Power drives the shipping world — not money, although everyone seems to be preoccupied with it. The desire for power (and control) is what really spurs the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to issue more and more regulations for ships and crews.
The same motivating force is behind the mistreatment of seafarers by abusive ship masters and rogue shipowners; the use of cadets as unpaid labour by manning agents; the muscle-flexing by seafarer unions; and the inspection visits by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA).
What would shipping be like without tugboats? In the same vein, what could ask: what would the world of marine art be without tugboats?
These mean little machines exude a certain charm as they tow barges up and down rivers; nudge ships into position at the wharves; and pull disabled vessels to safety. When one looks at the tugboats in the following artworks, the caption of a movie poster for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring might resonate: “Power can be held in the smallest of things.”
Sailboats held as much as fascination for French Impressionist master Claude Monet as water lilies and haystacks. He made several paintings of them. The following, in my opinion, are his most splendid works on the subject. They spotlight not only the beauty and elegance of sailboats. More importantly, they show Monet’s inimitable handling of colour, light and atmosphere.
For centuries, the kimono has been worn by Japanese women, men and children as an everyday garment or as a formal attire for ceremonial events. In either case, it is more than a piece of clothing. It is a work of art that embodies Japanese aesthetics, the craftmanship of weavers and designers, and the Japanese love for nature. The following kimonos are striking in their incorporation of sea and other water images.
Many crewing agencies in Manila regularly use cadets as unpaid office flunkeys and even as personal servants, in some cases for months on end. They are the main guilty parties in this egregious exploitation of young aspiring ship officers. But some others are complicit.
Why listen to the slogans blaring out of the IMO and its global maritime chorus? These incessant tributes to seafarers are not music to the ears. They are hackneyed and shopworn. They don’t mean a thing. It is more pleasant to hear the wonderful beat of commerce on the waterfront and the enchanting sounds of the sea and seagulls.
The shipping industry should stop this silly talk about seafarers being invisible. How can they be out of sight and out of mind? Seafarers love to post selfies on Facebook. And there is constant warbling from the maritime do-gooders about the rights and mental health of mariners that is louder than the song of a blue whale.
No sir, the really invisible ones are the fishermen who eke out a living from the sea. They are seldom in the media spotlight. Unsung, they face greater dangers in the course of their work than do merchant sailors. Yet, how many would spare a thought for these hardy folks?
Can the world do without fish? In 2018 humans consumed a total of 156.4 million tonnes (live weight) of fish, according to The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2020 published by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN. The following is a tribute to God-given, life-sustaining fish from various artists and from the great Irish poet, William Butler Yeats.
Any person with some ethical sense would say that the use of cadets as unpaid office flunkeys and domestic servants is wrong. But for most folks in maritime Manila, the practice is both normal and right.
Some even insist that it is beneficial to the cadets, like the manning executive who once declared, “You have to break them in”. He sounded as though he was talking about of a new pair of shoes that need to be loosened so it can be worn comfortably by the owner. Fair enough, but why subject the cadets to indefinite periods of servitude before deploying them oversas as apprentice-officers?
In his 1906 book The Mirror of the Sea, Joseph Conrad likened the sea to “a savage autocrat” with a “conscienceless temper”, the “irreconcilable enemy of ships and men.” The sea, however, has not stopped the centuries-old tide of emigrants. Today, people still cross the ocean to escape political or religious persecution at home, or simply to seek a better life in a foreign land. It’s a familiar narrative that is told in the following works of art.
American-born artist James McNeill Whistler is remembered by many for his iconic ‘‘Portrait of the Artist’s Mother’ and his dream-like paintings such as ‘Harmony in Blue and Silver: Trouville’. His etchings, however, are not less deserving of admiration. He created many such works, the most interesting being his etchings of waterfront scenes.
In Manila, cadets who serve as unpaid labour for manning agencies in the guise of internship are called “utility”. I have always found the use of this term both amusing and vexing. It sounds quirky and is one example of how Filipinos sometimes misuse or bastardise the English language.
French artist James Tissot (born Jacques Joseph Tissot in 1936) was enamoured with women. No, not with women in general but with the fashionably dressed women of late Victorian society. He painted them in such a way that one would be irresistibly pulled in by their charm.