Columnist and correspondent
Michael Grey is a columnist and correspondent and has been associated with the maritime industry for the whole of his working life. At sea for twelve years with the Port Line of London and the holder of a British Foreign Going Master’s certificate, he came ashore to work in the safety and technical department of the UK Chamber of Shipping, before moving into maritime journalism. Currently he is the London Correspondent of BIMCO and is the author of a number of maritime books. He lectures at the World Maritime University and Greenwich Maritime Institute.
How many rugby players can you squeeze into an old GPO telephone box, or students into a Mini? It was a question that came to mind when I read about the arrival on the scene of the monstrous container ship MSC Gulsun, freshly delivered and soon to inflict its 23,000 teu upon the waiting world of container terminals.
Why should seafarers be constantly put in harm’s way, from pirates, hostile officials in ports that nobody ought to visit, and now as collateral damage as the threat of war breaks out in the Middle East? The answer is, as it has always been, that they have no choice in these matters and have to go where their ship takes them, or lose their jobs.
You are the boatswain of a large containership, operating in long-haul routes. You are contracted to a nine-month tour of duty, from which you know there can be no relief. Your fellow ratings are similarly contracted, although the ship’s officers will be relieved every four months.
What do you mean by the phrase –“long-term crew strategy”? In recent years, in our beloved shipping industry, I have tended to believe that it is trying to find a Second Engineer with a chemicals endorsement and US visa, for a ship leaving Singapore next Tuesday.
The year has not started off well or the shipping industry and the cause of marine safety. The fatal fire aboard the vehicle carrier Sincerity Ace cost the lives of five seafarers and will have destroyed 3,600 cars and most probably the vessel herself.
“Why have you slowed down? The delay is unacceptable. We need the ship alongside Monday morning without fail. There will be severe consequences for you should the voyage be delayed further.”
It hasn’t been easy, even among professionals, to have too much sympathy for Francesco Schettino, formerly master of the Costa Concordia, currently serving a 16 year prison sentence in Rome.
Maritime professionals and interested onlookers will have been equally astonished at the recent pictures following the curious collision off Corsica, with the Tunisian ro-ro ferry Ulysse buried up to her bridge in the side of the containership CLS Virginia. A universal question, asked by everyone, would have been – “How on earth did they manage to do that?”