Michael Grey

Michael Grey

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.

Columnist Michael Grey questions last week’s highly critical report into the workings of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) by Transparency International.

This is the age of blame, when errors are unacceptable, procedures are designed on the precautionary principle and accidents don’t happen. Except it doesn’t work out like that. Almost certainly, someone was to blame for the fire which broke out in the hold of the Maersk Honan the other day, but the chances are they won’t be brought to book any more than all those guilty people responsible for most of the other fires which wrecked container ships over the years have been identified and prosecuted.

Are you what is termed a “wage slave”, crawling unwillingly to work and counting the hours until the weekend, or even the end of the shift? There can be no illusions that this is reality for large numbers of people, all over the world. The maritime industry is no different to any other sector, in this respect.

It is not a lot of fun, after a long voyage across endless ocean, to be trapped aboard your ship in port, because the authorities will grant no shore leave to the members of the crew.

If truth is the first casualty of war, the second is probably underwater communication cables which the history of the last century informs us are severed simultaneously with the opening of hostilities. There are many more of these undersea conduits today, which might account for the current angst being expressed about their vulnerability to hostile powers. 

If you have watched pilots operate over any extended period of time, it is difficult not to be impressed by the way they can make a speedy mental adjustment to fit the size and special characteristics of all the ships they may meet in a large port.

We are told, mainly by people with an axe to grind on climate change, that the world’s weather is getting more violent. And on cue, violent weather events seem to come along more regularly, whether it is this year’s hurricane season or the incidence of typhoons in 2016-17.

When you read of a project that gives the impression that it was devised by the criminally insane, how can you retain courtesy and politeness in your response?

It was some 45 years ago that marine biologists working in the South of England commented on new species of seaweed which were appearing around the Solent. They were traced back to Japan and “bio-detectives” suggested that they had arrived adhering to the bottoms of the first generation of containerships that were arriving from the Far East into the Hampshire port.

“Seafarers required - preference will be given to stolid, pragmatic anti-social candidates who can demonstrate a lack of imagination”. That’s not serious, of course, but it might seem not too outrageous, as the life of the modern seafarer develops increasingly joyless characteristics.

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