Alert! 19 - Let's get positive...
The image of shipping is not good in the eyes of the general public, who rarely hear of any good news stories. Instead, they are informed of ships in difficulties in stormy weather, of freak waves, of groundings and of the subsequent pollution and its effect on the environment.
They may be told about acts of piracy that are taking place in various parts of the world, and occasionally, they may hear of a shipmaster being thrown into jail for some alleged misdemeanour on the high seas.
Those who are conversant with the various maritime 'blogs' on the internet will have read messages berating the state of shipping, and specifically life at sea today. There will be comments about overregulation, too much paperwork and the increasing number of inspections; about reduced manning and the problems of fatigue; and some shipowners who do not care for the seafarers, and who do not reinvest their profits in the human element.
None of these are positive images of the shipping industry, although some of the less complimentary comments are perhaps based on perceptions rather than fact. Yes, there are unscrupulous employers, there are ships that should not be at sea, and there are seafarers who are badly treated.
Yes, we need to guard against over-regulation, we need to overcome the problem of too much paperwork and we need to rationalise the inspection regime. We should not forget the plight of the crews who have been subjected to piracy, nor should we shirk from our responsibilities to ensure fair treatment for the master and his crew in the event of an accident.
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