Shipping’s “Tin Ear”

tin ear– by Clay Maitland

In two months, the great, the good, and the not-so-great-or-good will gather at the annual three-day Jamboree of the Connecticut Maritime Association (CMA).  One of the hardy perennial topics is sure to be “the image of shipping.”  Although the present economic challenges facing the industry are likely to overshadow most worries about our reputation, it might be useful to examine the degree of damage done by cases like the sinking on Christmas day of the VINALINES QUEEN, Northeast of the Philippines, with the loss of all but one member of the crew. Although protection and indemnity clubs (P&I) have mounted campaigns to increase awareness of the need for independent testing of cargoes, and for the safe loading of nickel and other ores, the failure of a number of organizations to comment on the latest tragic sinking, honorably excluding the dry-bulk shipowners’ association Intercargo, gives a hint as to why we are not very effective in “fighting our own corner”.  In the majority of these drybulk losses, three things have been noticeable: questionable or incorrect cargo documentation, no P&I survey and no third-party preshipment survey.  It is also apparent that economic pressure is usually present, not to have an independent party test cargoes.

Under the circumstances, it is not too early to suspect that the loss of the VINALINES QUEEN was caused by the mishandling of a dangerous cargo.  The industry’s failure, with the exception of Intercargo, to promptly express its dismay at the loss of life makes us all appear to be uncaring.  A problem of this nature, that has gone on for much too long, raises the suspicion that we as an industry lack the degree of integrity generally expected of business in the 21st century.

To reach the author, go to www.claymaitland.com or Twitter @claymaitland