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Old 06-03-2019, 12:25 PM   #1
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In defense of professional mariners

Sorry, this is going to be a long winded rant. Please note that this isn't directed at anyone on this site. You'll understand where I'm coming from a whole lot better than the average Jonny on the street, I think.

I'm sure you've all seen this video of this cruise ship crashing in Venice. In fact, thanks to the fact that everyone on earth has a camera in their pocket at all times, you can see this from at least four different angles.

I wasn't there. I don't know what happened. I could speculate, but I'm not really qualified. Apparently though, having a camera in your pocket, or having a keyboard and an internet connection, is all it takes to make a lot of people think they ARE qualified experts in the field of driving 100,000 ton ships.

As soon as people see an incident like this, they immediately start jumping to conclusions. The first conclusion is almost always that the captain is an idiot, a drunk, wildly incompetent, a criminal, a maniac, a murderer, a terrorist, a cannibal or some combination of the above, and should be summarily executed and then thrown in jail for a thousand years.

It kinda pisses me off. It upsets me partly because I'm a millennial snowflake, and I'm very sensitive (humor), but also because I'm a captain, and it's difficult for me not to take this sort of thing somewhat personally. I realize that's a failing of mine, but the reality is, this job is a HUGE part of who I am as a person. It's a significant part of my identity. I take it seriously, and when I mess up, I feel it. I failed, and it hurts deeply.

It's not just me. Many of my comrades feel the same way. We spend half the year away from our friends, families, and homes to do this. We all want to do a good job. We all want the days to go smoothly. None of us wants to hurt anyone, spill oil, or destroy property. I don't want to have to talk to the coast guard for ANY reason, EVER. None of us wants to make the news, EVER. We all wake up in the morning, or as often as not in the middle of the night, with every intention of doing our best. The problem is, things go wrong ALL. THE. TIME.

This is a complicated business. We've all got 27 plates spinning at any given time. There are schedules to keep, weather to manage, customers to coordinate with, crew issues, water levels, inventories of food and supplies to manage, drills, maintenance, acres upon acres of paperwork, 900 emails a day, and god forbid, thousands of passengers.

These are complicated machines we're running around. There are thousands of moving parts, all wearing out at different rates, needing constant inspection, maintenance, and repair. Sometimes towlines break, even when they look just fine. Sometimes that box of replacement fuel lines that you just got turns out to be defective, but those are the only spares you have, so you have to make do until replacements arrive. Sometimes the wind picks up when you don't expect it. Sometimes you look at the weather forecast for 10 seconds longer than you should, the pilot misses a turn, you don't catch it in time, and you end up aground. Bottom line, sometimes shit happens.

I think the average armchair captain must think driving one of these things around is easy. Hell, we've got tens of thousands of horsepower! 'A bow thruster?! You lazy cheater! I could do that with both eyes tied behind my back!'

Well guess what, this thing doesn't handle like your station wagon, pal. Imagine driving your car, except it's FIFTY THOUSAND TIMES bigger. You can't see all of it at any one time. You have blind spots that can be measured in tenths of miles. If you bump into something at two miles per hour, you utterly decimate it. There is zero traction. It's like driving on wet, polished ice with hard plastic wheels. The steering mechanism is at the back, so you're effectively driving in reverse all the time. Sometimes when the wind blows, you change direction suddenly. Sometimes the road swirls around under you and shoves you around. Sometimes an idiot in a kayak wants to take a selfie while sitting between you and that parallel parking space you're trying to skate into. You want to stop? Well, organize a team of twenty people to stand forty feet from each other, then have them lasso each other, dig in their heels, and hold on tight.

I'm not looking for a medal, or a pat on the back. I just wish people weren't so quick to judge.

We're only human beings, just like you. We have husbands and wives, kids, dogs, houses and cars. We have hopes, dreams, and fears. Some of us are afraid of spiders, and sometimes we make mistakes. I'm willing to bet that you've screwed something up at work once or twice in your career, too. You probably just didn't have 8,000 cameras pointed at you when you did, and you probably didn't wind up with an entire internet calling you a moron.
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Old 06-03-2019, 12:31 PM   #2
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I mostly agree...but the away from home part is common in many jobs....



The bigger the job, the bigger the problem any mistake is...even though it was only one little thing you did wrong.


Any president who sneezes at the wrong time can almost start a war.


Thiose that ever have had critical, important, dangerous, and or big scale jobs get it.

If they don't wait for most of the facts are out in serious incidents like this, their ego is bigger than thier importance.
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Old 06-03-2019, 12:42 PM   #3
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I'm ex-military, and have had gainful and rewarding jobs in agricultural, pulp and paper, and oil and gas.

So that makes me a warmongering, pesticide spraying, clear cutting, climate destroyer in the eyes of the social media critics.

The amount of falsehoods propagated and distributed is remarkable.

Although you might feel you can correct them, you cannot. You will learn to just ignore them.

Your skin will thicken. Give it time.
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Old 06-03-2019, 01:36 PM   #4
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Hey, I retired from a pharmaceutical company - you guys have it easy when it comes to the blame department!!
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Old 06-03-2019, 01:41 PM   #5
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Any president who sneezes at the wrong time can almost start a war.
Remember when Bush puked on the Prime Minister of Japan at a state dinner? Ah, fun times. I was impressed nothing seriously came of that, though.

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If they don't wait for most of the facts are out in serious incidents like this, their ego is bigger than thier importance.
Isn't that so often the case these days? Seems like we see examples of that almost everywhere.


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The amount of falsehoods propagated and distributed is remarkable.
Ah, the power of the internet-fueled masses. Makes one wary of any story about anything.


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Although you might feel you can correct them, you cannot. You will learn to just ignore them.

Your skin will thicken. Give it time.
There really isn't much other choice, is there? It's either ignore them and develop a thicker skin or retreat to some menial job where you can keep your head down.
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Old 06-03-2019, 01:43 PM   #6
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Big difference in an operational mistake versus a corporate decision to cover up monumental humankind mistakes....no wonder it's easier...
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Old 06-03-2019, 01:44 PM   #7
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Hey, I retired from a pharmaceutical company - you guys have it easy when it comes to the blame department!!
I work in the Canadian oil sands!
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Old 06-03-2019, 02:35 PM   #8
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In every profession, there will be mostly capable, consciences, honest and experienced members.

And in every profession, there will be a small percentage of bad members. Incompetent captains, dishonest cops, rapist priests, drug peddling doctors, bribed judges etc.

I don't know what caused that accident. I don't immediately assume the captain is at fault or not at fault. I'll wait until the investigation is concluded to form an opinion.

I've worked with many, many professional captains. I've also worked with not so professional captains.

I don't defend a person automatically because they are in the same profession that I'm in. I will give them the benefit of doubt until proven otherwise.
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Old 06-03-2019, 02:37 PM   #9
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Who investigates this, if at all?
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Old 06-03-2019, 02:47 PM   #10
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Whatever is the appropriate authority in Italy. But realistically, it is under a microscope by many organizations.
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Old 06-03-2019, 03:12 PM   #11
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Whatever is the appropriate authority in Italy. But realistically, it is under a microscope by many organizations.
I was referring to the Bahamas incident. Will post over there.
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Old 06-03-2019, 04:23 PM   #12
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The investigating authorities will determine the cause(s) as long as conducted by a free society. A communist country, not so much.
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Old 06-03-2019, 04:40 PM   #13
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Wow. Went back and watched the video. Normally I ignore "news".

Appropriate book.
https://www.amazon.com/Avoid-Huge-Sh.../dp/0870334336
PS: Read the reviews.
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Old 06-03-2019, 07:29 PM   #14
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I'm sure that the next issue of "Professional Mariner" will have the whole skinny as to what happened. In the meantime, I'm ponderin' why the CUSC Maritime Academy TS Golden Bear had an allision with an overhead crane in Barbados tearing off the radar mast.
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Old 06-04-2019, 12:23 AM   #15
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when did colliding with something (or another boat) become an allision? Even spell checker does not think that is a real word but the USCG uses it all the time. Is this an attempt to keep from scaring people? If two cars run into each other it is a collision, if two boats hit each other it becomes an allision? What is the history of this change to history?
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Old 06-04-2019, 12:45 AM   #16
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Because one of the vessels was moving and the second one was moored, the incident is considered an allision.

It's an Admiralty law thing.
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Old 06-04-2019, 01:10 AM   #17
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Because one of the vessels was moving and the second one was moored, the incident is considered an allision.

It's an Admiralty law thing.

Thanks. Another bit of interesting trivia learned from TF.

I had an allision with my dock two weekends ago trying to get into my slip with contrary winds and current and no thruster.

Iíve been an amateur skipper, driver, and pilot. Iíve screwed up to varying degrees at all three. Because of that, I have a huge respect for the professionals that perform so remarkably well with much more demanding systems in far worse conditions, on a daily basis.
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Old 06-04-2019, 06:43 AM   #18
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Whatever is the appropriate authority in Italy. But realistically, it is under a microscope by many organizations.
Maybe the same "authority" as dealt with the cruise ship that sank just offshore in the Med? Truth be told, cruise ships and ferries have quite a few allisions, trysts (BC ferry sinking off Hartley Bay) on the bridge and other big oops factors. It seems to go with the territory.

Spy, you just outed yourself. Better said, real jobs have perils.
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Old 06-04-2019, 09:19 AM   #19
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I see this a bit differently, but the end result is the same.

What I have found I think 100% of the time is that every problem or situation thatís seems simple at first, is always much more complicated if you really dig into it. There is always more to the story, and there usually many contributing factors. But that doesnít make for a juicy headline, and good barroom conversation
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Old 06-04-2019, 11:36 AM   #20
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I see this a bit differently, but the end result is the same.

What I have found I think 100% of the time is that every problem or situation thatís seems simple at first, is always much more complicated if you really dig into it. There is always more to the story, and there usually many contributing factors. But that doesnít make for a juicy headline, and good barroom conversation
Agree. This will be interesting to follow up with to see what they determine as latent and active errors.

We just see a dramatic video. We don't get information on how the incident evolved.

It may be a series of bad decisions or even a series of good decisions.

What we may not see is the actions taken to prevent an even larger incident. Who knows? The cruise ship hitting the quay wall first may have been deliberate.

The Costa Concordia Captain comes to mind as a series of bad decisions.

Sully landing his plane in the Hudson would be an example of good decisions.
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