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

Gunning for salvors

Your ship is in trouble. A salvage tug pitches up. You agree Lloyd’s Open Form and they chuck you a line and get you out of trouble. Arbitrators determine the salvor’s fee and your insurers pay them. Easy and simple and the time-honoured view of salvage. Very nice, but in fact it doesn’t work like that.

Last year two-hundred and sixteen ships got into trouble all over the world and were rescued by brave and determined salvors who were … Continue reading

Rock bottom and digging

I thought Captain Schettino had reached rock bottom. He put the Costa Concordia on a rock to show off to his girlfriend. He killed several people by messing up the evacuation of the ship, although he saved himself. And recently he got sixteen well deserved years in chokey after an embarrassing defence which claimed it was not his fault. That would seem like rock bottom for most passenger ship masters.

Not Schettino. He hits rock bottom, then he starts digging … Continue reading

Good news for polar bores

The oil price has bounced back a little recently. But it is a dead cat bounce. It will soon fall again, and further. There is too much oil, too much gas and too little demand. Good news for consumers, good news for refiners and transporters of products and fuel retailers. And as an offbeat thought, good news for those many people who would like the Arctic left unspoilt.

The dreamers who report every year about the North East Passage and … Continue reading

Captain Calamity

Criminalising seafarers for making mistakes is wrong. But sixteen years for Captain Schettino is wrong too. He should have got more. He didn’t make an honest error of judgement. He deliberately sailed the Costa Concordia dangerously close to the island of Giglio, just to show off. Thirty-two people died, many of whom would have been saved if he had handled the subsequent evacuation of the ship properly. He deserves the long jail sentence handed down last week in Italy.

He is … Continue reading

Plastic facts

Here’s the headline from the Times: “Oceans drowning in a sea of plastic”. Here’s the headline from the quasi-scientific paper the article is based on: “Plastic Pollution in the World’s Oceans: More than 5 Trillion Plastic Pieces Weighing over 250,000 Tons Afloat at Sea”. And here is the truth: a group of researchers who make a living from creating scares about pollution have cobbled together the findings of a very small selection of ocean sampling trips, built a … Continue reading

Renewable future

Greenpeace loves to lecture. Its activists live on a moral high ground few of us can aspire to. And of course they are right about many things. Renewable energy, for example. It’s a good thing, and the world will be cleaner if we find a way to generate and use more of it. The whole point of it being that it is renewable, and not a finite resource.

Unlike, for example, an ancient monument in a fragile area. Which is … Continue reading

More something for nothing

When you fill up your car this week most of you will notice that it costs a bit less. And that will cheer you up. Shipowners and charterers will notice that bunker prices have fallen, and that will cheer them up too. But low oil prices are not just something for nothing. I’m all for cheap energy, but not everyone is a winner.

In the shipping business anyone with exposure to offshore energy projects feels a cold shiver when oil … Continue reading

Conserve and go hungry?

The shrill tone and holier-than-thou attitude of Sea Shepherd always grates, and it is tempting to ignore them as pests or dismiss them as kids having fun. But their direct actions to protect maritime species raise real questions. You would have to have a heart of stone not to be touched by this Cape Verde fisherman’s account of how he has stopped the annual slaughter of rare shearwaters.

It highlights a real dilemma. Can we in the wealthy developed … Continue reading

Pleasure or principle?

Like them or loath them, and sometimes I do both, you have to admire environmental activists. Greenpeace may often be misguided, but they are fighting for what they believe in, and we almost certainly live in a cleaner, greener world because of their actions. The volunteers put themselves in real danger to try and make their point. So when I read about someone like Maite Mompo I feel respect.

She has spent years sailing on the Greenpeace protest ships … Continue reading