BBC Chartering: ‘Shipping remains a low return, high risk business’
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Seafarers deserve a decent living environment, and shipowners will reap the benefit with a happy crew, argues regular columnist Bei Hong
Different parts of the world have differing approaches to taking vacations, but the general rule seems to be that the summer months are a bit slower from a business point of view as many people head off on a well deserved break from the daily grind. This is particularly true in the West. In the US, the onset of the ‘driving season’ brings about optimism in tanker markets (usually unfounded) that gasoline demand will prompt a spike in rates. In Europe, a vast migration south takes place with roads such as the wonderfully named ‘Autoroute du Soleil’ in France choked with holiday traffic. Many travellers choose to break their journey at one of the budget hotels sited alongside major roads. These establishments offer small, utilitarian accommodation with no more than the absolute basics - somewhere to sleep but certainly not somewhere you would want to spend any more time than is absolutely necessary.
The last time I stayed in such an establishment, I couldn’t help thinking that this cost effective lodging solution was not dissimilar to the cabins our seafarers live in. The difference, of course, is that whilst I was there merely to grab a few hours sleep before hitting the road again, for the seafarer it was home for anything up to nine months. Of all the advances made in shipping in recent years, be they improving efficiency, safety or environmental protection, one area where we seem to have gone backwards is the environment we expect our crews to live in.
I recently went onboard a 16-year-old containership, which had been built at a Korean yard for a European owner. What struck me more than anything was the quality of the accommodation - spacious, well thought out and with fixtures and fittings that showed that someone had really put some thought into designing a space for people to live and work in for extended periods. The Master told me that whilst he had originally had reservations about joining such ... More>>