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.
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?”
What contribution does morale make to the prosperity of any ship, company or institution? It is not something that is recognised by the modern accountancy trained managers who count the beans and call the shots in too much of industry today.
It was a photograph of a small containership that took my attention. She is currently operating for one of the world’s biggest operators, but is 36 years old. This might appear strange, when container vessels twenty years younger are being laid up in some numbers, in the expectation that they are unlikely to trade again.
Seafarers of a certain age will remember the sardonic note that somebody would have inevitably stuck under the glass on the chart table or on the desk of the engine control room. “You don’t have to be mad to work here – but it helps” it said, which was a point worth thinking about with the body at its lowest ebb, on watch, about half an hour past midnight.
In the great scheme of things, the Pacific Island communities rarely feature, occasional exceptions including the powerful interventions of the Marshall Islands at the recent IMO climate debates.
Who would run a stevedoring company these days? It was relatively simple, once – you organised a lot of labour and ordered up new barrows when the old ones got broken, or fell in the dock.