August 05, 2010

Words of Mass Desperation

I almost dropped the cat when I read the headline: ‘IMO approves theme for WMD 2011’. Turns out I had panicked needlessly: WMD was World Maritime Day and apparently had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction, although one never knows with the IMO and its regulations.

Anyhow, the theme for next year’s WMD, I am told, is “Piracy: Orchestrating the Response.” Hmm. Orchestrating, eh? Like music? Maybe they will ask me to play the Fifth of Beethoven while Rome burns and people throw grappling hooks from fast boats onto the railings of my ship.

Wait a minute. It is just July 2010; we are barely halfway into this year, and they are talking about the theme from Shaft, sorry WMD, for next year already? Have they given up on this year, the “Year of the Seafarer” so soon? Hmm again. Maybe seafarers are not entitled to a full year and are being given just half of it; maybe the IMO is calling it “Half the year of the seafarer” now, like Half-Pant Rao, (the gent so named because he has been seen in nothing else but shorts since 1989.)

IMO is making an action plan for next year, the story continued as the cat squealed its protest at the indignity of being dropped. (Cats, as can be seen, demand more dignity than mariners are given). The IMO plan is to “increase pressure” at the political level, including at the UN Security Council, to fix those pesky Somalis once and for all.

Increase pressure. Sounds like a case of constipation to me. But why are we waiting for six months until next year to do this? Why can’t we increase pressure this year? Like right now? Or perhaps after the monsoon break, when everybody is freshly shaved and bathed and all the Armanis at the UN have been sharply steam ironed? Could we do that, please? Maybe we will save a few hundred seafarers from being taken hostage by, err, increasing the pressure today instead of next year.

Finally, the IMO threatens to “strengthen the protection of persons and ships sailing though piracy-infested areas by constantly improving guidance to the industry, promoting even greater levels of support from navies and providing care for those attacked or hijacked by pirates and support to their families”.

Wow. My family are indeed blessed; they will be taken care by a UN body if my ship is taken. (Maybe they will get those fat foreign exchange UN pensions too, do you think?) In addition, I will get guidance, like manna from heaven, probably in neat and impressive folders. Things are looking up. Maybe I can throw the guidance at the pirates- a guidance missile?- in self-defence, if all else fails.

So much for the UN and the IMO. However, there is a bigger issue here, which is that I seem to find sweeping grandiloquent statements made by various maritime industry bigwigs tremendously funny. Or maybe I just like pricking balloons to let the hot air whoosh away.

So, some examples of my own version of Mad Magazines infamous “Snappy answers to stupid questions” follow. (I actually intend to try one or two of these as soon as I am filthy rich and do not need a job anymore):

“Remember, there is no ‘I’ in teamwork!”
(Yeah, yeah, and there is no ‘U’ there either, so sit down quietly, will you?)

“You cadets are the ambassadors of the nation”
(Good. The way seamen are being criminalised, we can all use diplomatic immunity)

“You need to set an example to others and work with dedication”
(Can’t I just work because I want to do a good job and earn decent wages?)

“Seafarers are our biggest and most valuable assets”
(Ah, obviously the seafarer shortage continues. And excuse me, but must you sound like Pamela Anderson before the implants?)

“Seminars give us an opportunity to get to know each other so seafarers and managers can exchange ideas”
(You mean seminars are good because we can both let off steam while you are being paid and I am not, don’t you? And what is wrong with exchanging ideas on the phone instead? At least I don’t have to ruin my vacation doing so.)

“The Indian maritime history goes back to 2500 BC”
(So what is new? Tell me what we are doing for the industry today instead, past glory being somewhat like youth: never recovered.)

“The seminar was excellent and gave us floating staff a chance to interact with the management.”
(I really need this job)

“Safety and zero deficiencies should be your topmost priority”
Be careful. Port State Control will screw you and fine us, so for heaven’s sakes don’t get caught.)

“The purpose of this seminar is to strengthen the company’s safety management system”
(The purpose of this seminar is to bill the Owners and make some money. The system will be actually strengthened at work, not in a fancy hotel)

“There is a lot of potential in India for the maritime industries”.
(What? You haven’t made any money here yet?)

“This company remains committed to the environment. We are taking the lead in compliance with new regulations.”
(Rape seems inevitable, so we are trying to enjoy it)

“Remember one thing: you are the institute’s best assets and its foremost advertisement; make us proud!”
(Don’t mess up, and if you do, don’t tell them who trained you.)

“Keep up the good work and always keep the Indian Flag flying high”
(I have completely run out of something useful to say)