Hungry As The Sea
Safety and dangers at sea
What do shipowners, officers, crew or ordinary sailors have in mind? To transport ship's cargo safely...all of them will answer.
But there are terms in navigation that are beyond the control of our hands like:
- Force majeure - in French = superior force or act of God as in storm, hurricane, flooding, earthquake, volcanic eruption or related natural disaster. Others can also be liabilities on war, crime, riot and other events that requires legal terms to expound hampering the delivery of cargo where contract of two parties are usually present.
Other calamities are man-made, like pollution in oil spill and other destruction that endanger marine lives because of incidents violating the laws of the sea fitted into books of Marine Pollution Act and the like.
Having attended upgrading seminars on tanker familiarization, handling and transporting of hazardous materials and the latest maritime security among other requirements, this sailor traveled half-parts of the world via tanker ships.
The toolbox meeting, on-board trainings on safety are part of the weekly routine while en route to various ports of call for loading and discharging operations.
We've been oriented as to why tanker ships should be designed as double hull in order to prevent spillage of oil in the open sea. We often referred to defective ships as "floating coffins", always posing dangers to both marine and human lives, whenever a contract for oil delivery is signed.
You'll be thankful if the master will orient other officers and crew about the dangers of their cargo, what type it is and the health hazards than can affect the lives of sailors on board.
Usually, the present contract will only last for six months but extendable for next three months if you will endure both the rigors and your work and perils of the seas.
Safety and dangers play side-by-side in the maritime industry. Even new-buildings of ships are being rated by the likes of Lloyd's List, IMO (International Maritime Organization, ISO, still, its vulnerabilities will be tested once these vessels are off to their maiden journeys at sea.
The concern extends to all parties; from the owners, contractors or charterers, chandlers, officers and crew, port personnel and ordinary people.
Industrialization always pose danger in the maritime industry. It's not only written in the book, but it's the reality.
Disaters at sea and more
Larger than Fiction
I was on board my fourth tanker vessel in 2005 when hurricane Katrina endangered our lives as our Greek master decided to sail the cadmium-rich crude oil from Port Jose, Venezuela unto the port of New Orleans. We were nearing the Yucatan channel at the Gulf of Mexico when the decade's strongest hurricane pummeled it's fury in the Caribbean.
There was so much angry discussion that happened at the officers' salon of the vessel where all of us already donned our life jackets and breathed our silent prayers for our lives. Our stomachs churned due to heavy swellings, very strong winds as if playing the decks of supertanker brought about by the hurricane.
Two days after, loss of human lives were reported in New Orleans, destroyed homes, crops and other properties, stashed small ships on the road, displaced oil platforms, derailed operation loomed the already-low esteem of US homeland security.
Telex reports showed the extend of damages of the incident considered as "Force majeure" channeled by the ship's charterer.
Being in maritime industry will take a strong willpower to tackle the challenges ahead. It is constantly happening at an alarming rate even we are already cautious and anticipating the possible events that can occur.
New incidents of oil spill at the Gulf of Mexico happened killing marine lives instantly at the location of disaster. We still can never get off of the myriad of events that happened since Exxon Valdez oil spill in the coast of Alaska in the 80s. They argued about the factor of "Force majeure" on it.
In the Tugboat Captain's Mind
With the array of events happening in many ports of the world, we often neglected the role of the tug boats. Yet, they are always ready when disaster happens. They act as salvage team than prevent further destruction of marine lives.
Sailors often see them handling the operation when the ship will anchor, will discharge or load and depart from port. They also ferry new crew, deliver spare parts and other ships' provisions and even extended their service as transport boat for seamen who are going ashore.
Their officers and crew are the same with those who are on their commercial voyages. Special duties are for tug men but they're also first-rate men of the seas.
There's a special recognition that the author of the book Hungry As The Sea would want to convey even in this modern times. Mr. Wilbur Smith ( January 9, 1933 up to present times) opined that: "My concern grows with each new tanker disaster, each time I tread an oil-scummed beach or find a dead, oil-smeared seabird, each time I revisit a remote area of the coast and find its reefs denuded of shellfish..."
Up to these days, although many of his books were turned into movies and acted by the likes of Roger Moore, the James Bond himself, Roy Scheider and Jeff Fahey ( from the late 60s and 90s), he never rested on his laurels as he launched his latest offering for sailors, Those in Peril.
Note: Mr. Smith have taken a lifetime journey researching about the authenticity of his book dedicated to all sailors. He'd taken all his guts with helicopters in all weather out to the decks of passing supertankers, detailed conversations with the captains and crews, tugmen of a tugboat company, who sail the most powerful oceangoing salvage tugs afloat the waters of Cape Town in South Africa and Miami, Florida including its universities for research. His writings about maritime life had taken him to shipyards in many parts of the world.