Clay Maitland

On a quest for quality in shipping

When fresh air is fatal

Who remembers their fire course, where practically the first lesson would stress the principles of the “fire triangle”, that deadly combination of three which will give rise to combustion, but one of which (or its removal) will extinguish a conflagration?

There have been a number of fires aboard large ro-pax or ro-ro freight ferries, the Norman Atlantic conflagration in the Adriatic being merely the most recent. In each case the fire has started on a vehicle deck, spaces which in each case have been open to the elements, through large ventilation ports around the deck, above which is positioned the superstructure and accommodation.

The advantages of this configuration are several. Firstly, by not enclosing this space, there will be no need to ventilate it to remove exhaust or… Continue reading

In praise of mistrust

If you don’t know where you are, or have doubts about the veracity of your instruments, you are extra-cautious. If you are not entirely sure about the possibility of a breakdown, or that the mechanicals could just possibly be somewhat unreliable, you don’t take chances, and leave larger margins for error.

It sounds like common sense, a cultivated sense of prudence that works equally well with any mode of transport, from a bicycle to a Boeing. Over-confidence, as people who calculate insurance premiums for a living know full well, increases risk, whether we are dealing with a just-qualified teenage driver, or a watch-keeper on a 20 knot containership.

The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch Chief Inspector describes “complacency” as one of the curses of modern ship operation and… Continue reading

The computer says “damn”!

We are being led to believe that life will be a lot easier and more generally relaxing when we have handed over everything to artificial intelligence, which is progressing in leaps and bounds. Drones will soon be taking over from the postman and human courier, although it was marginally comforting to hear of a woman being slightly injured by a drone that was delivering some bauble to her from an admirer. Doubtless she will be suing. An Airbus approaching London Heathrow was also menaced recently and there have been warnings about dangerous droning, anticipating that these flying projectiles are the “must-have” gift this Christmas.

The physicist Stephen Hawking has also warned about AI taking over the world and subjugating human beings, once it works out the password to take… Continue reading

A Bump in the Night

Sometimes, it seems, the technology is getting the better of us all. There has been a nasty scare off Mauritius where the Volvo Ocean Challenge yachts were roaring past under a huge press of canvas. One, alas, didn’t make it, graunching to a stop on an offshore coral reef, which for some reason was not apparent on the ECDIS with which these high priced boats are equipped and invisible at night. It could be, of course, that it was edited out in an effort to clarify the tiny screen, something which has happened on occasion to navigators on bigger ships. Nobody was hurt, fortunately, but if they get the yacht off it will be a minor miracle.

It was interesting that the yachtsmen, after they were rescued, appeared… Continue reading

Speaking Gently

Who has heard about the “nudge” theory which suggests that you are more likely to change your habits if you are given a gentle nudge, rather than having somebody yelling at you, or thoroughly antagonising you with laws and regulations. It was a thought that arose during the Cadwallader Debate in London last week, when Clay was pitted against the European Commission’s Christine Berg to discuss regulatory challenges and whether “the parochial policies of regional regulators will wreck international shipping”.

One tends to go to these debates with pre-determined views, but not for the first time, one wondered whether people would be rather more friendly towards the EU if it didn’t spend its time bashing you over the head with its policies and threatening you, if you didn’t go… Continue reading