Home' Work Boat World : September 2016 Contents Early in my journalistic career, I became the maritime editor
for a new weekly magazine, which was called Speed & Power,
designed for ten- to 14-year-olds, with some brilliant writers.
The aviation editor was, in real life, a famous aviator who
popped up on the TV in the aftermath of every air crash, while the
chap who wrote about road transport was no rmally test-driving
supercars for the most prestigious motoring magazines. The
greatest living expert on trains contributed columns on railways,
although they were a bit stumped when it came to ships. I was
technical editor of their little shipbuilding weekly and the nearest
person to hand, so I got the job.
It was the most demanding readership I have ever met. They
demanded facts, asked endless questions, with long letters and
were pro ne to argue until the cows came home if they felt they
knew better than us “experts”. The magazine lasted about four
years and every number is still gathering dust in my attic,
occasionally pored over with disbelief by grandchildren.
What was absolutely brilliant about the readers of Speed & Power
was their colossal enthusiasm, something that so badly needs
harnessing by the marine industry today.
I don’t know how you promote enthusiasm in something that
is largely invisible, noticed only after a disaster and which tries so
hard to keep the lowest possible profile. But when you think about
it, there can be no possible negatives in encouraging enthusiasts to
learn more about marine technology and the younger the better.
Spreading the word
Just occasionally you hear of some great initiatives to promote
maritime enthusiasm. At this year’s Singapore Shipping Week,
instead of just listening to worthy people giving worthy messages
and having industry folk talking to each other, they persuaded a
couple of supply boat owners to park two of their newest craft
alongside and opened them to the public.
Thousands turned up to walk around these exciting and
sophisticated vessels and question their delighted crews about their
job. I suppose it was fortuitous that the market was in such
doldrums that the pair could easily be spared for this non-revenue
earning role, but as an investment in the future you just cannot
beat such an event. Goodness, how many people will have seen
what these offshore folk do and said to themselves – “this beats
sitting at an office desk every day!”
Just seeing modern technology up close promotes both interest
and enthusiasm in the most effective way.
The Norwegian offshore industry, which like any other has been
suffering from the oil price downturn, is worried that the current
market difficulties will put off the next generation from offshore
opportunities and all the bright engineers will go off to get jobs in
financial services. They will doubtless be delighted at the ingenuity
of the owners of the offshore accommodation ship ‘Edda Fides’,
which, rather than being idle at a layup berth, is taking 120 “rig
tourists” at a time around the offshore structures in the Norwegian
sector of the North Sea.
A luxury cruise ship she is not, but these days Norwegian
offshore workers expect better than basic accommodation and the
better cabins fetch up to US$3,500 for the five day “cruise”.
You might say “who on earth would want to pay money for
such an excursion?” But they are queuing up to buy their tickets.
Why not? There are some extrao rdinary examples of extreme
engineering to be seen and to learn about them from real experts
would be a privilege that would, I submit, promote real
enthusiasm. I don’t suppose that the owners of ‘Edda Fides’ are
paying off a great slab of her capital cost as a result of their
summer cruising, but it is better than a slap in the face with a
Spitzbergen cod, as they might say in that part of the world.
Think of the children!
Getting people interested in an essential industry is really
important, if we are to keep its intellectual capital growing. It was
good to see the International Maritime Organisation opening its
doors to young people at the recent “Day of the Seafarer”
celebrations in London, although a trip on a ship would have been
the icing on the cake.
The Port of Rotterdam is a pretty utilitarian sort of place, but
the Spido excursion boats in that harbour do great year-round
business taking tourists around the docks and telling people about
the ships and the port. I suspect that the port regards the Spido
fleet as a sort of secondary PR operation. A couple of years ago I
went on a two-hour cruise to kill a little time and it was full of
school children getting first hand exposure to the maritime world.
Sadly, the lecture that day was all in Dutch, but a polite 13-year-
old gave me a simultaneous translation of the important facts.
You can learn all sorts of things from screens and even books
(although publishers seem to have given up) but to actually see oil
rigs or ocean-going ships up close and personal is the ultimate
method of promoting enthusiasm; cadets or other young industry
people being the very best ambassadors. It is very easy to slump
into despondency and do nothing about the future of the industry,
particularly at a time when the market is bumping around the
bottom, but there is a new generation to attract, and a job to
6 September 2016 WORK BOAT WORLD
The generation game
Thoughts from the distinguished maritime commentator Michael Grey MBE.
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