Hawsepipers: Why They’re Needed Now More Than Ever

The following is an article written by the good folks at the Towmasters blog:

There is a powerful belief these days that you absolutely must have an advanced higher (formal) education to be of any real value in the workplace, unless you are functionally serving only as a draft animal doing the “unskilled” grunt work that no one else wants to do. The justification for this is usually made along the lines of “today’s complex work environment demands more technical training and skills, blah, blah, blah.” To be sure, almost all of our systems seem to be caught up in the death-grip of ever-increasing complexity that just keeps feeding off itself: we struggle to solve problems caused by today’s over-complexity by, you guessed it, adding even more of it tomorrow, ad infinitum. Even worse, the pace of this continual transformation steadily increases as well and we’re expected to regularly “upgrade” our knowledge and skills in a vain attempt to keep up. We’re perpetually behind that curve, always outrun by the increasing rate of change, and there are human limits to our ability to keep up that aren’t being acknowledged, let alone allowed for.

In the U.S. Merchant Marine, and elsewhere, this has had serious ramifications for Hawsepipers. The powers-that-be at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) have continuously ramped up the training and education requirements for almost all licenses to impractical levels, apparently without much if any regard for the practical, economic and social impacts that come with it. Manning standards, in contrast, remain flat or are reduced to make the bean counters happy. This has made the traditional hawsepiper an endangered species on a long skid towards extinction. It has become extremely difficult, if not impossible, to pursue a career as an officer up the hawsepipe by your own efforts and resources alone. This, along with a long-standing disregard for the quality of life of working mariners, has caused serious shortages of younger seafarers. While there have been some  uneven improvements in living and working conditions in recent years it still has not checked the decline. Inertia can be very tough to overcome…..

Click to continue reading over at Towmasters: the Master of Towing Vessels Assoc. Forum