June 30, 2011

No place for gentlemen

One will often hear older officers say that there is no charm left in sailing anymore. This succinct statement says much; the unattractiveness of a career at sea today has as much to do with the death of this charm as it has to do with many other factors that are more readily recognised by us.

In the first half of my career at sea, starting from the late-ish seventies, the romance was very much alive. Captains still had authority proportional to responsibility. They also had mystique; with crews of up to fifty and more on Indian ships, they could afford to; a Captain’s round was a rarity and not to be taken lightly. Other senior officers were almost as unreachable outside work.

Off work as an officer, I have spent considerable time after work playing bridge or over a couple of drinks in the smoke rooms of ships registered around the world. Senior officers usually had their own group that met for a beer before lunch at sea. Many problems were sorted out, and many more averted, over a beer or two out there. Port calls had their own routine- that included daily trips ashore, sometimes for weeks in port.

Yes, the romance was very much alive, and the lifestyle- work hard and play harder- produced many stories that I would love to tell my grandchildren, and some that I would be embarrassed to. The second mate on a cadetship falling drunk splat into his soup in the Soviet Union, and his equally tipsy girlfriend trying to give him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. A Guyanese AB’s irate wife and kids landing up announced in La Guaira because he had not gone home for two and a half years. A senile Indian Radio Officer who used to forget to wear his pants- or underpants- when going to the common bathroom from his cabin. The 55-year-old Filipino Second Mate who pleaded with the Third Mate-me- to keep all his working cargo watches because he could not run around on deck at his age (I agreed, at considerable non-financial cost to him. I used to go ashore every evening after cargo stopped). The German Captain on another ship who was livid because I did not go ashore after cargo work stopped for the day, despite my reminding him that I was on watch. Me blowing the foghorn in Rio’s sudden rain shower to get the crew to rush back double quick to close the hatches: they had gone, with the Chief Officer’s permission, to the dockside (and appropriately seedy) bar a stone’s throw away during the morning coffee break. The Indian Chief Officer on his honeymoon trip who did everything possible not to go out on deck. The Turkish Radio Officer chasing the German cook around the hot plate with a meat cleaver because he could see blood in his steak (and the cook screaming, 'because it is rare!')

All of us sailed with many characters. Many of us were characters ourselves.

We are told, today, that Masters are managers and CEOs- they even give us management level certificates to try to prove this. I cannot understand why this paper change is necessary. Shipping was always a business; we don’t need a piece of paper to tell us that. Neither do we need the fun taken out of our lives in order to comply with some ISO certification, manuals for which are often just copied and pasted from somewhere else.

Shipping needs some of that fun back if we are to attract youngsters into the profession.

We have- unfortunately- made clerks of our Masters and Chief Engineers and data entry operators of much of the rest of the crew today. Alas, seamanship, navigation or collision avoidance are today made to seem unimportant. The stress is on nicely ticked checklists, neat email replies, nifty non-conformity reports, philosophical root cause analyses, clerical administration and such tosh. (I say tosh in disgust, because these are incidental to the job and not the main dish, but the clerks have taken over the profession and decreed otherwise). We have systematically degraded team spirit on our ships by shortmanning and administrative overload- and by legislating behaviour to a ridiculous degree. Mixed nationalities are not to blame for this- the prison like controlled atmosphere on ships today is.  

We have regulated and over-regulated the seaman’s life to near extinction. Many senior officers have quit sailing citing reasons such as ‘too much paperwork’ or ‘no charm left in sailing.’  I know of many. Of those, one stopped sailing years ago when the Radio Officer was taken off his company’s vessels. Another is sailing on short voyages on coasters because, as he told me on the phone a few weeks ago, ‘at least there is no paperwork’.

Has it occurred to anybody that shipping actually needs its mavericks and its characters? That it is not an office job and never will be one? That the Master is a seaman and not a CEO? That the breed of sailors we require at sea today is not very different from what we needed forty years ago- mentally and physically fit people with the right attitude and commitment? That the breed is almost idiosyncratic by definition, the job being not one that anybody and everybody can perform? That the tradeoff- sometimes irregular or individualistic behaviour- may be worth it? That one reason we are not getting the kind of people we want is that we are looking for the wrong people? That another reason is that we are trying to equate a career at sea with any other job- when it can never be one? That academic gentlemen on their best behaviour all the time may not make the best sailors?

Joseph Conrad, a Master Mariner himself and unsurpassed in his depiction of life at sea, says it best in his ‘Nigger of Narcissus’- a story that should be mandatory reading for anybody going out to sea. As the ship 'Narcissus' leaves Bombay, Conrad writes of a conversation amongst the crew about the character of a typical gentleman. One of the crew noticed that, “It was bloomin’ easy to be a gentleman when you had a clean job for life,” adding that he had discovered that gentlemen’s backsides were ‘thinner than paper from constant sitting down in offices’, yet otherwise “they looked first rate and would last for years”.

Fortunately, my backside- like the rest of my skin- is thick.

(The charm that still remains? A star-studded moonlit night. The bridge wing. A cup of coffee and a smoke. Flat calm a thousand miles from anywhere. The foamy whisper of the ship as it cuts through the water. Salt and breeze in the  face.

You haven’t touched that. Yet.)

June 23, 2011

Sorcerer's apprentice

A week or two ago, I happened to run into a cadet while on a holiday up north; he had recently returned after his first nine month stint as a trainee at sea. This youngster sought my advice after telling me a nightmare of a story. And, although I have no means of verifying what he said, the way he said it left me in no doubt that his tale was essentially true. Grant me this much, that after spending more than half my life at sea, I should have developed a decent bullshit detector by now.

This is what he told me:

After paying many hundreds of thousands of rupees for his pre-sea training, this cadet, like many others, said he bribed somebody in an approved manning agency with another two hundred thousand rupees for a training berth at sea. Call it bribery or call it extortion; semantics is overrated.

Along with three other brand new trainees, the cadet was then sent to join a vessel in the Middle East. They had all been given- individually- cash filled envelopes that had to be handed over to somebody in the local agent's office there. The cut of the 'placement fee', obviously.

Par for the course, so far, right? But then it got worse. 

The small ship (around 700 GRT) they then 'joined'- actually, were dumped on- was at anchorage and more than thirty years old. Registered with a little known FOC, she was under arrest with just a local 'officer' and another crewmember aboard. There was sparse food, little water, no fuel and no medical supplies-not even a band aid- aboard.

The local agents took the money envelopes, retained the joiner's passports and did little else for the nine months these apprentices spent there. These first time apprentices soon discovered that there were many such 'ships' in the port with quite a few fresh apprentices or first timers aboard- some sent by the same manning agency in Mumbai. Some of the old rust buckets were tied to the breakwater or anchored, as theirs was. One was, he said, listing heavily. None seemed to be ready to sail anywhere again.

It appeared that the agency in Mumbai was conspiring with local agents and owners and running an apprenticeship scam- place fresh trainees aboard at 200,000 a pop and leave them to rot on near derelicts or arrested vessels. Those floating coffins were probably never going to make any more money for the owners anyway, and extortion from trainees was excellent alternative use.

For the first few weeks after joining the ship, the trainees had some hope that things would improve, because somebody or the other came and told them that repairs would start soon and she would sail for Dubai. Slowly, though, the reality became apparent even to these novices. The ship was not going anywhere.

Food was still being supplied in fits and starts from God knows where, and the crew, such as they were, survived on meals of potatoes or tomatoes or just plain rice. They slept in the open because there was no power, though this was the least of the crew's worries. Fortunately for them, there was still thirty or forty tonnes of freshwater aboard.

Then food ran out, and one of them fell sick, He received no medical treatment or even a painkiller; fortunately, he recovered after a week or two.

Incidentally, nobody saw 'even a dollar' of their wages in the entire nine-month period they spent aboard the tub. None of them told their families the truth, even though they were speaking to them periodically- they got friends in India to top up talk time on Indian cell phones one or two had carried with them.

After about two months or so of increasing desperation and hunger, living in these  appalling conditions, eating next to nothing, dirty - with nothing to clean either the ship or their clothes except rationed water-  even the pretence of the ship being repaired was abandoned. The harbourmaster informed them, at this stage, that the ship had been arrested for non-payment of some dues.

Thus continued another seven months of 'apprenticeship'. 'Not even 0.1 percent of the facilities we had been told about during pre-sea training were available on board," the boy told me. Constant hunger pangs everyday were alleviated once in a while if another ship double banked and food could be begged. If not, this sorcerer's apprentice would swim to nearby anchored vessels, point to himself and shout from the water- "Indian, Indian!", hoping that ship's crew would give him some food for himself and the others.

This cadet- the ambassador of our nation, a  Master in the making and the future pride of the profession, we love to say- swam for food and swam to the harbourmaster's office for information.  The harbourmaster was a nice guy, he said, who gave him food, and once, money to buy some. No real information, though.

Did the harbourmaster give him money out of his pocket, I asked the boy. He did not know; I would not have known or cared either. Why didn't he quit and go home, I asked him stupidly. No passport, no experience and no money, obviously.

Sometime during all this, the ship's local 'officer' and crew ran away. Sometime during all this, the harbourmaster changed. The new person was not so nice; he sent a few armed guards aboard and barred the cadet from swimming ashore and bothering him. The cadet told the guy to shoot him dead instead. More macabre circumstances: after the harbourmaster sent armed guards aboard his ship, the cadet now had to beg for food for the armed guards too!

Sometime later, the apprentice swam ashore and contacted the Indian embassy in the country. Arrangements to fly him and his other shipmates- plus one or two from other ships, one of whom was sick in hospital- were made eventually. Passports materialised. They were all taken to the airport.

The sorcerer's apprentice came home but he did not go home. He stayed in Mumbai for months, chasing the touts who had provided him 'placement' services' after taking his cash, he told me.

"How could I go home? What face could I show my family who had spent so much money on me?" he asked me.

Now, after almost a year's worth of hell ashore and afloat, he just wanted his money back and a training berth again. Only after he accomplished the latter, he vowed to me, would he go home to see his family.

The cadet asked me for advice at the end of his story. He wanted to know what he should do and where he should go from here; he wanted to know if anybody in the Directorate General of Shipping's office would do anything to help if he went to them. Remarkably, he was not even hugely angry at what had been done to him; the industry had succeeded, in a short time, of stripping him of too many illusions for that.

So what did I advise him in the end?

Tell him, check up on the ship and owners before you join? He had tried that, he said, but the touts in Mumbai told him the name of the ship, its run and condition last minute, as is usual. They lied about everything, as is not unusual. He was inexperienced and believed them, as they expect freshers to do.

Tell him, find good manning agents? Even the bad ones are taking two lakhs under the table, he told me. Many good companies aren't taking any trainees at all.

Tell him, most of shipping is not so bad? Poor consolation for somebody who is an inexperienced first timer and is forced to inhabit the end that is the pits- and this end is a sizeable piece, by the way, and growing every day.

However, I did give him what I thought was a little bit of useful advice. I told him that he should try to get seatime for this ship straightened out before he got into any kind of scrap with the manning agency or others. I gave him the name of a website or two for checking up on ships and owners in future. I told him that I had sailed for three decades without having to beg for food, and I did not see why he should have to, ever again.

I told him that, in all probability, going to the DGS would not solve his problems, Although choosing to fight is a personal decision, I told him, a sailor finds it difficult to spend months on land, especially a sailor at the beginning of his career who has spent a small fortune on training and touts and then spent nine months on a ship without seeing a dime of income.

And, finally, I told him this: in future, check up everything beforehand. Next time, rely only on yourself right from the beginning and do not join unless you are satisfied that you know what you are letting yourself in for. Next time, do not believe what shipping companies or agents or managers or assorted touts tell you, because the first rule is this: A sailor has no real friends. 

June 16, 2011

Torture- out of the closet

Question: Why does a gay man come out of the closet?
Answer: Because- like the maritime industry- he cannot see anything.

So it comes to pass that the industry that specialises in publicising the well known comes out of the closet once again. Much like its earlier responses to issues like seafarer fatigue and criminalisation, it finally acknowledges- even broadcasts- what everybody has known for a while. That massive numbers of seafarers are being tortured at the hands of pirates. That, in the words of One Earth Foundation, "seafarers were sometimes locked in freezers, hung from ships’ masts or meat hooks or had their genitals attached to electric wires. Pirates also sometimes called seafarers’ families from their mobile telephones, then beat them in their families’ hearing – a tactic designed to increase pressure on ship-owners to pay ransoms."

The industry does not explain exactly why it has chosen to accept this fact now. “It is not in the interests of the shipping industry to make information about crew mistreatment generally available because of the level of mutinies which would take place,” says CEO of Idarat Maritime Andrew Palmer.

My own theory is that the macabre truth could not be hidden from public view any longer. With so many stories of torture, killings and other atrocities emerging with regularity, ship-owners and their self-serving organisations cannot express denial any longer. No longer can they threaten and cajole their crews to keep mum about what they went through at the hands of pirates- they have been traumatised too much and for too long.

No longer can the IMO and its ineffectual officials sweep torture and worse under the carpet, choosing to concentrate on the economic costs of piracy and those nauseating Best Management Practices instead. That citadel- like that citadel they tom-tommed in those same BMPs as the next coming in the fight against piracy, has been breached too. In any case, those in positions of commercial and regulatory authority remind me of the pupae that sit inside a silk cocoon. That is their closet, for they have no idea- or they choose to ignore- what lies outside. The thick-skinned chrysalis can, like these shipping honchos, pretend ignorance for a while, but make no mistake. The metamorphosis is inevitable; the truth, like the butterfly, will out- or the caterpillar will die.

Therefore, I am glad that it is no longer possible for the industry to sweep its shame under the carpet. It is good that more and more people know, today, that mariners risk a greater chance of being assaulted in the Indian Ocean than landlubbers in the most dangerous, criminally infested places in the world. Barring countries at war, of course. 

The few in the maritime space that actually care about this industry enough to look at a longer term view should spend some time wondering why it is that- time and again- issues that concern the well being of their sailors can be cast aside with impunity. They should contemplate why so many seafarer concerns- on health, safety, working conditions, fatigue, torture and criminalisation, for a start, leave so many of their contemporaries unconcerned. They should be worried about the long-term sustainability of an industry that feels it can blatantly disregard the aspirations of more than a million of its critical employees, and that too with conspicuous contempt. The few mavericks in shipping committed to their professions should be concerned how they will manage, at a time of falling mariner standards and rising operational complexity, a future workforce that will, in all probability, be even less committed than that they see today. They should be wondering how the industry will stem the rot- or even stop the stink with something more permanent than an aerosol spray.

And, if history repeats itself, these few good men will probably call a conference to devise a path to form a plan to study ways to meet the objective of another set of self-serving agendas. Something tells me that the result will be the calling of another conference, and the merry go round will start again.

But all that is later. As of now, the fact that a third of its mariners taken hostage in 2010 were systematically tortured and brutalised is only being acknowledged by the industry now, in almost the second half of 2011, up to eighteen months after the first of those seafarers were tortured. This is a fact that will return to haunt this industry. It will return every time we claim, as we love to do, that seafarers are our families and our best assets. It will return every time we ask why more youngsters are shunning the profession than ever before.

It will return to bite us in our behinds. As it should. For this sailor, at least, there is small- and perhaps improper- solace in that fact.

June 09, 2011

Death (STCW) certificate

In November 2010, the European Commission’s stopped recognising STCW certificates issued by Georgia. The derecognition came about after the European Maritime Safety Agency’s inspected the Georgian system in 2006 and 2010, and after Georgian attempts to rectify identified shortcomings was considered ‘inadequate’. The EU’s action meant that sailors who were STCW certified in Georgia after the derecognition could no longer be employed on EU flagged vessels. This was the first time the EC had derecognised STCW certificates anywhere, although Filipino, Turkish and Moroccan inspections had thrown up similar deficiencies.

After the EC ban, the entire Georgian maritime administration was fired. The country’s President, Mikheil Saakashvili, said at the time, “Now you see what type of results could be brought by someone’s incompetence, laziness, corruptness and crime”

Georgia is-compared to the Philippines- a relatively minor seafarer supplier, even though a disproportionate number of Georgians work on EU vessels. But now comes another warning from the Europeans, this time to the Philippines, and despite Filipinos accounting for 47% of the non-EU seafarer workface in Europe. It is believed that the authorities in the Philippines, home to roughly a third of global seafarer supply, have been served notice by the EC in early May; they have been given till the end of August to put their house in order or face possible STCW derecognition from the EC. Deficiencies are alleged to be, according to one report, “in the areas of functioning of the maritime administration, insufficient quality procedures, insufficient monitoring of schools, inaccurate approval and review of courses, the level and quality of training, the poor quality of inspection of maritime education and training institutes and insufficient qualifications of instructors and assessors”.

They could be talking about India instead of the Philippines.

Ignore, for a moment, the fact that I think the entire STCW regime needs a major revamp, one that the (new! improved!) STCW 2010 has failed to do; all the STCW 2010 does is promote more of the same old assembly line driven substandard drivel where the aim of the exercise seems to be for  regulators to peddle influence, institutes to make money and sailors to get a piece of paper at the end of it all. My final argument in favour of a major STCW revamp is this: the STCW regime has presided, over the last twenty years, almost, over a gradual decaying of seafarer standards. It’s basis- and/or its implementation - is flawed somewhere. Or everywhere.

The symbiotic relationship between labour supplying countries and ship-owners is what is at stake with this latest EC threat. For what the Commission is really saying is this: that seafarer standards have fallen to a level where the EU will risk a major disruption in labour supply- or at least threaten to- unless training standards are raised.

It is possible that the Georgian ban was a shot across the bows of the maritime training businesses and connected regulators across the world. It is equally possible that no eventual ban on Filipino seafarers- a much larger workforce than the Georgians- will eventually materialise. Maybe the recent industry alarm at the reversal of hitherto declining marine accident statistics has something to do with all this, or maybe the Europeans really mean business this time. There has been increased pressure on airlines and shipping to conform to stricter environmental regimes in Europe: maybe the STCW tightening is part of a broader picture.

Or maybe not. Maybe India can continue its lethargic training and education regime for a few years more without being either blacklisted or informally devalued. Perhaps fears of a threatened Indian STCW derecognition should not be overstated. There are signs that the Philippines is taking the warning seriously, though: Last week, their Commission of Higher Education issued ‘cease and desist’ orders to institutes that ‘do not comply with quality standards and whose graduates fare miserably in licensure examinations,” according to one report. Maritime and nursing institutes are being targeted first, according to the Head of the Commission.

I say that India must get its maritime education act together not because it wants to stay recognised or increase seafarer market share. That is putting the cart before the horse. India must get its act together because the pride of this nation, with its maritime history going back five thousand years, is at stake- and because that is the right thing to do. Besides, if India can, once again, produce seafarers of quality, then the rest- certification and approvals included- will automatically follow. The main dish is the product: the rest is a sideshow.

We are a long way from there, though. We have a system that is overridden with inertia, corruption, influence-peddling and worse. The head of the premier Indian Maritime University is today being investigated by the (equally premier) Central Bureau of Investigation for corruption. In recent times, well known ex-officials of the Directorate General of Shipping have been taken to court by individuals for alleged activities that I am ashamed to mention here. Another legal suit has questioned the very mandate of the Board of Seafarers’ Trust, set up by the DGS, to conduct post-training exit examinations for ratings. Small wonder that at least my confidence in the present system remains shaky.

There are major systemic and non-systemic issues that plague the MET business in India. The first step must be the promotion of clean efficiency from the regulators; in the present free-for-all self serving atmosphere, one can safely assume that the promotion of quality remains low on the agenda, and that monitoring of individual training institutes suffers considerably as a result. A regulatory regime hollowed out by malpractice- and under attack to boot- is hardly in the best position to promote quality. We need to fix that first. Monitoring training institutes and the rest of the seafarer factory becomes so much easier if the regulatory regime functions as it is supposed to.

You know, Vasco Da Gama, the first European to reach India by sea, is believed to have hired an Indian pilot at the port of Malindi- now in Kenya- to make the perilous crossing from East Africa to the Malabar Coast of western India. They reached Calicut in May 1498 after taking 23 days to cross the Indian Ocean. (On the way back, the explorer, presumably without the Indian pilot available, took 3 months, with so many of his crew dying of scurvy that one of the ships was burnt at the same Malindi for lack of crew).

It would be black irony indeed, if today, more than five hundred years later, another European was to tell us that Indian sailors are now substandard and cannot work on European ships anymore.

June 02, 2011

Needed, a shipping ombudsman

(the usual suspects need not apply)

One has only to see the concerted official Indian response to much of the west coast of India being declared a war zone by insurers to realise how quickly creaky bureaucrats can get their knickers in a twist and begin to actually act. The Maritime Safety Committee at the IMO has recently seen fervent pleas by the Indian delegation that the IMO rescinds its extension of the pirate infested war zone that is now at the limit of Indian territorial waters, almost. Of course, this sudden concern was cloaked in the usual claptrap about the Indian government’s anxiety about Indian seafarer hostages, their torture, a Master’s death as a result of torture and whatnot, but the overwhelming message was clear to me: torturing our seafarers is ok; hitting our wallets is not.

Do we seriously expect such jokers to actually do something to protect the Indian seafarer? We must be crazy.

I suppress a shudder every time a colleague says- in connection with an issue critical to the mariner’s interest, or even survival as a species- that the IMO should do this or that. Or that the Ministry of Shipping or External Affairs should step in with international pressure. Or that the Directorate General of Shipping should make xyz mandatory. Or that setups like the unions, associations of ship owners or agents- or even those like the CMMI- should do something. I suppress this shudder because I have no real faith in any of these organisations to do anything except further personal, political or commercial intertwined interests. I have no real faith that these organisations will actually do what they are required- and, in most cases, paid- to do, unless, of course, the right thing happens fleetingly to coincide with those same interests.

All of this surfaces a major lacuna in the system- and this gap is so critical that its mere presence almost guarantees that any well meaning initiatives to protect the seafarer-or indeed, to do anything towards his welfare- die before they are even born. The real problem is this: there is nobody to speak on behalf of the Indian sailor- nobody who has a clue, that is.

In a beating-the-dead-horse mode now, I have long advocated the absolute need to have an industry body where mariners who are actively sailing are predominant, or at least a significant majority. It is a broad failure that this has not happened- because the nature of the beast requires that the industry set up such a body and then back away from it. Unfortunately, most in shipping eye official positions in such organisations for personal gain or advancement. We are consequently left with many organisations claiming to represent seafarers when almost everybody therein doesn’t know anything about what it means to sail today. Those guys are outdated, out of touch and their opinions have little practical value. They can’t speak for sailors because they are not sailors anymore.

In this environment, we badly need an independent ombudsman in Indian shipping- a ‘seafarer issues ombudsman’, to be precise. The ombudsman would be independent and impartial and would investigate complaints, including those related to issues of maladministration in private offices. This organisation’s job should be to resolve differences and disputes between ship managers and their employees at sea. The ship manager or the seafarer should be able to bring their grievances to this office, which will adjudicate in an equitable manner. Legislation could ensure that the ombudsman’s findings are legally binding and enforceable.

We should head the ombudsman’s office very carefully- given the dismally incestuous state of shipping related organisations in general- with an ex-seafarer with a high legal background, and staff it with a few seafarers on a two year rotation, the requirement being that- barring the Head- such other seafarers should have sailed for at least a year in the last five. (Actually sailed, please. No time off for working in the DGS or training institutes or other such nonsense). Costs for the setup to be paid for in the same way other ombudsmen offices are paid in other trades- by industry contributions or by government. And finally, the ombudsman’s office employees- or their families, friends, business associates or even their pet dogs- should have no commercial interests in any maritime business or profession.

I would like this ombudsman to be authorised to do one more thing- standardise equitable contract forms. This is an industry that has standard forms for everything from charter parties to salvage; rolling out a ‘standard seafarer’s contract form’ should be a piece of cake in comparison. If done, this would, in one fell swoop, promote the interests of all the constituents in the ship manning space- owners, managers and seafarers alike. All clean constituents, that is: the crooks can take a long overdue hike.

Such an office would obviously have to be structured in a way that keeps it insulated from political or commercial pressure, but this is not that difficult. Maybe we can learn from the many, many, ombudsmen offices being run reasonably successfully- in India and elsewhere. Incidentally, the Indian Lokpal (People protector/caretaker) concept is very similar.

I seriously believe, though, that mine is a workable proposition, a fair one and one that will do much to promote confidence in the industry, weed out corruption and malpractice and be generally greatly beneficial to a wide cross section of its constituents.

But regardless of my convictions, I expect many naysayers who will say- for one reason or another- that this is a bad idea. Maybe these folks are right and I am wrong; maybe the ombudsman idea should be thrown away with the garbage.

I have no problems with anybody who disagrees with me. I am willing to be convinced that I am wrong. However, please make sure you have no hidden agendas when you do so. Please make sure- if you disagree- then it is not your wallets that are doing the talking this time.

In case they are, you can always go to the IMO instead to scream blue murder.