Mob in shining armor

Industry media outlet SPLASH247 launched new campaign aimed at obliterating abandonment cases, and stamping out that malicious practice. Industry media is, actually, inflating this abandonment problem for years, being incited by interested parties and by its’ own interests. Problem is, there is no such global, all-industry problem, as abandonment, so it has to be inflated.

Some 400 seafarers were abandoned during first eight months of this year, according to SPLASH247, most avid watchdog of seamen well-being among industry media pack. We may assume then, that the total number of abandoned seamen in this year will be some 600 people, globally.
Total number of seamen globally is some 1,7 million. Share of abandoned seamen is 0.04% from their total number. Odds to get into abandonment therefore, are 1 in some 3,000. Same as odds of being killed by a lightning during your lifetime. No wonder abandonment is not in the list of seafarers problems. The majority of seamen (overwhelming majority, to be exact), just don’t find it a problem, at all. Overwhelming majority of seamen don’t ever, during their professional career, encounter such problem.
Who’re seamen most prone to get into trouble? Mostly they’re start-ups, or those not skilled enough, or having bad CV, or thoughtless enough to be lured by suspiciously high wages. In general, all those, who can’t yet, or can’t any more, enlist with reputable shipowners, are vulnerable to fall victim to abandonment.

According to Amendment to MLC 2996, which came into force from Jan 18 this year, all ships must have Certificate on board, confirming valid financial security in the event of abandonment. That is, all shopwners and shipmanagers must provide such certificates, to ensure, that the future victims of their managerial malpractices will be secured from abandonment woes.
Let’s fathom this Amendment, applying common sense and some basic sense of justice. What does this Amendment imply? It implies, that each and every owner and manager can/will go default and abandon the crews. As all the supporters of Amendment, including most frantic, admit, the number of such malevolent companies is tiny:
Meanwhile, David Heindel, chair of the ITF’s seafarers’ section, stressed that crew abandonment was something that involved a tiny minority of shipping

Still, the main bulk of responsible shipowners is to bear extra costs of this insurance, which meaning is lost by me. Whom do those insurances are to support, rescue and make safe, and from what? The overwhelming majority of shipping companies didn’t abandon their crews, don’t abandon and is not planning to abandon them in the future. Those few which abandon their crews, abandon them anyway, with or without certificates, and as we can already see from several month experience of living with this wonderful Amendment, certificates didn’t help abandoned crews. The majority is innocent, but yet, is punished by this Amendment requests. Incidentally, implemented Amendment didn’t reduce the number of abandonment, so what’s all about?

Imagine enforcing person, for example me, to buy insurances, which will compensate the victims of my future misdemeanor. I may go on rampage one day, burglarizing, raping, robbing and killing, who knows, right? Crimes happen every day, everywhere, so why not me? How can I prove, that I am not planning crimes against other people? I didn’t do it before? So what? I may go nuts, or whatever, so my past is no proof. My word? In God we trust, all others pay cash. Can I, theoretically, physically, commit a crime? Yes, sure, why not? Can I prove, that I don’t plan to become a criminal, that I don’t have a thoughtcrime? No, I can’t. So, isn’t it just, if I ensure right here and now, that my future victims will be compensated?

The logic behind this Amendment is amazing, it’s Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty Four” going live. If there is any justice in this world, any common sense left, that Amendment should be flatly rejected in the first place, as a violation of basic human rights, including presumption of innocence.

But SLASH and those who join this “campaign”, aren’t satisfied even with that dystopian Amendment, finding it to be incomplete. And here comes their biggest headache – they don’t exactly know, nor indeed, have ideas, whom they’re going to fight, and how they’re going to fight. How to figure out future perpetrators? Where to find them? How to stamp them out before they commit the crime? That’s the question.
SPLASH and those who joined “campaign” are desperately looking for an answer. I guess, they’ll fail, even KGB failed to create a device, capable of sniffing out thoughtcrime bearers. Not yet, guys, too early. Wait until we all get implanted chips in our brains, that will make your task much easier.

Everything is amazing in this “campaign”, the very basis of it is startling. Why did SPLASH phase out “abandonment”, aren’t out there in shipping other, glaring, problems, concerning not minority, not even the majority, but all of shipping? There are hordes of such problems. Name a few?
Check-Lists, which are killing professional skills;
Ever growing tsunami of regulations and bureaucratic burden;
ISM Code, GMDSS, ISPS, BWM, sulphur cup;
PSC and CG global malfeasances;
Mortal dangers of African ports, especially West African;
MLC 2006 in general, and Work&Rest Hours Management in particular, Kafkian regulations, and all the harm they do to shipping and quality of labor force.
I can go on and on. So, why not them? People are concerned with them, not with abandonment.

SPLASH are superb scouts, I’ll give them that. They walked into the jungle of problems, which besiege shipping and seafarers, and wandered through it without bashing headlong into any of those listed above massive trunks of problems. They just went through the jungle out to its’ outskirts, and picked up a branch, declaring that branch to be the biggest tree in the jungle.
One mustn’t be Einstein to figure out, what inspires SLASH to launch this “campaign”. SPLASH is after a Big Story, a Big Fight with a Big Evil. Real evils which hunt shipping can’t be even mentioned, so SLASH found one, which is allowed to be recognized as a problem.

Still, abandonment problem do exist, and it will exist as long, as shipping exist in free market environment. The question remains open – how can we deal with abandonment malpractice. As a practical man, I try to solve the problem, when facing one, not to fight it. Fighting problem is guaranteed way to make this problem everlasting and unsolvable.
Abandonment problem consists of two parts. First, and foremost, is victims. Second and secondary, is perpetrators. So first things first, we have to find ways to help victims out in every case, as soon as possible. We need only one thing, one tool to do it, it’s money. Do we have money for this purpose? Yes we do, plenty of them. Here:

In year 2013 I was at one of my regular wars with Seafarers Union of Russia SUR, affiliate of ITF. I’ve been provided with copies of some documents, by the insiders, which helped me to estimate, approximately, SUR and ITF annual profit. It’s HUGE, by any standard. These annual money are paid by seafarers and by shipowners, with shipowners’ share being much bigger, than seafarers.
What’s the idea of those money, if not to assist distressed seamen, right? Wrong. ITF can repatriate each and every abandoned seamen any time, from anywhere, and with that, not by your coach flight, but by private jet, with caviar, champagne and body-massage team. Not surprisingly, ITF don’t repatriate abandoned seamen at all, because ITF is in this business for anything but charity and helping out distressed seamen, if help means money spending.
After crew is supported and repatriated, all interested parties, from leftist do-gooders to ITF, may launch an all-out hunt for faulty company, and obliterate it, after squeezing out all money company has. Here it is, mechanism to help crews and punish perpetrators, plain and simple.
Providing of course, that somebody will launch realistic campaign.
Providing of course, that this “somebody” will be able to force ITF into wasting its’ hard-earned money on troubled seafarers. To bully ITF into parting with its’ money is a pretty difficult undertaking, demanding some guts (though ITF impregnability is in fact, illusory, it’s based on “omerta” order of the establishment, keeping ITF immune from public scrutiny and the law).
If SLASH starts such a campaign, I will lose no time to become its’ most staunch supporter, helping with all my meager means, invited or not.

No wonder Intertanco and Intercargo refused to join this “campaign”, bitterly affronting SPLASH, to such an extent, that SPLASH lashed out at them with something which sounds like defamation: “Two of the world’s leading shipowning organisations have refused to condemn crew abandonment”, because when “Contacted last week in preparation for the Splash seafarer abandonment campaign, neither Intertanko, nor its dry bulk counterpart, Intercargo, have deigned to go on the record to hit out at owners who have ditched their staff at sea, despite the request for comment being discussed at the highest levels of both bodies”.
If they decided not to join this populist “campaign”, it doesn’t mean, that they welcome abandonment, but that’s exactly what SPLASH implies – have refused to condemn crew abandonment – as if there’s only one criteria of condemning abandonment, that criteria being participation in SLASH “campaign”. Their message is simple – “We don’t find neither this “campaign”, nor its’ claimed goals, serious and worth our efforts”. No more, and no less. They don’t want to be puppets in a scenario, which has nothing to do with reality and real solutions of the problem.

There are different kinds of mobs around, from street scum to organized crime to trade unions. Last two decades witness an appearance and upsurge of a new kind of mob, “do-gooders” mob, which I call “Mob in shining armor”. Do-good business proved to be one of most prolific businesses in history, with no responsibility, no accountability and total immunity from public scrutiny and criticism. All one mob has to do is to find not yet occupied and exploited by rival mob problem, strike a deal with establishment, and go on fighting and reaping profits. If there’s no available problem at the moment, a new one can be concocted, or some tiny one, barely noticed, may be inflated to a global scale threat, using existing, tuned to perfection, technologies.
Among all known to me kinds of mob, I find this “do-gooders” mob most disgusting. Conventional criminals are honest in at least one way – they risk their lives and freedom. Do-gooders business is free of any risk whatsoever, it’s an ideal mechanism to suck out public wealth and resources, and make any problem, real or illusory, unsolvable. But what’s much worse, each such fight in the name of the good eats away our freedom and our rights, bit by bit.

Voytenko Mikhail
October 2017

SLASH Campaign:



My name is Mikhail Voytenko, I’m Russian, professional merchant marine navigator, by education and former experience. I own and run Maritime Bulletin website for more than 10 years. I've been involved in solving a number of piracy hijack cases, including the hijack of ro-ro FAINA, loaded with tanks. It was me who made public, and unravel, freighter ARCTIC SEA mystery. I've been also closely involved in a number of maritime disaster, one of them being MSC FLAMINIA major fire.