Clay Maitland

On a quest for quality in shipping

Spot the Hazard

By Michael Grey

Posted on | May 14, 2015 | No Comments

Safety is largely a matter of awareness and anything that can be done to promote this is worth doing. Pointing out the frightful consequences of inattention and a casual attitude to safety can be effective, with the lesson underlined by reports of actual casualties. Notices, posters, placards, and signage all transmit safety messages quite effectively, although the impact will reduce with time. Safety DVDs and films slotted in among the entertainment have been tried and found effective. Humour has been used on occasion, although it may not always transmit between cultures as we don’t all necessarily laugh at the same things.

What about cash – rewarding people for accident-free service? This has also been tried in the past, with safety bonuses being paid for so many days… Continue reading

One-eyed men

By Michael Grey

Posted on | May 13, 2015 | No Comments

The current daily rate for a capesize bulk carrier, we are told, comes to less than you need to pay the crew. And although rates for tankers and container ships have been worse, such is our lack of proper perspective that even these are portrayed as a story of improvement, rather that the disgrace they really represent. Thoughts of that saying about the identity of the sovereign “in the country of the blind” come to mind. Do we really want shipping to be free at the point of use?

We are reassured by the well-worn suggestions that these are merely expressions of the perpetual volatility that governs our markets and we should not be too worried about the current crisis. After all, containerships offering some half a… Continue reading

On The Front Line

By Michael Grey

Posted on | May 5, 2015 | 1 Comment

It’s not much fun going to sea today. You probably might reflect, if you are serving aboard the Rickmers containership Maersk Tigris, that you didn’t go to sea to have shots across your bow and end up getting a hard time at an Iranian anchorage. It seems a curious way of mediating a commercial dispute over a few boxes which allegedly went adrift nearly ten years ago. One might have thought that maritime legal processes had advanced beyond the use of medium calibre weaponry.

But there again, you probably didn’t go to sea to sail down the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, and be worried about what the heroic aviators of the Royal Saudi Air Force might be making of your progress, as they fly over… Continue reading

Back In The Headlines

By Michael Grey

Posted on | April 23, 2015 | No Comments

What a difference a tragedy makes. At the beginning of this month it was hard to find any media, or apparently any European government, remotely interested in the plight of refugees and asylum seekers trying to cross the Mediterranean in all manner of unsuitable craft. A fortnight later and at least one thousand deaths, and people are scrambling all over the story.

Not that the appalling news has generated anything much in the way of practical assistance, with the bulk of the rescues still being undertaken by the hard-pressed Italian authorities and merchant ships on transit. It has been suggested that the people smugglers, who of course are being identified as the villains in this grim tale, are now running out of suitable boats and economising on fuel. They… Continue reading

The eyes have it – but not all!

By Michael Grey

Posted on | April 14, 2015 | No Comments

Modern bridge watchkeepers, surrounded with their exciting electronic aids, are constantly being reminded to raise their eyes from their instruments and look out of their windows at the world outside. There is an accident which perhaps deserves to become a “classic” piece of mis-navigation (if that is not a term, maybe it ought to be) reported by the UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch in its latest Safety Digest.

In this case a well equipped tanker was running along nicely with the OOW sitting happily in his chair monitoring the vessel’s progress on the ECDIS screen on a fine, clear night, with good visibility. Sadly, as it was reported, the ship’s speed over the ground mysteriously reduced to zero, with an engineering alarm sounding. This, the OOW deduced… Continue reading

Off the Radar

By Michael Grey

Posted on | April 8, 2015 | No Comments

The world’s press is a fickle thing, focussing intently on a topic for a brief moment in time and then, unless it suits its editors to maintain its gaze, moving on. It maybe doesn’t matter when a story naturally “dies”, as nobody wants to bore the readers with yesterday’s news, but when it is a serious regional crisis that won’t go away, it would be good for the media to reflect this rather than pretend it no longer exists.

The general frightfulness of the Mediterranean migrations made the headlines in February and March when the terrible figures for 2014 were totted up and the IMO Secretary-General hosted a multi agency meeting in London which spelt out the realities of the situation. That meeting forecast an appalling continuation… Continue reading

The Travelling Circus

By Michael Grey

Posted on | April 6, 2015 | No Comments

What are a few of the defining characteristics of seafarers? Let us begin with mobility, because it goes without saying that as ships are mobile, so are the people who drive them. But unlike the ship’s engine, or its deck cranes, the seafarers are not permanently affixed to the hull of the ship they are serving in. They need to go ashore occasionally, and certainly need to be able to easily move through the countries their ships are docked in, as they leave and join these vessels.

Then there are those who need to travel through different countries to sort out problems on their companies’ ships. There is a serious technical problem, one which requires the company technical superintendent to jet across the world and sort it… Continue reading

Spotlight on Salvage

By Michael Grey

Posted on | March 27, 2015 | No Comments

Salvors prevent bad things getting worse and can be thought of as one of the genuine emergency services. And in their role as removers of wreck they clear away the mess the shipping industry leaves behind it. The International Salvage Union Associate Members’ Day brings salvors together, but also is a chance for hull and machinery insurers, P&I clubs, maritime lawyers and those whose work brings them into contact with professional salvors, to exchange their current concerns.

Fewer ships are being wrecked these days, but when they are, they tend to be far harder and more expensive to sort out. The amazing removal of the Costa Concordia showed the wider world just what can be done, but at an astonishing price. The removal of the remains of… Continue reading

Lash Up and Stow

By Michael Grey

Posted on | March 26, 2015 | No Comments

Containerships have been with us for nearly half a century and goodness knows what old Malcom McLean would have thought if he could have dreamed that the system he effectively invented would have developed ships capable of carrying 20,000teu in a single hull. But while the ships have changed beyond all recognition and the individual boxes have got a bit bigger, the technology for lashing them on deck has scarcely changed.

Lashing gangs still have to struggle with twistlocks on container corners and heave around great lashing rods and turnbuckles, just like they did on the first generation ships. The only difference is that while the boxes on deck were two high (which made experienced Western Ocean seamen doubtful), today we are looking at nine high on… Continue reading

Hope and Anchor

By Michael Grey

Posted on | March 16, 2015 | No Comments

Who remembers the great dark days of the 1980s, with the price of oil stuffing cash into oil producers’ pockets, with the local ports around the Arabian peninsula and Nigeria unable to cope with the flood of goods they were buying with their loot. There were ships waiting in roadsteads for months on end, as the owners counted the demurrage and crews went quietly insane. There was one choice report of a ship laden with a full load of cargo handling equipment for a port waiting for weeks, because there was no cargo handling equipment ashore to discharge it.

The best memory comes from the Saudi port of Hodeidah, where the situation became so dire that ingenious US innovators proposed to discharge cement from ships offshore… Continue reading

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