The labour problems on the west coast of the United States are causing intense aggravation to the operators of all the ships anchored off their important ports, let alone the thousands of shippers and consignees whose goods are at a standstill. It is difficult to think of anything positive about the dispute and its consequences that are leading to empty shelves in stores all over America.

But in a country where not many people ever think of the ships they depend upon for all the “stuff” of an advanced industrial economy, the televised pictures of those anchorages might just give people food for thought. Civilisation, it is worth emphasising, depends upon the efficient ministrations of ships, to facilitate world trade, but it is only with the pictures of an inactive portion of this essential fleet that the sentiment is rammed home!

There ought, perhaps, to be a way of capitalising upon this message, so that 21st century people actually start to appreciate their debt to the global shipping industry, in the way their predecessors did.

Maybe some ideas might be found in Rotterdam, where passengers using the Central railway station are currently being treated to a spectacular “big-screen” display of film taken by the Port of Rotterdam about the activities in the giant port. Here is the magic and mystery of modern shipping and cargo handling presented in a truly exciting fashion, as the camera dives under the bows of inbound container ships, gets up close to tugs tending these giants, roars around the roadstead in pilot and patrol boats and shows how bulk and containers are handled in a brilliantly choreographed display.

As a few minutes of well-executed film promoting maritime awareness to people who might otherwise not think too often of ships and shipping – even in a major port – it is a good example of what can be done. After all, the maritime world is an employer and needs people to keep it in mind as a potential career.  There is a need to keep the public, if not “on side” at least informed of these matters, so that ignorance, the half-way stage to apathy, does not breed hostility when there is a new development to be considered, or a dredging scheme that might have environmental interests hogging all the headlines.

For some years now, the European Sea Ports Organisation, based in Brussels, has organised a competition to encourage its members to work harder to get close to the public in the surrounding populations. If people can be brought to understand the real value represented by the maritime world on their doorstep, it is suggested that they will be rather more supportive. In 2015, the prize will go to the port which can demonstrate its capability for working with schools in its area, a theme which is very much looking forward, to the next generation.

Every year this competition is held, really clever ideas are thrown up, many of which will be “stolen” by others, to the benefit of people all around the world.  Awareness really matters and the sooner children can be shown why this dynamic and exciting maritime industry matters to them, the better. There is a whole new generation that needs to be informed, hopefully in a more positive fashion than looking at ranks of idle containerships, swinging around their anchors!

Author: the Watchkeeper                          Source: BIMCO.