Thursday, February 05, 2009

For those in peril on the sea...

Staying here briefly beside the port of Mobile, Alabama, I chanced to read a little about what happens at sea.

...merchant seafaring is still, by some accounts, the world's second-most-dangerous occupation, after commercial fishing.

The cranes and derricks that handle container cargo are gargantuan.

According to Imperial College London, 200 supertankers and container ships have sunk in the past two decades due to weather. Wolfgang Rosenthal, a scientist at the European Space Agency, which studies sea conditions via satellite, estimates that two "large ships" sink every week on average. Most of these, he says, "simply get put down to ‘bad weather.' "

The lifts are also inhumanly beautiful.

"The shipping industry is decades behind the airline industry" in its management of risk, says Geoffrey Gill, a maritime attorney. Why?

This monument, placed by several seafarer's unions, disguises, perhaps intentionally, who the sailors are.

"Because there are no passengers, and because most merchant mariners these days are Filipino. A lot of people don't seem to care if 25 Filipino sailors drown."

Someone thought it worthwhile, in the shadow of a gleaming new building, to preserve this small shrine to the patron of the sailors.

And drown they do. How many, exactly?

The patron of seafarers looks out from his niche. They need him.

Nobody knows for sure, but the number of seafaring fatalities appears to exceed 1,000 lives per year, and the number-one cause of accidental death is believed to be drowning.

I had no idea that contemporary cargo shipping was so dangerous until I read Monsterwellen by Donovan Hohn in a recent issue of Outisde. That article is the source of all the quotes in this post.

1 comment:

Darlene said...

It's amazing how many important facts are never brought to light. Thanks for posting this one.

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