The shipping industry is rich in platitudes, buzzwords and rhetoric. They shoot out like water and steam from a geyser on World Maritime Day and the Day of the Seafarer, two annual events during which the organiser, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), unabashedly congratulates itself for its accomplishments. Rather than be annoyed, I am amused. Here are five quotes which I consider as classics in the quirky world of maritime word spinning

I have my targets to eliminate piracy and reduce maritime casualty by half and I will maintain these targets this year as well.


Thus spoke then IMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu in January 2014 at the opening of the first session of the Sub-committee on Ship Design and Construction. The declaration sounds a bit too messianic. Eliminate piracy, which has been the scourge of shipping for centuries? That could require the IMO to start building its own navy to wipe out the pirates.

Shipping is indipensable to the world.

World Maritime Day 2016 had this as its theme. The slogan is ridiculously vacuous. I can think of many other industries that are likewise “indispensable” to humanity. Coffee farming, for one. I love coffee and I would probably die without it.

Without seafarers, our lives would be unrecognizable. Yet, to many people, seafarers are virtually invisible.

I scratched my head when I first came across the statement. It comes from IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim, who uttered the words in 2017 during a Day of the Seafarer programme in London. What exactly did he mean by “our lives would be unrecognizable”? That we would all revert to the Stone Age, deprived of our smartphones and other gadgets? Or, worse, that we would be as stiff as corpses because of starvation? As for seafarers being invisible, it’s all a myth — echoed by a maritime press that has downgraded itself to a mouthpiece for the maritime Establishment.

80% of all marine accidents are due to human error.

The cliché is tirelessly repeated by maritime executives, academics and journalists. Interestingly, the percentage mentioned has not changed over the years. The implication is that all the training requirements imposed by the IMO — at such great cost to seamen in terms of time and money — have not helped any. Otherwise, human errors would probably account for only 50% or less of sea accidents, the remainder being the result of substandard ships, faulty equipment or acts of God.

By all means we must pass the EMSA (European Maritime Safety Agency) audit.

The quote is from a top Philippine maritime official who rallied his colleagues just before one EMSA inspection visit. Filipinos have been understandably anxious to get the EU thumbs up for their maritime educational system. However, there is no such thing as passing or failing an audit. To use these terms, as many folks in Manila do with seeming regularity, is to misunderstand the audit process and betray one’s ignorance.

~Barista Uno

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