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Who will “Trump” the shipping?

There’s a lot of stuff, said and written, on industry future after the US elections, what Trump’s presidency means for shipping market, how will his presidency affect global shipping, regional shipping, bulk, oil, containers – well, anything what’s shipping.
As, I guess, everybody around, I’m awed as well, by the election result and by new president’s activities, both spoken and written/signed. As, I guess, many people around, I find Mr. Trump to be absolutely averse to my idea of the president of the great country. But with that, I found his plan just great, at least in most of its points. It’s just that the personality, who vowed to carry out this plan, seems to me most unsuitable for such an undertaking. Let alone morals, tweets, lies and many other things, just one thing is enough for me to feel deep distrust towards Mr. Trump – his apparent infatuation with Mr. Putin.

Why did it happen?

Many people in the USA and all around the world, wonder how could it happen, why Mr. Trump won elections, who, or what, is to blame. Prevailing opinion lays the blame on major media, politicians and Russian meddling in elections. I believe, though, that those voting for Trump (or for Brexit) did something they’ve never been able to do before, they created their own political environment via Internet. There happened to be no major news agency, no politician or expert, or political and moral guru, whose judgment Trump voters could trust enough to make other choice, reconsidering their political views.
Before internet era, people who didn’t trust major media or politicians, or establishment, were all on their own, restricted in access to factual base and opinions different from those dictated by the establishment. They didn’t even know whether they were alone with their ideas and criticism, or not, whether there were many like-minded people around, or just few, or any at all.
Internet was a major, epic breakthrough, which enlightened ordinary people, and empowered then to communicate, on an unprecedented scale. Anyone can fact-check now any news, or theory, or person, or institution, and come to his own ideas and conclusions on this or that matter. Those doubting existing order found the world teeming with people of the same mind, eager to communicate and cooperate, and they immediately start to feed on each other.
It didn’t take them long to figure out, how biased and untrustworthy major news media are. News media do practice agenda settings, filtering and shaping the reality instead of reflecting it; and concentrating on issues of their choice, often ignoring or jeopardizing public interests.

Mind you, I don’t call for revolution, neither do I  have Steve Bannon dreams of blowing the whole system up, Lenin-style. All I want is fair game and public discussions on any problem, however uncomfortable for individuals, or institutions, or embedded stereotypes. Establishment failed, utterly, to recognize and foresee new era, and already got Brexit and Trump. What next? Marie Le Pen, who’s also madly in love with Mr. Putin and his money? Fall of an old order everywhere, including shipping? To prevent the shift of power to authoritarian, irresponsible populists, establishment had to have some key strongholds, like say, recognized by all sides and parties as trustworthy, objective, mediator, in form of media. Establishment, as it came out, has nothing in its’ arsenal, to defend itself and society from marginal politicians and freak ideas.
Major media, experts, journalists and politicians already meditate on what happened, analyzing their own mistakes and misconceptions. Hopefully, they’ll come to a simple idea of fighting populism with openness and impartiality of reformed media, freed from agenda ties. With Internet at hand, it’s impossible any more to embed into people ideas and theories by good old means of making those ideas and theories non alternative. From now on there is always alternative, so people should be convinced into ideas, not forced by depriving them from different opinions. 

How does it affect shipping?

And now let’s look at shipping. When I talk to seafarers and shipowners, and when I read industry media and press-releases from numerous maritime organizations, I always get a strange feeling that I’m visiting two different planets with different forms of life. Planet Seaways populated by people who are doing shipping, another one, Planet Establishment, with people who’re forcing on Planet Seaways rules, regulations, news, opinions and expertise, which are alien to its’ population, or at the very least, not welcomed.

Take for example, that “seafarers fatigue” problem, the Planet Establishment is so worried about. It’s not even hypocrisy, it’s kind of cynical, pervert derision both of seamen and of common sense. Everybody knows what’s the main factor which is causing extreme crews’ fatigue, especially among officers. It’s a tsunami of regulations, recommendations, duties, papers to be filled, checks and drills to be carried out, inspections, so on and so forth. Bureaucratic garrotte is choking shipping, but instead of fighting the roots of fatigue, Establishment, including media, is fighting fatigue. It’s like fighting not illness, but some of its’ consequences, meanwhile nourishing illness with fresh microbes.
Recently, Planet Establishment released yet another Fatigue Study, with new findings on the problem. Study found greater tendencies and higher incidence, not to mention longer hours. If next Study (Planet Establishment worships Studies) finds, that seamen sleeping on right side, suffer from fatigue more, than those sleeping on left side, I’m sure Planet will issue relevant regulations, obliging duty AS to make regular rounds at night, checking who’s sleeping on what side, and waking up violators, with of course, writing down the results in a special obligatory log-book, subject to PSC inspections.
Bad joke? But what is “Work Hours & Rest Hours on Ships” Law, and informal guidebook on how to comply with this ILO/ITF/IMO idiotism, including guidelines for proper recording of rest/work hours (in other words, how to properly fake those damn records), to avoid problems with PSC inspections? It seems and sounds like a bad joke, but it’s real, it’s cursed over by all seafarers all around the globe, but who cares? Those are different globes, remember? One’s Planet Seaways, another one is Planet Establishment.

What is this process of issuing new regulations, what is the gist of it? It’s in fact, very simple. Bureaucracy is providing itself with eternal, endless job of creating regulations, which in theory, should prevent any and all accidents. Even theoretically, it’s an utopia. There are millions of factors, mistakes, faulty mechanisms and materials, wrong actions, distractions, whatever else you name it, which may cause, and cause, accidents and disasters. To take into account all possibilities which may lead to an accident, and try to prevent them, is impossible, even theoretically. Bureaucracy is simply following in the wake of events – each new accident gives birth to new regulation, often more than one.
Any normal, ordinary person, seaman in our case, just can’t comply with all already existing regulations in force, can’t even learn them, their number is already too big for that. Everybody, therefore, knows, that there is no vessel and crew in this world, in this Galaxy, which is in full compliance with all laws and regulations, because it’s impossible. Well, maybe it’s possible, if double-manned vessel’s is permanently docked and has only one order, one task – not to carry goods, but to stay berthed, being fully compatible with everything Planed Establishment invented, and by that, to become a museum of bureaucratic imbecility. 

Many of those regulations are punishable, from reprimands to fines and persecution. Again, hypocritical Planet Establishment is indignant with “criminalization” of seamen’ job. First, Establishment invents punishable regulations and enforces them, and second, Establishment is protesting “criminalization” and lamenting over convicted seamen.
I touch on just one topic, scratch the surface of a Pandora’s box of problems, which are either totally ignored by media (which of course, dwell on Planet Establishment), or presented strictly within the limits of agenda settings. All inhabitants of Planet Establishment are, by the way, above criticism, from the UN to ITF to PSC. Quite a number of topics are simply taboos, like say PSC or CG malfeasance, or State-backed/initiated piracy and racketeering, or downright criminal practices of ITF and “affiliated” national trade-union mobs. Or open discussions on controversial global warming theory, or on evil of evils, tobacco, and the way Establishment is fighting it (what is more evil, tobacco or the way they fight it, and incidentally, how really “evil” is tobacco, considering “scientific” falsifications, pinpointed as such by scientists themselves). Or on Private Armed Guards legalizing worldwide.
And with all the above, I don’t mention shipowners’ woes (small and middle sized owners, Big Guys being a different story.), of which there are many.

Will shipping get its’ own “Trump”?
Industry media, expectedly, just don’t see any trouble around, and least of all, in itself. Business as usual. Well, they may be in for a big surprise. I wonder sometimes, do industry media really believe, that seamen and shipowners are as dumb as media portrait them? Goons drooling over “green shipping”, enthusiastically welcoming new regulations and restrictions, and having nothing else in mind except serving humankind?
Shipping, both at land and at sea, is, I believe, too atomized, too individual, too capitalistic for mass opposition. But who knows? Internet can unite anything, even shipping, and make possible things, which in pre-Internet era were thought to be absolutely impossible (well, they already happen, those unthinkable things).
Will we see the emergence of “Trump” in shipping, in whatever form it may take (and there are quite a number of ways to do it online)? Will somebody or something “Trump” the shipping, bringing down established order, or forcing it to change? Maybe. One thing is for sure, though – if “Trump” ever explodes in shipping, industry media will face it totally unprepared.

Voytenko Mikhail
February 12,  2017

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