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).

The following 12 quotes help shed light on the nature of power and those who wield it. The last two pertain to the bureaucracy, whose power in the shipping world all players, including shipowners, have to deal with.

There is no fettering of authority.

— William Shakespeare, All’s Well That Ends Well (1600s)

Lust of power is the most flagrant of all the passions.

— Tacitus, Annales (AD 117)

O MEN, why do ye vainly think on things
Too lofty, as if ye immortal were?
And ye are ruling but a little time,
And over mortals all desire to reign.

— Warning against excessive hunger for power, The Sibylline Oracles, Book XIV. The Internet Sacred Text Archive.

Authority intoxicates,
And makes mere sots of magistrates ;
The fumes of it invade the brain,
And make men giddy, proud, and vain
By this the fool commands the wise,
The noble with the base complies,
The sot assumes the rule of wit,
And cowards make the base submit.

— Samuel Butler, The Poetical Works of Samuel Butler, Vol. II (1835)

People who have no hopes are easy to control. And whoever has the control has the Power.

— G’mork, character in the 1984 fantasy film, The NeverEnding Story (Die unendliche Geschichte)

Power, like a desolating pestilence,
Pollutes whate’er it touches; and obedience,
Bane of all genius, virtue, freedom, truth,
Makes slaves of men, and of the human frame
A mechanized automaton.

Percy Bysshe Shelley, Queen Mab (1813)

Beware of the man who rises to power
From one suspender.

— Edgar Lee Masters, “John Hancock Otis”, Spoon River Anthology (1915)

The intoxication with power is worse than
drunkenness with liquor and such,
for who is drunk with power does not
come to his senses before he falls

— Mahabharata, translated by Pratap Chandra Roy from the original Sanskrit (1884)

There is no surer mark of a low and unregenerate nature than this tendency of power to loudness and wantonness instead of quietness and reverence.

— James Martineau, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)

Nothing discloses real character like the use of power. It is easy for the weak to be gentle. Most people can bear adversity. But if you wish to know what a man really is, give him power. This is the supreme test. It is the glory of Lincoln that, having almost absolute power, he never abused it, except upon the side of mercy.

— Robert G. Ingersoll, “Motley and Monarch”, The North American Review (December 1885)

As routine business must always be dispatched, there is always a fluctuating number of supernumeraries who cannot be dispensed with, and yet are liable to dismissal at a moment’s notice. All of these naturally are anxious to be “established clerks.” And thus Bureaucracy, the giant power wielded by pigmies, came into the world.

— Honoré de Balzac, Les Employés [The Government Clerks] (1838), translation by James Waring

Bureaucracy is ever desirous of spreading its influence and its power. You cannot extend the mastery of the government over the daily working life of a people without at the same time making it the master of the people’s souls and thoughts.

— Herbert Hoover, campaign speech in New York (22 October 1928)

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