ship at sunset

Captain George Livingstone: Light Years

George H Livingstone
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December 31, 2019

Photo: Shutterstock / Nightman1965

**Dedicated to those who do business upon great waters**

By Captain George Livingstone – My little Scottish mother always used to say ‘You can measure age by how fast the year goes, as well as your increasingly startled reaction to mirrors’. Thanks for the warning Mom, another year is nearly passed and not much happened other than an odd revulsion to mirrors.

Of course, that doesn’t include the ongoing Tsunami that is Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) and 3D print technology with implications that will affect the entire world, not just world trade. But why worry, this sort of thing has happened before. I think it was called The Industrial Revolution, just a blip, right? Okay maybe worry.

As for myself, with an entirely Scots and Irish family history, there is a thousand years of worry built into my newly American bones. From Alarms to Grumpy Old Men and Quadruple Bogies and Distractions; to Falling Stars and Those Who Did Business on Great Waters, I was Always Ready for another opportunity to share musings, warnings and predictions with you all, a significant percentage of who are professional mariners, hailing from all parts of the globe.

Reflecting on a tumultuous global 2019 and how poorly it seems to have been handled politically, I can’t help but to compare it to marine transportation’s global relationship at the operations end. On all sides, conservative, liberal, left or right, political leadership has failed on the most critical issue, how to come together and work through a tremendous period of uncertainty and change. Perhaps it’s not a logical or fair comparison and I admit to bias, but mariners know a thing or two about working successfully toward a greater goal. Regardless of place, race, gender, culture, politics, education, tension, ascension, equipment or any other noun or adjective one wants to throw in. In the vast majority of times, we work things out not only for commercial enterprises but for the greater good.

The gCaptain reader knows the vast majority of world trade is done by water. The tens of thousands of vessels involved globally are really a United Nations of trade, they are diverse in every respect. Men and women from every corner of the globe, representing hundreds of countries, cultures, languages, religions, and histories, working toward a common goal: the safe movement of the vessel. That goal overrides individual or group concerns, prejudices, biases and if it doesn’t, someone will step up and start a conversation. That conversation will lead to some kind of settlement that is acceptable to most concerned, resulting in the accomplishment of the overriding goal: the safe movement of the vessel. How hard is that? Apparently, not that hard because like the man says, ‘It ain’t rocket science’! It sure seems to this mariner that political leadership on the Left and political leadership on the Right should pay heed, especially given the already arrived Information Age Revolution.

I’ve never considered myself brilliant, not dumb, but not a rocket scientist. My guess is most mariners feel the same. Our real strengths and successes lie in collective adaptability and common sense. Change is ever-present at sea, adapt or fail, but success requires common sense. Rocket Scientists? No. Brilliant? Not really. Adaptable with healthy doses of common sense? Yes.

So here we sit, witness to change not seen since The Industrial Revolution. Observing some of the most divisive issues anyone has witnessed in more than half a century and leadership on all sides handling it miserably. Think there might be a connection between it all? The Information Age Revolution, Politics and Socio-Economics? Some professional mariners think so, it’s a topic of conversation on board vessels. If this great country (and other nations) were ships, the mariners on them would come together and have authentic conversations about how best to move forward, always keeping in mind the big picture, the safe evolution of the vessel and its cargo, for the greater good. We would put aside petty differences and biases, political or otherwise and work together. It would be unthinkable to proceed differently as we all live in the same space, we empathize with the other, our shipmates and colleagues, and the choice is stark, failure means disaster. We would listen to each other when faced with a crisis. We would respect differing views recognizing the strength and wisdom in opposing opinions. We would demand civility as it is not dead in the maritime world. It is a foundational principle and those who practice otherwise find themselves ostracized by the greater community as I and many others have found out over our seagoing careers.

So as another lightspeed year comes to an end and as we hopefully reflect, I for one, reflect on something I’ve thought and said for a very long time, if mariners ran the world, the world would be a better place.

To more arrivals than departures

God Speed and a Happy New Year to all

Captain George Livingstone is a San Francisco Bar Pilot, co-author of ‘Tug Use Offshore’, contributing author of ‘IMPA On Pilotage’ and a regular contributor to gCaptain.

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