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.

“There’s old captains and there’s bold captains, but there’s no old, bold captains” – is an ancient saying beloved of people who lecture about navigational safety. Its equivalents, advocating the somewhat unfashionable virtue of prudence, will be found, in every language, all over the world.

How do you feel about the proposed link between London’s Baltic Exchange and that of Singapore? It makes a lot of sense, you might think, in this global village that is international shipping, with the locus of activity inexorably moving eastwards.

I have just been reading an account of a fire on board ship, where the crew, after extraordinary efforts, managed to save their vessel and bring her into port.

Seafarers do not go to sea for laughs. They are there to make money, or they endure the life because of their inability to find decent work in their own countries.

You might sometimes wonder why seafaring, in this 21st technology-infested century, clings, after fishing, to its title as the world’s second riskiest occupation. Ships mostly know where they are, sailors no longer have to reef the mizzen topsails in a gale off Cape Horn, so why do death and injury remain such a significant accompaniment to modern seafaring?

The Hong Kong Convention (HKC) for the Safe and Environmentally Recycling of Ships will have received a much needed endorsement with the recent reports that Maersk Line has elected to send some of their redundant ships to “compliant” shipyards in India.

“From rock and tempest, fire and foe, protect them where so ever they go” is an all-encompassing list of maritime hazards which is usefully encapsulated in the seafarers’ favourite hymn –“Eternal Father”. A very 21st century addition to these timeless risks of maritime commerce might now be that of cyber attack, which conceivably could be as serious and damaging as any of those on this list.

As the rest of us prepare to enjoy the festive season, within a somewhat surreal NASA hangar in the US, a group of experienced and would-be astronauts are now well into a strange experiment designed to examine the fitness of human beings for a year-long flight to Mars.

There is an unspoken rule in shipping that a terrible market and declining values, which will be a disaster for some, will mark an opportunity for others. There are owners who have made a career out of such opportunism, always maintaining cash in the bank explicitly for such a purpose and we can see them at work now, sniffing out the indebted and spending their money wisely.

The shipping industry would seem to be firmly in the target zone as the opening salvos are fired prior to the December meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – COP 21 - when environmentalists from around the globe jet en masse into Paris.

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