Thursday, November 15, 2007

Tales from the birds


I received this letter from a bird and, although it may seem somewhat politically incorrect for some, I will post it.

"Hello, my name is Oily Seagull, I’m a professional actress and you probably know me from several movies I took part, such as “Exxon Valdez”, “Amoco Cadiz”, “Sea Empress”, “Prestige” and so many other. For my work at “Exxon Valdez” I was awarded an Oscar for best actress in a supporting role (best actress on a leading role was won by my dear friend Oily Sea Otter).

Being an experienced actress that has travelled the world to film on so many locations, I would like to share some thoughts with this blog’s visitors.

I am now working on a movie that takes place at the Black Sea, and, although I do not know the title of it yet, I bet it will end with some new maritime safety legislation being adopted (it always ends that way…) and some unfortunate captains arrested.

The movie script goes something like this: Following a severe storm at the Black Sea, several ships, loaded tankers included, sank, cracked or ran aground, causing fuel oil spills that eventually reached the shore. The Russian authorities were very prompt in finding the responsible ones for such a “disaster” - on their words: “the captains of the ships ignored the heavy weather warnings, thus endangering their ships and crew”. The international media coverage went wild (as usual) about the environmental consequences (forgetting the dead and disappeared seafarers) and stood by the Russian “explanation” for the causes of this accident. The stupidity reached so high that it looks like the Russian Greenpeace is proposing the banning of oil transportation by sea…

Now some facts.

First: The Black Sea was heavily polluted well before this accident and no one seemed to care (but now we have an Oily Seagull appearing on the news worldwide). There are several ex-USRR military bases over there, where nuclear propelled vessels are abandoned and no one knows the true condition of the reactors.

Second: No captain of a ship (even the irresponsible ones) will put his life at risk “ignoring” the heavy weather warnings. For those not familiar with the sea I must draw your attention to the fact that it is not like driving a car on a highway and when the rain is too heavy you just look for shelter on the Gas Station…

Third: The Russian authorities are just hiding the fact that most of the ships trading on that area are old rust buckets that should have been beached in Alang several years ago. In fact, not a single vessel that took part on this accident would have been allowed to call at an European or American port (or, if that happened, she would be immediately detained).

Fourth: On the aftermath of the accident, several “experts” came to the televisions claiming for VTS implementation and Navy patrol boats to ensure surveillance. I must recognise the benefits of both safety measures although none of them would or will prevent an accident with oil spill from happening… remember the “Prestige”? The accident occurred within the surveillance area of Finisterra VTS and with several Portuguese and Spanish Navy vessels available on the area. Was that of some help? No. The answer to all these issues is proper Flag State Control and Classification Societies accountability. Do you know that most flag states delegate their responsibilities on the Classification Societies? And that these are commercial companies, thus aiming for profit? Imagine them having a substandard vessel to certify. Will they refuse the vessel and loose the profit or will they close their eyes? In the case of an accident that breaks the vessel in two they can always say it was the captain that didn’t follow the rules…

Fifth: Did you know the standards that oceangoing vessels are built to demand to withstand waves of significant height of 14 meters? Did you know that 30 meter height waves are relative common on the oceans? And that the tanker that caused the oil spill was designed to trade in rivers?…"

So next time there is an oil spill (and there will be a next time) do not believe everything they tell you on TV… and remember that with every accident there are lost seafarers, so forget about the birds!

3 comments:

Sailor Girl said...

Oh!!!... Poor dear bird...

Anonymous said...

A great letter you received. we are always loosing whatever you do

Jose Saraiva said...

Thank god you publish the letter Dany, all kind of birds get oily...even if they wear skirts...who wrote the letter have a very clear idea of what is going on in the shipping world wide, doesn´t matter if crew members dies, the lives of a few seafarers are nothing... they are important if they are good news, who cares about a Captain that goes to jail...if he is jailed is because is a bandit...globalisation, profit, gain, gain that is what is all about.
Oily Seagull can play and unfortunately will, the same roll again and again.
Looking for escape goats always be and will be easier and cheaper than try to find the real reasons for the disasters.
All the best J. Saraiva