Men with guns

Men with guns rarely add anything useful. But there is one big exception. It is a simple fact that putting armed guards on merchant ships has stopped the Somali piracy which was menacing world trade. All the collective huff and puff and vast expense of the global navies didn’t stop the piracy. It is a few companies putting ex-marines with rifles onto ships while they transit the dangerous area which has brought the problem under control.

Instead of helping control … Continue reading

A Sailor’s Christmas

When you are opening presents, warm and well fed and a little tipsy, spare a thought this Christmas for the seafarers out there on the oceans without whom you would be cold, hungry and have no presents and nothing to wrap them in.

They will be a long way from their families and even if you are not hanging on for dear life in a North Atlantic storm or stuck in the middle of a war or revolution or in … Continue reading

Waving not drowning

I know we need universities. We have to keep beer sales up and youth unemployment down somehow. But sometimes the insulting nonsense which the sherry-swilling keyboard jockeys who sleep snuggly beneath their dreaming spires come up with makes you want to drown the lot of them.

We can now be grateful, it seems, that what we know works in practice actually works in theory as well. Professor Tom Adcock, aptly named, of the University of Oxford, no less, has proven … Continue reading

Migrant madness

The numbers of migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean grow exponentially, and the onset of winter does not seem to be deterring them. Not only are the EU nations powerless to stop them, they are also unwilling to commit the resources needed to police the waters and rescue the migrants who find themselves in trouble, which is most of them.

Instead they rely on merchant shipping to do their job. Around seventy per cent of the migrants rescued at sea … Continue reading

Risk and reward

Last week’s Economist came up with the unlikely fact that the way to get a good salary in the USA is to attend a maritime college. In an article examining the value for money of a US college education they showed that graduates of SUNY Maritime in New York, which admits two thirds of applicants, earn higher salaries than those of Caltech, which selects only nine per cent of applicants. The merchant marine graduates even outstrip alumni of MIT … Continue reading

How pirates think

Journalists love surveys. Six out of ten men floss before sex is a great headline. So they are never tempted to look behind the survey outcome and ask what it was based on and if it has any significance at all. No-one likes to let facts get in the way of a good story.

So to Somali pirates. Evidently a survey of Somali pirates found that they think prison is the worst place, they attack ships because they are … Continue reading

When the chips are down

To Trinity House last week for the retirement party of a good man. Karl Lumbers is stepping down from his role as loss prevention director of the UK P&I Club. Two unusual things happened. Someone told the truth about how the press works and a senior P&I Club director made a joke which was funny. Neither of these are frequent occurrences.

Truth first. Karl said in his speech that he had always tried to be helpful to the press and … Continue reading

Rocky truth

You would think that after banging your ship onto a rock while showing off to your mistress, bungling the evacuation and getting sixteen years jail for the manslaughter of thirty-two people in your care you would find a period of silence appropriate. Not the lovely Captain Schettino, he who caused the biggest shipwreck ever by sailing the cruise ship Costa Concordia too close to the Italian island of Giglio before slipping into a lifeboat in front of others. This week … Continue reading

Is it all Uber?

Paris last week. Scorching hot. Mad taxi drivers blockading the city and turning over any cars they thought were Uber taxis. The smartphone app is disrupting the established taxi business everywhere, and the simplicity of its model, putting drivers with cars together with people who need a ride, means it won’t be going away.

While outside the taxi drivers were fighting digitalisation, I was in a cool hotel conference room listening to presentations on digitalisation in shipping. My biggest client … Continue reading