Some ship officers stand out as much for their knowledge and experience as for their distinguishing personal qualities. Seven such traits, in my view, are the most important. They define the quintessential officer: integrity, confidence, humility, self-control, patience, fortitude, and empathy. What school can teach these things? I hope the following quotes will inspire the men and women who now wear the officer’s stripe and insignia and the cadets striving to join their ranks.
The maritime landscape in Manila would not be complete without the cadets who work as unpaid labour for the manning agencies and some seafarer unions. Individually and collectively, these cadets are commonly called ‘utility’. The term is descriptive of the many ways these aspiring ship officers are utilised. However, I would rather use the phrase ‘cadet flunkey’ — flunkey, meaning a person who does menial or trivial work for another, especially with unquestioning obedience. It is less demeaning and more accurate.
The following are some of the tasks cadet flunkeys are made to perform in exchange for being deployed eventually as apprentice–officers. I have seen worse, but these would–be ship officers never complain. Understanbly so, since the 12-month shipboard apprenticeship is a requisite for graduation in Philippine maritime schools.
Greek mythology and the religion of ancient Greece have had a deeper impact on the shipping world than some people realise. The very word “ocean” can be traced back to the Greek Okeanos, the great river that flowed around the earth and was personified as Oceanus.
The gods and goddesses worshipped by the Hellenes have been memorialised in the names of such maritime companies as the UAE-basd Helios International FZC and Norway’s Poseidon Simulation AS. Some of the deities have even travelled the world, their names emblazoned on the hulls of ships. Here are some examples:
The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights dates back to 1948. Long before that, the Parliament of England had passed ‘The Bill of Rights’ (1689) and the National Assembly of France, the ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen’ (1789). In the 21st century, the clamour for human rights has become more strident. And yet, those rights continue to be violated every single minute. The same is true of the rights of seafarers and others who toil at sea. What seems to be the problem?
“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.
No matter how folks in Manila try to justify it, the practice of using maritime cadets as unpaid office help and domestic servants is wrong. It is not only wrong; it is disgraceful. It can also have harmful effects on the individual cadet and the maritime community at...
Marine Café Blog was launched on 25th August 2009. Twelve years and hundreds of posts later, it is still sailing through waters that can be quite choppy at times. Some readers may wonder why. How can a blogger keep going when blogging does not fill his pocket and there will always be those who will bash him for his views? In my case, I have four simple answers.
Seashells are beautiful in and of themselves. But humans are seldom content with nature. For thousands of years, they have been redesigning shells by painting them, making incisions and carvings, or adding some element such as as gold or silver frame. Whether driven by utilitarian, artistic or religious reasons, the act of altering such natural objects whilst preserving their form and structure allows humans to leave their imprint. Long after they are gone, memories of their life and times live on.
Millions of people must be familiar by now with ‘Wellerman’, the song which went viral on Tiktok in 2020. The Wellerman craze does not seem to have died down, so I thought I would share some marine art from where this 19th-century whaling song (no, it’s not a sea shanty) originated: New Zealand.
The following works, except the last one, are from the online collection of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. I trust that they will give the readers of Marine Café Blog an insight into the island country’s rich maritime heritage as well as its natural beauty.
Edward Lear (1812–1888) was a gifted English landscape painter. However, he is better known as the writer of an original kind of nonsense verse, which is epitomised by his ‘A Book of Nonsense’. First published in 1846, the slim volume contains drawings done by Lear himself. The drawings are wacky, outlandish and often absurd. But some of them make sense to me from a modern, maritime perspective.
In the maritime world, there are some individuals and organisations you can admire and some that can put you off and spoil your day. The following is a list of adjectives to describe those in the second category.
Civility dictates that one should use disparaging words with prudence. On the other hand, honesty and candidness seem more necessary than ever in an industry where seafarers continue to be exploited. When it comes to the rights and welfare of mariners, there ought to be no sacred cows.
On 9th August, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a press release ominously headlined ‘Climate change widespread, rapid, and intensifying’. The IPCC statement painted a grim picture of what would happen in the likely event that global temperature reaches 1.5 degrees Celsius: rising sea level, unprecedented extreme weather conditions, drought, wildfires, etc. Interestingly, some artworks created more than a century ago — long before there was talk of CO2 emissions and global warming — provide a foretaste of what is happening today and what could happen in future in terms of climate change. It is as though the Past were mirroring the Future.
The vast maritime landscape never lacks for the self-conceited and the arrogant. I have met many such characters, too many in fact — cocky young ship officers, hoity-toity manning agents, overbearing union officials, self-important maritime journalists, and smug maritime academics. They all tend to have a bloated sense of their importance and abilities. My encounters with them prompt me to share the following excellent quotes about pride and humility.