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

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

Pusser’s teeth

To Portsmouth to the historic dockyard, for a trip down memory lane and a visit to the new Mary Rose exhibition. Very much worth a trip, not to see the timbers of the ship, which are black, boring, propped up by scaffolding and largely meaningless, but to see the exhibition of what they found preserved in the Solent mud when they dug it up. The Mary Rose sank 470 years ago but the mud has preserved skeletons and the … Continue reading

Dodgy conversions

Another lesson from the Mary Rose. She was built as a lightly-armed vessel to carry troops and served happily in all sorts of weather for thirty years. Then some clever dick thought to arm her with heavy guns. These were installed low down in the ship for stability reasons, requiring gun ports to be cut in the ship’s side. With these shut, the ship was safe to sail. With them open there was a high risk of flooding and free … Continue reading

Mind games

The mind is a funny thing. We may not learn the useful lessons of life, like making sure ships are converted safely, but some things we learn when we are young never leave us. Right next to the Historic Dockyard is Gunwharf Quays, a modern outlet shopping centre where stores for rich people sell clothes only slightly cheaper to poor people. It is built over the site of what used to be HMS Vernon, the Royal Navy’s Mine Countermeasures School. … Continue reading

Mountain misery

I normally write about the sea, and there is enough misery to be had there with migrant boats, piracy and innocent merchant ships being fired on off Libya and Yemen, without dragging misery down from the mountains to bother you. But I thought I would share a terrible example of bungling with you.

Nepal was hit by a powerful earthquake on April 25, killing over 8,200 people and leaving thousands homeless. One valley where I had trekked in the past … Continue reading

Walking ballast

The dead don’t say much but if you take a tour of a cemetery they can tell you a lot. Right by my house is the back entrance to Cathays cemetery in Cardiff, which was built during the Victorian times. That was when Cardiff was getting rich as the world’s leading coal export port. Over two hundred shipowners thrived here and Cardiff sucked in labour, mostly Irish fleeing the famine.

I’ve often walked through the cemetery and nodded my head … Continue reading