Dali 2.png

THE ultimate goal is unmanned ships, which would solve the issue of crew food, reports Times of India.

However, for now, low shipping costs come at the expense of crew members' deteriorating conditions. Recently, some of the Indian crew from the MV Dali, which struck and collapsed a bridge in Baltimore in March, were allowed to return home. Maritime shipping usually goes unnoticed until a mishap occurs, highlighting the world's reliance on it and the significant role of Indian crew members. While stories about ship food often focus on the luxuries of cruise liners or the logistics of naval provisions, the merchant marine's impact on the global economy is more profound. The vast amount of food transported by ships influences our diets, from pulses and grains to fruits and packaged foods, all made possible by cheap shipping.

Historically, food on cargo ships was dreadful. Captains, aiming to cut costs, provided the cheapest, often infested, provisions. Fresh produce was rare until it was discovered that it could prevent scurvy. Despite being at sea, crew members rarely fished. In 1942, a young seaman famously quipped on a radio show that his heroic act was shooting the cook. Postwar shipping profits and improved labour norms briefly improved conditions.

In 1961, veterinarian and writer James Herriot praised the delicious food on a Danish livestock ship, marvelling at the cook's ability to produce such meals in challenging conditions. Some ships even allowed officers' families onboard, with facilities for cooking in their cabins. Bulk cargo packed into standard-sized metal boxes reduced the need for labour and simplified shipping. The focus shifted to maximizing container loads with fewer, lower-paid crew members. In her book Deep Sea and Foreign Going, Rose George notes that the food budget per crew member has dropped significantly, leading to inadequate provisions. On one ship, the captain was instructed to eliminate napkins to save costs, a measure that underscored the industry's frugality.

While unmanned ships may eventually solve the problem of crew food, current low shipping costs are sustained by the declining conditions of ship crews. When issues arise, ship owners often abandon crew members.

The MV Dali's crew was fortunate to return home, but many remain stranded and starving on the ships that transport food worldwide. Source : Schednet