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Maritime Intermezzo


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Discussion topics include: Arbitration, Admiralty and Maritime Law, Big Data, Brokering, Chartering, Insurance...

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Ship's masters are like any other population of licensed professionals. Some super good, most in the middle, and some really really dangerous. Just like lawyers and doctors. A Master may be lucky his or her entire career. And it is a good thing to be lucky. It is even a better thing to be lucky, competent and prepared.


Many Masters retire without ever being tested by a major accident, storm or failures of multiple systems. The Masters I've known hope that if the time came they would respond calmly, courageously, selflessly. As a group they're hopeful. Recent (the last 20 years) marine accidents would indicate our responses are not aligned with our aspirations.

Having been an observer on the bridge during the cascading of events to a casualty even the most senior of Masters develop tunnel vision, revert to their native tongue and lose track of time. Fortune favors the prepared. How many Masters are prepared to accept they've lost the battle and now need to save the day.

The cruise industry is global. Every country and each individual port has a different understanding of the industry, level of engagement with the ships and emergency resources with which to respond to fires, explosions, collisions...


At 0637 on May 25, 2003, a cruise ship with 911 crew members and 2,135 passengers on board suffered a major explosion while safely moored alongside the pier. The explosion started in the main space, ripping upwards and out, punching through steel decks and bulkhead, severing emergency power cables, wiring, piping, and disrupting the asbestos insulation lining, the boilers and many steam pipes aboard.

Passageways, accommodations and public areas were dark with smoke and asbestos.

In a port in the center of Asia a large container ship able to carry over 15,000 thousand teus lies idle at anchor. Having been built to carry cargoes from ports in China, her launching unleashed a cataract of similar sized ships all competing for a finite amount of cargo.

The maritime industry is linear. For the past five hundred years ships have competed to carry cargoes. As the story unfolded the motivations of owners, yards, cargo interest, ports all combined to blind the "leadership" at the helm that a storm was in the offing.

At sea with the approach of a storm the air thickens, clouds gather, swells build and the barometer begins to fall. The gathering of the economic storm made its presence known. Owners with generations of experience commented on the excessive exuberance. A cloud of ego and pride limited the understanding of what was over the horizon.