostalgia among environmentalists. Steamboats polluted the air and ruined riverbank ecosystems. Even so, they were vital to trade, commerce and tourism. Apart from their economic significance, steamboats exuded a certain charm. They inspired Mark Twain to write Life in the Mississippi, a memoir of the steamboat era on the Mississippi before the American Civil War.
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.