THE CHAIN LOCKER
The St David in rough seas by Pun Woo - click for source
Ever read Macbeth? Then you'll remember the famous ghost scene where Macbeth's old comrade Banquo, whom Macbeth has had murdered, appears at a banquet. Only Macbeth is aware of him; no one else at the table can see him or hear him.
Isn't Banquo's ghost a little like the role played by the U.S. Merchant Marine, as our nation talks about budget and priorities? You wouldn't want to take the parallel too far; but with regard to our invisibility at the national table, I'd say we bear an uncomfortable resemblance to the famous ghost.
As a career American merchant mariner, this "broadcast" on Maritime TV caught my eye. It's an interview with Denise Krepp, former MARAD Chief Counsel, and Tony Munoz, Editor of Maritime Executive magazine. Both have written articles recently about actions the U.S. government has taken - and failed to take - that they maintain have not only weakened the U.S. Merchant Marine, but may actually threaten its existence.
In Tony Munoz's editorial, Administration to Dismantle U.S. Merchant Marine? he criticizes the Administration's plan to change the U.S. food aid to starving countries scheme: first cutting, and now possibly eliminating, participation by the U.S. merchant fleet.
A few months ago the Administration slashed cargo preferences (the percentage of the cargo that would go in American ships) from 75% to 50%. Now, as part of its deficit-reduction plan, the White House wants to stop sending food shipments, period. Instead, the food aid to starving nations will be sent in the form of cash, partly to NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) outfits like OXFAM America, who will oversee distribution of the money and the purchasing of food in the countries of need.
I'm no expert in overseas relief, but in the past large numbers of dollars pumped into poorly-governed areas have had a way of slipping through the cracks, leaking away through obscure, sometimes invisible channels. Would cash-based aid feed people more efficiently, or just add to the corruption rife in many of these areas? I don't know - but whatever the answer to that question, this action represents a damaging blow to the U.S. Merchant Marine.
Tony also details several other actions that effectually weaken the domestic maritime industry, including this Administration's paltry allocation of stimulus funds or other support to maritime initiatives such as dredging ports in preparation for the larger Panama Canal, and Short Sea Shipping. I think he makes some good points.
Denise Krepp's article is headlined The End of the U.S. Merchant Marine? and baldly predicts that "The U.S. Merchant Marine fleet will be dead in ten years."
She lays out a persuasive argument comprising political indifference, the almost non-existent presence of the domestic maritime industry in the national debate about spending decisions, and the dire consequences to American readiness that result.
Both articles, as well as the Maritime TV page, recommend action and point American sailors to resources for raising these crucial questions with their representatives. This is an issue that cuts across both political parties and all branches of government, so there's no easy Good Guy or Bad Guy in this fight. It's basically our maritime industry - you and me - vs. indifferent lawmakers and a clueless public. And it won't be resolved favorably unless our voices are raised, and the public & politicians are made aware of the stakes.
Do you work in the U.S. maritime industry? Then you've got a dog in this fight - and you'd better get busy! Speak out strongly yourself, and educate and motivate others. Find your Representative here, but don't stop there - call or email your Senators, the White House, and even your local officials - they all need to know that their constituents regard this as important. If they know that, they will act - but if not, they'll regard the issue as disposable. We are not disposable!
Click to go to Waterways Council site
On a more positive note, the Waterways Council, Inc. has enthusiastically endorsed the legislation known as WAVE 4 - “Waterways are Vital for the Economy, Energy, Efficiency, and Environment Act of 2013”. This legislation would modernize the lock and dam infrastructure on the inland waterways system, which carries the overwhelming majority of American farm and bulk products, much of it destined for export through the seaports at the ends of those waterways. This isn't just an inland issue, it benefits us all.
So while you're calling and emailing, get onto your lawmakers about supporting WAVE 4. Not only is repairing waterways infrastructure good for everyone in the country - but successfully passing WAVE 4 will focus more attention on the entire U.S. Merchant Marine and its role in our national life & our national security.
Use the links above and your telephone to raise your voice - against harmful measures, and for good ones - so that Banquo's ghost can be heard by the whole table. And comment to let us know of other things we all can do. We may all be ghosts if we don't speak up!
THE CHAIN LOCKER
"Distraction" by Rick Belden - click for his site
Distraction - it's the enemy of an officer on watch; it wreaks havoc on connected thought and orderly progress. Along with manning, fatigue, and safety culture it's a buzzword at industry conferences.
Distraction has been my special companion for the last several months. First there was the holiday season; then in January several time-consuming extracurricular activities kicked in. It's been five weeks since I've posted on this blog, for instance, and I can't tell you where the time has gone.
Many of you may know that although I spent my life at sea and on tugs, about eight years ago, at the age of 59, I swallowed the anchor and came ashore to a job in the office. A lifetime of living one particular way can get under a man's skin - it becomes part of his view of the world. So coming ashore full time, later in life as I did, was a serious adjustment. It's one I'm still making.
Early in the transition, I began to think of working life ashore as "life through the windshield" - another name for the constant distraction. Shore folk spend a lot of time in their cars, and most of it's not quality time, either. While driving you worry about the day's issues, take calls (in defiance of the law), and intermittently mumble curses at other drivers. When you arrive at your destination, focus is similarly difficult to achieve; your omnipresent smartphone peppers you with emails and messages, along with the occasional phone call.
Now, at your office, when outside influences invade to interrupt your chain of thought, that's to be expected. The disconcerting thing about shore life is that you never escape from that. Work pursues you home, phones ring at night, and email must be responded to at all hours, or you risk being judged careless. Don't drop the ball!
And even worthy "spare time" and charitable activities exert their own stress, though they certainly deliver rewards, too.
This isn't a litany of complaint - I'm richly blessed, and very grateful. I guess it's just a description of my less-than-complete adjustment to shore life here in the United States, where life is a little crazy and distracted anyhow. I do sometimes miss the orderliness of being at sea. (And maybe I also miss my youth - but not much can be done about that.)
But is life at sea today still the cloistered, orderly existence I remember?
When I would report aboard a ship back in the '70s and '80s, I used to put my mind in a work groove, and zero in on that - I'd write letters home of course, and call home when I had a chance, but my main focus was my job. When on watch, I did my job - period. No other activity was supposed to interfere with watchkeeping on the bridge in my day - we were even prohibited from sitting down. When I wasn't on watch I ate, slept, exercised, studied and read. In that monkish life, my world ended at the horizon.
The horizon expanded sometimes at night, via sessions on the shortwave (do seamen still do that?) My radio would range the night sky searching for scratchy news of the unending human scrum, and the things they talked about seemed very far away indeed from our bubble of racket and light, our little human island in the immensity of the sea.
I read things I could never muster the time or discipline to read ashore; the only Tolstoy and Dostoevsky I ever read were at sea. I lived in those books - I regretted each book's end. I read, and when I got done had to sit down and write about what I'd read. Letters to friends, or to girls - foolish things, but keenly felt.
Tugs were different. I was older and married by then, and separations were shorter. When I first joined, "20 and 10" - 20 days on, 10 days off - was the norm. We worked in the harbor mainly, so we got to the phone on the pier quite a lot (no cell phones then), and once in a while I even made a quick trip home for a few hours. But the fundamental work time vs. home time division still held sway; on the boat, work was serious and took most of my attention.
Nowadays I read a lot about distraction invading shipboard life. Distraction, fatigue, and the paperwork overload have been mentioned as factors in many accidents and groundings - including instances where the mate on watch, probably overworked and short of rest, simply fell asleep. Crews are smaller, too. In the 30,000-some GT tankers I sailed in, a typical crew was 32 persons; today, I hear of crews for much larger ships numbering half that.
A Master is now expected to be a "manager" - and that distinction also seems to involve an erosion of his authority, as the office takes advantage of 24/7 connectivity to intrude more than ever into the Master's affairs. On the modern ship, does a day go by without colloquy with the office - how different is the Master's job from mine ashore, today?
Well, there's one big difference between distraction ashore and distraction at sea, certainly: ashore, distraction may be irritating, or result in my failing to return a phone call. But at sea, a tired or distracted watch officer can be the cause of accidents or even deaths. Distraction - like many other things in our seagoing environment - carries more serious consequences at sea than it might in other settings. Do the folks who create these demands - many of whom don't work in our environment - understand that?
CORVUS J after collision with BALTIC ACE - click for gCaptain story
You hear talk about how to address it, but it always seems to come back to money: perhaps sailors of Nation X, although very well-qualified, have "priced themselves out of the market". Or, training crews properly and thoroughly isn't worth the expense when crew retention is so dismal. Crews have been inundated with growing piles of paperwork, because that's seen by the office as the cheapest way to handle it - even if officers end up having to do some of it while they're on watch. But how cheap is it if a distracted officer fails to see another vessel and a collision results? We don't know the cause of the collision caught on video below (or click the link just above), but it would seem likely that inattention - whether caused by distraction or not - might have played a role: There is even a discussion on LinkedIn now about driverless ships - they've been advanced as a solution to the problems of crew training, crew retention, crew fatigue, and safety incidents. From that point of view, the solution is simple - just get rid of the crew. There is an EC-funded multi-million Euro project in progress now. See also this link about a conference in February that covered the same subject.
Certainly, people are complicated. But many of those problems are actually caused by distraction and work overload - like having to do paperwork on watch. Surely some of those problems could be mitigated by things like treating crews with respect for their professional skill; providing adequate manpower for the work that needs to be done; and fostering company loyalty with fair treatment. And here's one very good use for that 24/7 connectivity - how about moving some of that paperwork burden back to the office?
I think most "crew" problems aren't just problems with the crew. Many of them sound more like problems with crew management; they begin at the top, not at the bottom.
How do you view the problems of distraction and fatigue? Are you with a company that has dealt with them successfully - or do you have personal strategies that have helped you to cope? Share your wisdom and experience in the Comments section!
THE CHAIN LOCKER
Photo courtesy Guardian - click for NBC News story
I'm sure that, in the firestorm following the sinking of COSTA CONCORDIA (Click "Capt. Schettino" and the various "Costa Concordia" links in the Categories column to the right side of the page), former Captain Francesco Schettino has been subjected to some unfair criticism - especially among the mainstream media and the public at large, where there is often a sketchy understanding of the maritime world.
But Schettino invites an awful lot lot of that criticism by defending himself as he does in this interview. I've read several like it; and Schettino has also been talking up a forthcoming book in which he will tell the "real" story, presumably justifying himself along the same lines.
In the interview above, COSTA CONCORDIA's former Master says "I regret nothing" about his conduct after striking the rock. And indeed, some analysts have commended the crew for getting the ship close to shore before she sank. By selecting one part of the scenario that may have had some positive aspects - and focusing on that alone - he tries to claim that the criticism directed against him is unjust.
This is twisted logic at best, since anyone can see the 800-lb gorilla that he's ignoring: Schettino, as Master, is responsible for the accident in the first place. In failing to take responsibility for that fundamental aspect of the situation, he makes anything else he might say irrelevant.
Reading on, it only gets worse. The former Captain blames the actual striking of the rock on the OOW; he belabors himself only for the fatal error of "trusting" someone else - something he says he'll never do again! It wasn't his fault; he was betrayed by an incompetent officer. He implies that the company made him trust his officers, against his better judgment.
However, except for having been too trusting and naive - except for his having been, regrettably, almost too good a person - except for the poor conduct of his officers - excepting all those things which were not his fault, Schettino assures us, he takes full responsibility for the accident.
The victims' family members hate him, he hints, because they've been unable to deal with the loss of their loved ones who died in the accident. It sounds as if he's saying that if only they'd been able to handle their pain in some better way, they wouldn't have reacted by irrationally hating him. Then he compares his own pain to theirs, putting himself on an equal footing. We're all victims here, and your pain is Schettino's pain!
A moment of silence during a Catholic Mass at Giglio to commemorate the Costa Concordia disaster - click photo for Mail Online story
If Schettino's book consists of more of the same, it will be a black eye for our industry. Self-serving reasoning and shifting blame don't constitute a defense; they only illustrate that Francesco Schettino has learned nothing.
Let's hope that Costa, and the the cruise industry, has!
THE CHAIN LOCKER
I just noticed this documentary, alerted by a link on the Naftrade site, though apparently it's been out there for a while. It's an interesting and apparently pretty accurate depiction - so far as it goes - of what happened the night COSTA CONCORDIA struck the rock and sank at Giglio (for a roundup of other news reports made at the time of the sinking, click the series of COSTA CONCORDIA links in the "Categories" listing on the right side of this page).
The documentary was made with the help of officers from Massachusetts Maritime Academy and California Maritime Academy, and seems accurate with regard to the basic physical facts. As seamen, we have to remember that programs like this one, produced for consumption by the general public, can't delve too deep lest they confuse their audience - an audience that may have seen the movie "Titanic" but by and large knows little about ships and the sea.
One thing I noticed is that the experts in the documentary made no mention of use of the bow thruster to help maneuver COSTA CONCORDIA toward the shore - in their animation, the ship is moved only by the wind. I'd be interested to know whether this is because it has been ascertained that that maneuvering with the bow thruster never took place - or was it just a simplification of the facts for a non-technical audience?
Here's an analysis by gCaptain's John Konrad, made immediately after the incident using initial AIS data, which would seem to support the idea that the bow thruster was used:
The Discovery documentary leans heavily on interviews with survivors, who describe their own experiences as they tried to board lifeboats or were forced to jump into the sea; it also includes cell phone video taken by the passengers, recording what went on around them at various points. The degree of heel as the ship canted over, and the panic generated among the passengers, are graphically shown in these passenger videos. Also incorporated in the Discovery program are snippets of the video someone had taken of events on the bridge up to the moment of the order to abandon ship (that video had been available on YouTube, but has since been blocked).
You and I - as professional mariners - are more interested in how the navigational decisions were made, how well bridge resources were utilized; and what was done, and what might have been done, after the event to preserve lives. I've also wondered what was going on in the Engineering spaces during this time. Much of this is still under investigation; Captain Schettino is still defending himself in court, and legal issues are still being settled. The Discovery video necessarily skirts most of this; still, it's interesting for what it is.
I'd be interested in your take - and if you know of other resources, especially with regard to the salvage operation, please let us know in the Comments section!
THE CHAIN LOCKER
Maimed Yemeni seaman Mohamad Abdulla Ali - click for TheNational story
I know everyone's heard about the rescue, just before Christmas, of the 22 surviving sailors on MV Iceberg 1. Those men had been held by Somali pirates since March of 2010 - a total of 33 miserable months!
The men were finally freed by the Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF), a UAE-financed force meant to combat piracy on the ground in Puntland. It's said that the owner of the Iceberg's cargo (and not the shipowner, Azal Shipping of Dubai) paid $1.5 million to the Puntland government for the operation.
Azal had abandoned the ship and crew early on, either because the company lacked the funds to ransom the crew, or because they were unwilling to pay the price. I read that in one ransom negotiation, the pirates asked for $3.5 million and Azal countered by offering $300,000. Either Azal were not seriously negotiating - playing fast and loose with innocent men's lives - or else, Azal is a very poorly-financed or poorly-run shipping company! Azal also stopped the men's pay after their capture, adding to the stress and suffering of their families. Any prudent seaman should think twice before accepting employment with Azal Shipping in future - or any other company with a similar record.
(I hope pretty soon to be able to suggest a mechanism by which companies like this can be exposed and tracked, so that seamen seeking employment can see which companies have taken care of their men and which ones haven't - but more on that in a later post.)
If you've been following the MV Iceberg 1 case, either in the news or on the MV Iceberg 1 Mariners Action Group website, you know that the captives have suffered absolutely horrific treatment over the last 33 months. They've been subjected to extremely close confinement with no fresh air, exercise, even little sunlight; and they've been routinely deprived of food and clean water. In addition they've been subjected to regular beatings, torture, psychological abuse and death threats - even maimings, such as Yemeni seaman Mohamad Abdulla Ali having his ears sliced. It was all too much for Yemeni 3rd officer Wagdi Akram, who in despair committed suicide over two years ago. But all the survivors carry scars, on their bodies and on their souls.
How would you or I react to such treatment? We never really know until we're forced to face it. As a young patrol boat crewman, I remember our POW training before being sent to Vietnam back in the 1960s. I was a foolish, fit young 19-year-old at the time, and thought nothing could beat me! But our short week of survival and POW camp training quickly humbled me. And we were primarily outside and active, even in the mock POW camp. We also knew it was only an exercise, and we knew the time limit.
The men of MV Iceberg 1 have been exposed to far more debilitating treatment, for a far longer time - and the same goes for all the men in pirate captivity. Daily, indeterminate misery, with no end in sight - sometimes beginning to believe, as several of the Iceberg captives stated, that no one is ever going to come for you, or that your suffering can end only in death - that experience would sap the strongest spirit. Stories of pirate captivity often relate how shipboard discipline breaks down, each man for himself; some men even going over to the pirate side, out of self-interest or due to the "Stockholm syndrome". Until we're tested ourselves, we don't know who we might become, or what we might do, under those conditions.
But some men pass the test! There was at least one such man on the MV Iceberg 1: First Officer Dheeraj Kumar Tiwari. Mr. Tiwari seems never to have forgotten his responsibility to his men as a senior officer, second-in-command of the ship. According to the men who were rescued last month, Mr. Tiwari repeatedly placed himself in harm's way to protest the mistreatment of others in the crew, drawing upon himself many beatings as a result. He also acted as spokesman for the crew, as testified by recorded phone calls and video interviews such as the one above. At 27 - still a young man - he showed the kind of courage, steadiness, and care for his men that every Master should display. I've no doubt that, if he yet survives, he will become one. "If" he survives? Yes - sadly, Mr. Tiwari was not rescued with the others, and his whereabouts and condition are unknown. This hero disappeared from the ship in September, 2011, after a severe beating. Members of the crew who inquired about him were told by the pirates that they did not know where he had gone - an unlikely story. Some of the crew thought that the pirates may have been hiding the fact that Mr. Tiwari had been murdered, but at this point no one knows. He could still be held ashore - perhaps he was taken off the ship because he persisted in standing up to the pirates. But, since the last group of pirates who were holding the ship eluded capture and can't be questioned, we may not learn the truth for some time. The Puntland government has pledged to find them, but that may be difficult.Dheeraj Tiwari's family, led by his father Purushottam Tiwari, are appealing for news of their son. Admittedly, it's unlikely that any of us will be able to help the family directly. But if anyone reading this comes across any news, or hears anything that could be of any help to this brave man or his anxious family, please relay it immediately to the MV Iceberg 1 Mariners Action Group Facebook page - I know that members of the Tiwari family are monitoring the Facebook page, and I'll ensure that they hear about it. Dheeraj Kumar Tiwari courageously stood up for others - let's do anything we possibly can for him!
THE CHAIN LOCKER
That's a lotta cranes working! Click photo for gCaptain story
As a tugboatman, I was struck by this story & video about MARCO POLO, the world's new largest containership at 16,020 TEU, docking at Hamburg - her first ever port call in continental Europe. Slightly larger than the Maersk E-class, although smaller than the Maersk Triple E class currently being built, she's quite a ship. I'm sure the docking masters and tugs that handle her do so with great respect for her mass and windage!
The docking operation is shown on a video that you can view on the gCaptain site, or on YouTube - I didn't embed it as it's fairly long. I'd like to have seen more of the final pier approach, especially because the tugs are being used (as they are in much of the world) on lines - here in the US we'd be more likely to push directly on the ship. Still, I could imagine what was happening, and the orders I'd expect to hear if I were operating one of the tugs.
My career has embraced a range of tugs: from old but still useful single-screw boats built in the 1940s, to an ATB, to reverse tractors built just a few years ago. Previous to that I sailed deep-sea in oil tankers.
For much of that time shipping and tug work seemed to go on relatively unchanged. Containers came in - I remember the SeaTrain ships in the 1960s - and breakbulk began to disappear. The era of the supertanker arrived, though I never sailed in one. ITBs and then ATBs became more common. But in spite of these obvious changes, many of the older types of tugs and ships continued to be seen. For us on the US East Coast, at least, some of the new developments were, for a long time, more the exception than the rule.
CMA CGM MARCO POLO at Hamburg - click for ship fact sheet
The last couple of decades, though, have brought accelerating changes. The reverse tractor has had a huge effect on tug operations here in the US, for instance, as we've caught up with the rest of the world (and the West Coast) in tug tech. Ever-larger container ships like MARCO POLO have spurred dredging and port construction to accomodate them. LNG ships and their tug services have raised expectations for safety and port security. At the upper end of the industry, standards for safety have never been higher.
Of course, from the sailor's point of view this can be a mixed bag. Improved communication with the office is useful, but can also subject the mariner to 24/7 micromanaging. Recordkeeping can aid regulatory compliance, but it's mushroomed to the point where it can also interfere with watch duties. Training requirements help maintain a workforce that can safely operate the new tech, but they put a heavy burden on the sailor to keep up his qualifications.
Another change - a sad one from my point of view! - is that the speed and efficiency of modern cargo operations, and the paranoia surrounding port security, have combined to rob the modern seaman of one of the former great benefits of working at sea: the chance to see other countries, meet other people, and expand your own view of the world. For many modern seamen, their world has shrunk to the gunwales of their ship! Some sailors never leave their ship between the time they report and the time they're relieved. A generation of seamen have been deprived of the interesting times (some good, some admittedly not so good - but all interesting) that the old salts enjoyed. Could another Felix Luckner arise out of this generation? It would seem like a long shot!
Are you working on one of these modern giants - or in some other leading-edge facet of the industry, such as LNG? Let us know your take on shipboard life, high-tech watchstanding, and opportunities to get ashore, by leaving a comment. We're interested in your point of view!
THE CHAIN LOCKER
Click to go to petition, get this guy off their backs!
I noted in a previous post that The Chain Locker Blog was going to stop having so much piracy-related content, and return to the general maritime subjects for which it's better suited.
When we established the MV Iceberg 1 Mariners Action Group, we decided that we'd begin covering piracy-related topics on the website we established specifically for MV Iceberg 1 Mariners Action Group, in a new blog called Piracy Today Blog. We also began covering noteworthy piracy news items - stories that seem less likely to draw reader comment - in another tab of that same site, Piracy News. The new site, blog and news coverage is meant to be all piracy, all the time.
So this post and picture looks like going back on that resolution, doesn't it? But it's not, really. I just want to direct your attention to the new site once again, and generate more traffic to it.
Why? Because the MV Iceberg 1 Mariners Action Group website is there to do an important job, and that's to generate support for the MV Iceberg 1 sailors and to get signatures on Mariners Action Group's first petition. To see the petition, click the link or the photo above. Sign it if you support it - we'd want support if we were in their position, right?
Thanks for keeping the MV Iceberg 1 hostages on your radar! Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers - and back up those sympathetic thoughts with sympathetic action. You and I could be in their shoes someday. Also, please send me feedback about improving the site - any criticisms or suggestions are welcome if they advance the effort for the hostages. Thanks!
THE CHAIN LOCKER
CHENGTU - apparently under a former name - leaving Newcastle. Click for Maritime Executive news item
We're all accustomed to being on the sea - weeks, perhaps, away from the sight of land. We may not think much about it. After all, we carry our world with us: its joys and frustrations, its commonplace everyday happenings. Chow, work, that SOB who got the Bos'n's job and is now making our lives miserable, the new Captain and what he's like - it's all pretty consuming, and fills our everyday world during the long days at sea. The horizon rings us in, and the sight of another ship is a curiosity.
Then something happens that draws our attention outward. This was such an occurrence for the crew of CHENGTU. This news story from Maritime Executive gives us the basic facts.
CHENGTU, like HORIZON RELIANCE (see HORIZON RELIANCE 1, 2, 3, & 4 in the Categories list to the right of the page) responded to a yacht in distress. The yacht WINDIGO, between Tonga and New Zealand, sent a distress message on Wednesday. CHENGTU responded , along with another yacht, ADVENTURE BOUND, and the Royal New Zealand Air Force, whose P3-Orion made three trips to the scene and provided the only communications link.
A statement from RNZAF said: "This is the outcome we have been working towards since the emergency beacon was activated on Wednesday afternoon. It is the result of an excellent coordination effort involving the RNZAF, which provided a link for the two people on the WINDIGO when there was no other means of contact, and I would also like to express my appreciation to the captain of the CHENGTU and the crew of the ADVENTURE BOUND for their efforts."
Steven Jones & Tanya Davies - click photo for news item from Stuff.co.nz
Steven Jones and Tanya Davies, crew of WINDIGO, had both suffered injuries when the yacht rolled in a storm two days out from Tonga. Speaking before the rescue, Steven Jones' mother said the pair originally feared that the yacht would sink. The yacht had taken on water during the roll and was disabled and unable to navigate. She said 75 km/hr winds and 10m waves were battering the yacht. Here is a news item from the New Zealand site Stuff.co.nz.
Click chart to go to BBC news story
Here is the location of the rescue, 700km (435 miles) south west of Tonga and 1,260km (783 miles) from New Zealand. CHENGTU apparently dropped heaving lines to the damaged yacht and pulled the two injured yachtsmen aboard - I haven't read any account of how this was done. In 10m seas and 75km winds, it was a nice bit of shiphandling and an extraordinary effort by CHENGTU's crew. Here is another report from BBC News.Those sailors on CHENGTU may have done what we all would do - but they did it. No matter how cozy or confining our shipboard world may seem at times, it's fundamentally a lonely ocean. We'd quickly realize our isolation if we were in distress. Thank God for men like those on CHENGTU! And may we be like them when we're called upon to render aid to someone on the suddenly lonely ocean.
THE CHAIN LOCKER
Click for Mariners Action Group Twitter Acct
I wanted to let everyone know that we've just established a Twitter account for the MV Iceberg 1 Mariners Action Group. It's located here, and I hope you'll follow the account and stay up-to-date with developments over on the MV Iceberg 1 Mariners Action Group website.
There is a blog over there, as well - the PIRACY TODAY BLOG - and most of the piracy-related content will be appearing there in future. So bookmark the new blog and Twitter feed and stay in touch!
We've been working hard (while dodging Hurricane Sandy and working at our day jobs) to get our first petition ready, and it's almost set to go. We'll be announcing the kickoff, with links to sign it, soon - on the MAG website, through the Twitter feed, and of course here. Please keep alert for the petition's inauguration, and add your signature to help free the MV Iceberg 1 hostages.
This petition will be the first of many we hope to deliver. Please have a look at it, sign it if you support it, and even if you can't, please let us know how you think it could be made better. We'd appreciate suggestions with regard to who to petition, how the petition should read, and things future petitions should cover. We need your input, and so does the crew of MV Iceberg 1.
Consider joining the Mariners Action Group, as well! You'll see the joining link on the MAG website. We're all seamen - we're all in this together. And no one on earth - no company, no government, no politician - can see and feel this issue as we do. Add your weight to the cause!
THE CHAIN LOCKER
Click photo to go to PIRACY TODAY BLOG
Just a brief post to let you know that we've started a blog on the Mariners Action Group site called PIRACY TODAY. It will be almost exclusively devoted to the MV Iceberg 1 specifically, pirate hostages in general, and developments that affect them.
Please have a look and give us the benefit of your opinion. Your comments will be important - to the blog, and to the Mariners Action Group. Let us know what you think!