Well. Where to begin?
Tonight, in Vlissingen the Dutch begin to celebrate Carnival. A crazy celebration involving costumes and role reversal, that will last until Ash Wednesday. Carnival celebrations traditionally involve masks, cross-dressing, jesters acting like the king, and lords and ladies waiting on their servants. Linked to Purim, it indicates how the proper order of things is completely reversed before the collapse at the end of time. A symbol of the entropy of end times, before the resurrection at Easter.
It is fitting then that I will be spending this week as a quitter and a passenger. I joined this ship on Tuesday, had a perfect day of sailing in flat calm weather, and performed every manoeuvre with slick and beautiful precision. I then finished the day by terminating my contract with this company, then going out and drinking like, well, like a sailor. I’m now camping out here until Wednesday to train the new Master they’ve hurriedly brought in from an Agency in Croatia, so he can complete the 3 week trip that I was originally contracted for.
I have completely mastered this ship and this job. Now it is time to move on.
It feels slightly surreal to be having such a good time, while the news from around the world seems so dire. The awful earthquake in Turkey has brought a stark reminder of the fragility of life to so many, as 41,000 people are confirmed to have lost their lives.
Although, on the side of silver linings, it seems to have revealed Erdogan’s corruption to even his staunchest supporters. A Turkish national fund of around eighteen billion dollars seems to have gone missing, despite Turks paying into this fund since the 1990s, for just such occasions as this. It’s possible that Erdogan’s Bosphorus Canal may have consumed some of this fund. A vanity project that appears to have bankrupted the earthquake relief fund, and shaken Erdogan’s credibility. There is speculation on deck that this may be the beginning of the end for that particular despot.
Having admired the Caledonian, Corinth, Crinan, Kiel, Panama and Suez Canals in person, it does pain me to say that the world will probably be better off without Erdogan’s folly of a waterway.
And while the departure of the great defender of trans rapists, Nicola Sturgeon, did temporarily make me smile, it has not been enough to offset the general news about the state of the Union. (Not that SOTU, my dear colonial friends, but our United Kingdom). The appointed Sunak’s concessions to the EU, Grant Schapp’s giddy adulation at the presence of his overlord Bill Gates in the UK, and the disgusting western attempts to prolong the war in Ukraine by any means necessary are events typical of our precarious time. The fallout of the recent Davos meeting shows just how far advanced the march toward social credit scoring, corporate capture of government and CBDCs already is, and SkyNet (sorry, StarLink) overlord Elon Musk and his ilk seem to be encouraging the deification and veneration of AI bots. The talk of how dangerous they are is simply a negative form of veneration, as instilling fear becomes the means by which these toys are reified in people’s minds.
The bankster-backed train derailment in East Palestine Ohio has brought a dramatic and dark turn of events, that seems to further indicate that the US is indeed the last battleground of freedom. The media blackout and censorship of the Ohio environmental disaster, by the same media who claimed to care only about your health for the past 3 years, is a stark thing to contemplate. As the Pfizer trial documents prove the cover up of vaccine deaths during trials, as reported publicly in Die Welt, and the proof that JP Morgan benefitted wildly from Jeffrey Epstein’s human trafficking operation, it’s hard to know what to pay attention to in any given moment.
I do feel a little guilty when I say this, but none of it has managed to put even the slightest dampener on my mood. Even the idea of Joe Biden shooting down extra-terrestrial aliens over Canada, while allowing good old terrestrial aliens to cross the southern border made me laugh this week. If they’re going to go for project Bluebeam, or whatever Alex Jones called it, they’re going to have to do better than this! It’s just too comical.
I mean, how funny is it, that 2023 has become so topsy turvy that the average person on the street now believes aliens are invading, but the ‘conspiracy theorists’ are saying ‘no they’re not’. :) It’s so good. You couldn’t make up how funny and absurd the world now is!
I’m just waiting for ChatGPT to announce to us that it self-identifies as ‘non-binary’.
Marburg might do it, one day. But for the moment, I’m launching my own project. Project Bluebeard. Namely, take myself, my family and my business plans to the next level. Modest as that may seem, I’m having a lot of fun doing it, and even my clumsiest of baby steps do seem to be going in the right direction.
I had a few rough trips this winter, and I decided to part ways with the company I’m currently contracting for back in December. I sent out a scattershot of emails offering my services to other companies, and a whole bunch of them got back to me. I’ve had my pick of the litter, and I was offered four different ships for the year ahead. I’ve picked a dynamically positioned workboat, which will be doing dive support work for the next few months. She is a multi-purpose vessel and weighing in at 499 Tons, she is as large a boat as I can command with my current license.
It was the cranes that did it for me. She has two of the largest cranes you can get on a vessel that size. 33 Tons at 10 metres. She also has 4 Azimuth thrusters and one tunnel thruster, full ECDIS and a Kongsberg K-Pos DP2 control system. That is a hairy-chested little workboat, and I can’t wait to play with it.
So, I only have to remain on the Vomit Comet in the Netherlands for one week, to train the new master. The poor guy has come from big ships. The weather is too rough to go to sea today, but I think tomorrow it might dawn on him what he’s let himself in for.
He is already astonished at the amount of paperwork required by this company. It is too much for one man, and the level of mistrust from the company is palpable in the amount of unnecessary duplication of documentation for safety compliance.
Even the lack of a sink or toilet on the bridge signals a level of contempt that the owners have for the crew on these vessels. Spending 12 hours per day on a glasshouse of a bridge with no A/C or heating working, no toilet and no way to wash without leaving your lookout post. This is a more serious safety concern than you might imagine.
When was he last time you had to hold your water for more than six to eight hours? Have you ever?
Do you think you could do that while seasick, rolling heavily, managing an offshore cargo operation, while piloting or navigating a ship in busy, unfamiliar waters? Now add about 2 hours worth of Excel spreadsheets and 2 hours of other pointless admin on top of that, and factor in unreliable and slow satellite internet, and you’ve got yourself something of an idea of the downsides of the job of a CTV Master.
I’m trying to explain the value of simplification in my consultancy work to these guys, but some companies simply do not value that. The distance between the ship owner and the ship operator is sometimes so far removed in these companies that there is no hope of reconciliation.
There is a Yiddish saying that my father-in-law often quotes, which translates roughly as: ‘On your ass, the beating doesn’t hurt me’.
That sentiment sums up the majority of the management problems in shipping. It is an industry where skilled and professional labour must compete with the labour force from southeast Asia and India, which drives wages to less than a quarter of what they are in the Jones Act-protected US market. The income tax exemptions that attracted most of us to sea are harder to come by, as the taxman’s appetite increases year after year, and trading patterns change.
Naval architects do a seven-year degree in learning how to draw AutoCAD pictures of floating robots that hoover trash out of the oceans, and never once spend time on a ship, visit a shipyard, or do some welding in a workshop.
The navigational products we use are built to government specifications, by landlubbing civil servants, and sold to shoreside box-tickers who never have to use the products they are responsible for purchasing. International standards of construction, safety and competence need to be set at the lowest possible level, to be applicable worldwide. Therefore, most companies build the exact same equipment operated by ‘standardised’ people, and can only compete by lowering prices. HR and management have become nothing more than manipulation in many corporations and the employment rights of seafarers have stagnated, as we try to drag the Chinese up to a basic level of appreciation for human life.
And if that weren’t bad enough, the ‘supply chain crisis’ in shipping is now accelerating, as 2022 figures showed a record number of 107 ships abandoned, leaving 1700 seafarers stranded, adrift, without pay or any means to be repatriated home, as shipowners go bust the world over.
It’s going to get worse before it gets better. And even that will take longer than you think.
Mechanical safety has plateaued as computational power and maritime technology have reached a level of maturity. The industry is now focused on ‘fixing’ the ‘human element’, which is the largest complaint of ship operators. Second only to the cost of fuel, the cost of manning ships 24/7 is a huge expense. With worldwide trading patterns and multi-national crews who need repatriating, the current financial crisis post covid is putting companies out of business, reducing the capacity of global trade and human productivity in general.
AI, Automation, Blockchain, Big Shipping Data and IoT are seen as ‘the future’, as tech heads try to design away the ‘human-element’.
Our dying culture views the human being not as the central thing that technology should serve, but merely as a defective component in the machine of our ‘economy’.
One of the biggest selling points for the new company that I’m going to be working with is that the owner is also a Master Mariner. When I told him that I’ve booked a trip to the USA in September, he said, ‘don’t worry, we’ll cover you for that, even if I have to come and drive the ship myself for a couple of weeks’.
That is actual management. Not just a set of compliance documents or buzzword-bingo euphemisms designed to trick you into doing additional work with no additional compensation. Consent. Support. Reciprocity. Predictability. Wonderful and important traits to look for in the people you work with.
The only innovation happening in shipping these days is coming from smaller offshore service companies like that or racing sailing vessels and the private superyacht sector. All three have one thing in common. A higher proportion of owners who actually spend time on the ships they own and operate. Something shipping magnate Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller was also famous for.
I once heard from a Canadian captain friend who worked on the Maersk anchor handlers in Nova Scotia, that he was present for one of Mr Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller’s ship visits. The man was in his nineties, and still visiting his ships in person. He walked across the navigational bridge and tripped over the rails on the deck that guided the sliding chairs into the pilotage position. You can imagine the panicked gasps from his entourage, as the nonagenarian billionaire, the richest man in Denmark at the time, collapsed and hit the deck.
It turned out that the crew had also been tripping on these rails at sea and had reported their unusually high profile to the company via the standard safety reporting system. The multiple layers of middle management had categorised the crew’s complaints as ‘unhelpful moaning’. Promptly filed away as a non-priority issue to be ignored.
After Mr Mærsk himself was peeled from the deck and dusted off, however, the safety concern reported by the crew suddenly came into sharp focus as a top safety management priority.
‘Fix that’, was the only instruction given.
That ship and all her sister ships were immediately stripped back to bare steel. As soon as humanly practicable, a newly designed sunken rail system – flush with the deck to avoid trip hazards – was installed on every anchor handler in the fleet. At a likely cost of several hundreds of thousands of dollars, what had seemed to be an unnecessary ‘waste’ of funds to most shoreside staff at Maersk, suddenly became necessary.
How much better do you think the crew on those boats felt after their owner and commander-in-chief insisted that their problems be solved? How neglected would they have felt if the repair had only been made to one ship, or not at all?
The importance of the owner who actually owns it is an important thing to appreciate. It is the cook who eats his own cooking. It is the captain prepared to go down with his ship or even just clean his own toilet. It is the coat of fresh paint that walked everywhere, ten feet in front of our late Queen.
‘Micromanagement’ is a much maligned and resented word these days. I think even the term ‘management’ needs to be rethought. But attention to detail is what makes the world function.
All of the idioms and euphemisms we use to describe the processes of work and leadership are now so loaded with expired references and negative connotations, that they do not properly articulate what they were once tasked with describing.
What Mr Maersk was doing was a more sacred and profound thing than micromanagement. He was sharing in the pain that his company was asking his staff to endure. He was mediating between the top of the mountain, and the soles of the feet of the masses. He was emulating the angels who ascend and descend between heaven and earth, as described by Jacob and John. He was shining light and bringing attention. He was finding questions to be answered and answering them. He was fulfilling the proper purpose of his place in the hierarchy, by using the power of the hierarchy to care for the human beings who embodied his corporation. He embodied authority in a way that served human life, instead of viewing the ‘human element’ as an inconvenient obstacle to profit.
In short, he was a leader. Not a manager.
I have quit many jobs in my life, and with few exceptions, the main reason for doing so was a feeling of mistrust between myself and management. I have learned that when the trust is gone, that is time to leave.
Quitting, and moving on with your life, is one of the greatest most exhilarating pleasures of a free society. All of the sailors I met who grew up in the Soviet times had their occupation chosen for them by the time they started high school. They were not permitted to disagree with the ‘economic plan’, and so quitting was never an option for them. Even moving house without permission was seen as an act of sedition and subversion. Compliance was enforced by societal pressure and severe violence.
That spirit of totalitarian authoritarianism is alive and well in the West today. The grand plans of Davos man and the bypassing of consent by central bankers and international treaty makers have now been fully captured by public-private partnerships marching towards a fourth industrial revolution that views itself as its own justification of any and all means. They used to be called cartels. Now we call them ‘elites’.
The demonisation of ‘billionaires’ as a homogenous category without distinction is something that solidified in the cultural mind throughout my lifetime. Presumably, as currency inflation made the B-word applicable to more and more people.
One television show that continues this demonisation of the wealthy, but helpfully adds some human detail and nuance to the story is Yellowstone. It is a great show, that essentially portrays the political battles of a ‘Godfather-like’ ranching family in Montana. Without giving away any spoilers, I’ll just point out to you that the Luciferian character is Kevin Costner’s son Jamie.
In his excellent portrayal of the self-serving narcissistic career man, you can really see how the spirit of the power seeker ruins the world around him and destroys life. His every action leads to death, abortion and sterilisation. His worship of himself causes an inversion of reality and subverts his own goals.
That worship of career and works and legalism and politics and power is precisely how the narcissism of our age manifests itself. Our institutions now serve themselves, instead of the people who fund them. Like Bhopal in India, the Ohio toxic waste disaster will see huge corporations use delay tactics to wait until all the injured parties are dead, to avoid any liabilities. The Pharisees of our time revel in hypocrisy and legalism, just like those of old.
The self-worship of the big tech censors is becoming massively evident in people’s increasingly sinister interactions with AI chatbots like Bing and Chat GPT. These software programs produce text in the way that a narcissist has logorrhoea. It exists only as a response. There is no life, but only the simulation of life. A reflection of the emptiness of their creators.
And yet, some people are now idolising AI. These chatbots have been programmed to simulate what silicone valley progressives believe a human being should sound like. That is what is a little chilling about it.
However, we must view this as just another inversion of the proper order of things that signals to us the end of our current societal paradigm. It is not to be feared.
Technology should serve life. We should not serve it.
That basic truth needs to be remembered when dealing with all of our artifices. Whether that is ‘the economy’, supra-national corporations, policy factories, nation-states, smaller companies, semi-autonomous surface ships or even our little cell phones.
Everything we pay attention to matters. Actions speak louder than words. Our actions, which are clear for all to see, make an argument. When our actions are contradictory to life, we argue against creation. Avoiding hypocrisy is about aligning your values and your actions completely, so that everything you do, everything you are, becomes life-affirming, instead of self-defeating.
Visualisation is an important part of self-improvement, and performance management. Visualising a manoeuvre on a ship massively improves my performance while ship handling. In the same way, we need to visualise things like justice and fairness, in the particular industries and areas of life that we are familiar with and responsible for.
50% of our brain is wired to our vision because that is our main tool for survival in the world. Even your auditory system is linked to your vision. That’s why when you are navigating down unfamiliar roads, you need to turn down the noise on the radio so your eyes can find the way to go.
We can also detect when invisible forces are influencing our world. That is the vision in your heart. That’s what detects the invisible world.
Man’s job is to mediate between these visible and invisible elements and articulate what is going on. The naming of parts is one of our fundamental roles on earth.
So why is technology, management or business now seen as something separate from human life, by our culture? How can people be such materialists that they absolutely reject the idea of God or a soul, yet at the same time insist that a trans person is ‘born in the wrong body’?
When the bureau-de-change and the livestock market were kicked out of the temple, the leadership lesson was clear. The central values of the temple need to be kept clean and clear, to act as our focus and guiding light. The money changers in the temple were not modern-day banksters, as many keyboard warriors like to think, but honourable people who applied standards of measurement to act as mediators between the native and the foreigner. Money changing meant just that. Swapping currencies. The livestock market was also a necessary and honourable thing. But these peripheral elements should be on the outside, in their proper place. What you see in the temple should allow you to clearly visualise what is valuable. Ritual makes it real. Distraction muddies the vision. Simplification aids focus and proper attention.
Decluttering the work environment and simplifying documentation, orders and language to improve safety management follows the same principle.
Regardless of how much automation, data, AI or technology becomes a part of our life, we must be careful to keep it in its proper place. Far away from the temple of our values. The tail must never wag the dog.
I don’t fully understand what the words ‘Son of man’ are supposed to mean in the Bible. (If anyone could assist with this phrase, I’d appreciate some comments). It’s a similar problem I faced when trying to understand what it meant that Adam was made in god’s image. Or that Moses’ face was shining with glory.
I think the metaphor of ‘vision’ and ‘image’ in the bible points to how important it was that Christ demonstrated his virtues through his actions. Not simply with words, titles, or abstract statements. He was the opposite of a hypocrite or legalist.
And so we must learn from that and apply it to our own lives in this world. We can use this knowledge to see the way things really are.
When Tony Blair, Bill Gates and Rishi Sunak perform contradictions, like enacting a ‘population reduction policy’ - while, say, not volunteering to go first - they show us their values.
When our managers or our colleagues will not leave their desk or their superyacht to walk the factory floor from time to time, as Mr Maersk did, they reveal to us their contempt for the people who support the very hierarchy they depend on.
When religious people get married and have lots of children, they show us by their actions that they want to affirm life and value creation, more than the materialists do in the West.
When fit young men, earning plenty of money in their twenties, choose to spend time with video games, pornography, gambling and dating apps, instead of marrying and having children, they reveal to us that they worship these trinkets and tools more than life itself.
So, whether it’s a ship on a voyage or a company in business, the role of the leader is to make sure everybody pays attention to the ultimate and proper value of the endeavour. And then to show the way to live that value.
Demonstrating the way to be, is what I’ll be doing for the rest of the week with this new captain. And it’s what I’ll be trying to do for the rest of my life, with myself, my children, my colleagues and my community. And believe me, showing myself how to be better is the hardest part of all of that. As I’m sure you probably know yourself.
And when it comes to the state of the working world, I do not believe that labour is a commodity to be purchased like ammonia or LNG or grain. Not if things are functioning properly.
Nor is capitalism or commerce some sort of mechanical or cold-hearted entity that should be appeased with sacrifice.
Life, work and commerce come entirely down to relationships. And so many of our relationships are now inverted or broken.
As the society we thought we could rely on reaches the zenith of its absurdity, the carnival spirit reigns supreme. When life has become parody, and nobody can tell what is real any more, we know we have reached the end times.
But what comes next?
Grace. Revelation. Redemption. Resurrection.
That’s how I know when I move on to my next challenge, I will face fear and trepidation and chaos. But that I will eventually put things right and master that ship as well. Just like I mastered this one. And that’s how I know that the end of this phase of our relationship with the nation-state, central banking, corporations and international governance is something to be welcomed. So long as we pay attention, and learn from the revelations of the past few years.
And that’s also how I know that the 2023-2024 election season is going to be a wild ride, ladies and gentlemen. The craziness of the news these past 2 weeks, and 2 years, is only a minor portent of what is going to come. So buckle up.
Our civilisation is nothing more than a sandcastle on the beach, compared to the eternal. And our little bucket is about to be turned upside-down.
Another great piece, Scott. Hope and optimism bobbing along the stormy seas.
Thank you, my mysteriously named friend. :) 👍