Maritime Industry: Why This Hypocrisy?

Maritime Industry: Why This Hypocrisy?

Dear Maritime Industry, why this Hypocrisy_

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the hypocrisy of the whole world is once again highlighted; it’s not something that surprised me at all. However, it showed a new face of mental illness of the global population and honestly made me wonder if I’m the one who lacks empathy, and whether it’s me who has mental issues after all?

The feeling of empathy in moments of trouble, especially when its consequences affect a large number of people, sometimes even our own family, friends, and colleagues, is absolutely normal.

It is quite common, and some may say normal (with which I completely disagree) that people feel the need to show gratitude, be part of a larger audience, rejoice and celebrate other people’s successes or failures of those who are universally and maybe rightly hated, but it is by its nature completely useless and meaningless. Going out on the balcony and clapping, shouting, mumbling, muttering, praying, etc. for the medical staff and others, whom you call front-liners, from my perspective, is not only useless but just shows the amount of laziness, and above all ignorance of the mass population which think that they did something while actually, they did absolutely — nothing! Nothing productive or helpful. Well, maybe this won’t be something the vast majority will agree with, but your applause, muttering, mumbles, shouting, chants, prayers, etc. and all the other things you’ve done mean absolutely nothing!

If anyone in this world, especially in this situation, deserves some gratitude, and when I say that, I do not mean shouting, muttering, mumbling, praying, or anything else that is completely meaningless at its core, then they are Merchant Mariners, i.e. Seafarers.

There is an incredible number of people who have no idea who is responsible and who is the essential link in the chain that created the world as we know today, made us evolve and now maintains it revolving and bringing warmth and comfort to all of us! A very small portion of the global population understands who are the real key workers and because of whose contributions they can live the way they live; comfortable, without much worry. The hardest thing that happened to them is the temporary measures that do not allow them to walk or run freely in the park, go out for lunch or dinner with a loved one, go for a stroll to shopping malls, sip coffee with friends, go to the party, get drunk or even wasted, etc. All these little things that you are deprived of now, all little things which make life worth living and which the vast majority of the population has long taken for granted, for seafarers these are, unfortunately, just reality of everyday life.

Now, imagine that you are “deprived” of all of the above mentioned little things that make your life what is it for at least 6 months every single year, imagine that — just that!

Let me mention some other things that seafarers experience daily, just a small fraction, and those are just very common and normal for seafarers. Remember that this is only a small fraction, and there are much worse things that happen regularly and daily, but I will list some common ones that I have personally experienced on numerous occasions:

⦁ Stuck at the same place for 6 months (often and especially now in the times of COVID-19 even longer).

Image Credit: Goran Petrović

⦁ Constantly having jet lag due to passing through different time zones. 

⦁ Not being able to have any real and free time with family and friends.

⦁ Not see your loved one, not even on video call as there is no internet, or when there is the internet, its bandwidth is the same as during the dial-up era (dreaming about ISDN).

⦁ Not having one single day off for 6 months straight (forget about public holidays and so on, they don’t exist at sea).

⦁ Being free, but not free to do anything as per your wish, but strictly complying with innumerable rules and regulations (and yes, they vary, they’re not universal, it’s up to every company what they will allow you to do during your “free-not-free-time”, sometimes it even depends on the “Captain” and how he feels like).

⦁ Not being able to have one single sip of alcohol for 6 months.

⦁ Being woken up at any time and have an alco-drug test.

⦁ Being woken up by any authority at any time without any specific reason and interrogated (for hours sometimes), all of your personal belongings searched and scanned and in the end, you won’t have any explanation why you were interrogated, searched, threatened and treated as a criminal.

⦁ To be woken up during the rest hours, totally deprived of sleep, and right out of the bed, innumerable questions are thrown at you that may or may not be related to your job, it doesn’t matter, you have to answer anyway and if you are wrong, you got NC.

⦁ Sometimes, seafarers are treated not as a human but an emotionless robot who does not need basic things worthy of a human being.

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How does that sound? Surreal, like a lie, I’m talking trash, right?

Well, most of you will think it’s a lie; such things cannot be real; it can’t happen in the 21st century! These are basic examples of human rights violations, and it can’t happen, it can’t be real, right? Especially since we are talking about companies of well-known brands, we are talking about organizations that fight for the rights of seafarers.

Most of them are – passing various laws, rules, regulations, adding amendments to already existing amendments, etc. and they, presumably, represent and lead humanity towards sustainability, unity, equality and all the other words that sound fantastic, bombastic and great (there goes an applause a clap, especially for IMO, ILO, ITF, UN and various other organizations that takes, not in any way makes, billions of dollars every year and do absolutely nothing when it is most needed)! They deserve a big round of applause, mumblings, mutterings, chants, prayers, and a trophy for the biggest hypocritical “body” in the maritime world! They deserved it for a long time, but now they have shown their true face and clearly proved how much authority and how much respect they should have been given by all, especially, us who are at the FRONTLINE, and that’s exactly and equal to nothing i.e. 0 (zero)!

And, now, we are DISCUSSING, and please remember the word “discussion”, should seafarers officially be recognized as key workers!

Now, on April 7. 2020 ILO has come as a “savior” and started discussing whether seafarers should be recognized as key-workers and be granted exemptions from any travel restrictions (things we see in the trucking industry, i.e. land transportation of goods)! 

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We see them and others talking about something that is as usual just another futile discussion of a useless, so-called international organization formed by people who have zero understanding, knowledge, and respect for what they do. And when you read and look at things they had done in the past and are continuously doing, year after year, one has to stop and ponder: 

1. Do they really know what they are doing? 

2. Who are these people and to whom they are talking to?  

3. Do they have a right to talk about the things related to seafarers’ rights and the maritime world as a whole?

4. Who they stand for? It is obvious, they do not stand for the well-being of seafarers as they claim.

5. Are they really there for the seafarers, or for their own sake and just a hefty paycheck?

6. Do they feel a sense of shame? 

7. Do they deserve to be asked and most importantly answered to after all?

However, to be fair, I do not blame only various international organizations or any shipping companies, but I also blame the seafarers, for allowing themselves to get into a situation in which they are, not only now, but for a very long period, more precisely- forever. All those useless conversations, rebellions in an attempt, which I heard so many times during coffee breaks, casual talks, and then, there was a ghostly silence when you were given the opportunity to get up and say everything you have to! So remember, all of you, that no one, or anything, can destroy and devalue you as you can do to yourself.

It is sad and unfortunate that the seafarers suffer from fear of change and that their conditioning presupposes a static identity, usually, results in rejection for fear of failure. In the shipping industry, being wrong is erroneously associated with failure. When, in fact, to be proven wrong should be celebrated. It is elevating someone to a new level of understanding and furthering one’s knowledge and understanding. 

I know that my words will echo in the void of the universe where even screams are not heard, but out of own need not to remain a blind spectator, I need to say what has had befallen on my mind – an urge to reach to my colleagues and ex-colleagues. A plea to them to finally wake up and stand their grounds and not to be afraid as there is nothing to be afraid of, and death will provide us with enough time to remain silent, but now its time to finally stand and fight a battle that we can’t lose or, to say – we shall not! 

The article is submitted by Goran Petrović, he is a Navigation officer with one of the leading Maritime Companies.

The authors’ views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of The Maritime Post.

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