Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ocean in the eyes of seafarer

I was listening to the interview of the Sports Minister of West Bengal Government wherein he was emphasizing the need of making games and sports compulsory for students in junior colleges and secondary colleges. He was saying that parental pressure on youngsters is so much that they are not allowed even one hour of play. This is, to quite an extent, true.

If you see many present day cadets, you will find them physically weak and incapable of doing strenuous work for a reasonable period of time. STCW convention was intended to do well but, unwittingly, it has opened flood gates of corruption. Private Marine Colleges in India are taking cadets who’s parents have the capacity to pay substantially either cash or in kind. The regulatory mechanism is totally absent. It has been noticed that many cadets and junior engineers, though intelligent and good in computer proficiency, have weak constitution and get tired very soon if given cleaning and painting job.

It is absolutely necessary to initiate corrective action immediately. If I say, who should initiate corrective action, then I will be pointing finger at some authority and instantly it will not be liked. That is the misfortune of our country. If someone raises voice for eradication of corruption, he is branded as trouble maker and similarly if someone pleads for eradication of corruption in maritime education, he is not considered “Savvy”. Sit quietly, clap, smile, only say hello “ Aap kaise hain jee”, eat cake and samosa and quietly depart. Generally in shipping press meets the scenario is much more pathetic, it’s all paid news. What they want to convey is nothing but the press release. This is niche sector for news barons that are the reason looking at financial gains, shipping publications obliges the Masters. The publications have become mouth peace and display but the charm of actual news is faded. Indian shipping industry lacks unity and they don’t have any such union on top level which can voice over the issue. Addressing issues and getting them executed is not only the drawback but also a weakness of shipping industry.

I have nothing against shipping doctors but STCW has provided enormous opportunity for them to make quick money. For FPFF and AFF courses you need a medical certificate. Invariably you see the doctor coming in, collecting 50 or 100 rupees from each, sign the half pages and depart within ten minutes. Only one lady doctor in a south Mumbai college, I have seen, firmly rejecting candidates having high BP. She will not relent and advice the candidate that your life is more valuable than the course. First get treated and then you can do the course. I hope we have more such doctors. The clinics conducting Ultra sound and ECG having window Air Conditioners must get their A/C units serviced regularly. Shipping companies should enforce this on their own company doctors.

Health and Safety are very much interconnected. The Code of safe working practices is a very elaborate publication. Just yesterday I read certain portions from it. This is the least read book, together with the Training Manuals on board a ship. This is not confined to Indian Ships or with Indian nationality but with all. It is the duty of Masters and Chief Engineers to encourage juniors to read these valuable books. They should ask the boys, which portion did they read lack of interaction and stressful ambience at sea is another issue.

I remember Chief Engineer Mr. O.N.Wazir. During his rounds, he sometimes used to tell his cadets one part of a particular pipe line and then after 4-5 days he used to ask the same pipe line but at a different end. Invariably, the cadets used to trace the line and tell him. This way he made them trace all the pipe lines in the engine room. O.N.Wazir like seniors are blessing for students, he used to literally provide them vocations trainings. Once while sailing one of his cadets vomited on top of the flywheel cover and it was seen by the Wazir. He benevolently educated his junior that” rolling “is in the head and not in the stomach. He advised him to divert attention towards some work. There was a place in E/R under the blower where they were lapping the cylinder head valves. He taught him, take a round of E/R and then sit down and lap the valves and don’t think of “rolling”. Today this brave and educated cadet is part of my shipping magazine.

Irony, most of the present day Masters and Chief Engineers have ceased to be the educators. I am noticing a trend that even if you call an officer to discuss something after five O’clock, he resents. This sort of deterioration has set in. On board, they are not allowed to tell their superior what to do and what not to do beyond a certain extent but the Superintendents ashore should assume this responsibility.

Initially from the parental guidance and then the guidance from Master and Chief Engineer, Children of seafarers suffer in this regard because they miss table family (the father most of the time is on sailing). Whenever they are with their children, they must listen to them by letting them come close because they want to say a lot. In this way, they will turn out to be safer individuals.

I am a big chatter box, these sea fearers when on leave they come to our office for part time writing job. I have noticed this during interacting with them that the cadets want to talk, he has so much in his mind with lots of reservations. They are discouraged because the seniors are sacred of their weakness to be exposed. The faculty in Marine Colleges must join a ship and sail to refresh their knowledge. They should do it on their own. If not, it should be made mandatory. Unfortunately there are many such issues in deep sea but neither media nor authorities ever thought of discussing on them. May be this is reason, recruitments in shipping industry have dearth of higher level.

A Hazard is a source of potential harm or damage or a situation with potential for harm or damage. Risk has two elements, the likely hood that a hazard may occur, and the consequences of a hazardous event. Few of my shippies are back from sailing, last night I was discussing over different sea side issues with them..

From a Cadet to chief engineer, artificers, radio side sailors, apprentices, deck side staff and captions are part of my publication. I was piercing their brains by asking awkward but straight questions. My intention is to bring small revolution in this conservative sector and make difference to every shipping man’s life. Next time when they return, they should return with good memories, and when they resume back they should go with the zeal and confidence, but not as compulsion.

Not last but the least, our dumb shipping minister G K Wasan, should be compelled to seek shipping education, and sailing in deep see should be made part of his official routine. He is the most useless and inefficient shipping Minister so far in the history of shipping industry.

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