Spare a thought for brave sailors

The Pak Banker - - FRONT PAGE -

Less than a month af­ter the sink­ing of the MV Gulf Live­stock 1, who in the world mourns Cap­tain Dante Ad­dug and his 38 fel­low Filipino crew mem­bers, lost when their ship sank off the coast of Ja­pan dur­ing Typhoon Maysak?

Their fam­i­lies, cer­tainly. Cap­tain Ad­dug, who was 34, has left be­hind five chil­dren un­der six years of age. The staff and man­age­ment of Dubai-based Gulf Nav­i­ga­tion Hold­ing, which op­er­ated the ship, have also been hit hard by the hu­man cost of the tragedy.

As for the rest of the world, while de­tails have emerged about the two Aus­tralians and two New Zealan­ders who were on board, we know next to noth­ing of the 39 Filipino sailors who lost their lives along­side them when their ship was over­whelmed on Septem­ber 2.

Filipinos calm, ca­pa­ble, rugged sailors are the back­bone of the world's maritime com­merce sys­tem. I per­son­ally ex­pe­ri­enced their tough, good-hu­mored, com­pe­tent brand of sea­man­ship when I was hauled to safety from a wave-lashed life-raft in the At­lantic on to the deck of a cargo ship crewed by Filipinos.

So when I read of the sink­ing of Gulf Live­stock 1, and the loss of al­most all its crew in such hor­ren­dous cir­cum­stances, it was the faces of the Filipino sailors who had saved my life and my three com­pan­ions' that I saw, grin­ning and shout­ing en­cour­age­ment as they fought to pull four cold and ex­hausted English­men from the maw of a fe­ro­cious storm.

That new com­puter, iPhone, din­ner set, drill, ket­tle or TV you or­dered on­line may have ar­rived at your door in an Ama­zon box dis­patched from a de­pot near you. But the great­est part of its jour­ney - these days, typ­i­cally from some fac­tory in China - was on board a ship, and fre­quently in the care of a crew of Filipinos work­ing far from home in a per­ilous en­vi­ron­ment.

Few of us who spend our lives on solid ground ap­pre­ci­ate just how per­ilous that en­vi­ron­ment can be. Al­though we all ben­e­fit from the prod­ucts of the global econ­omy on a daily ba­sis, we rarely give any thought to how those prod­ucts reach us.

The world of com­mer­cial ship­ping upon which the global mar­ket de­pends com­pletely is a mys­tery. The ships that ser­vice our con­sumerism are, at best, lit­tle more than smudges on the hori­zon, in­dis­tinct shapes glimpsed oc­ca­sion­ally dur­ing a day trip to the coast.

Yet more than 90% of world trade is wa­ter­borne. As the lat­est Global Marine Trends re­port from

Lloyd's Reg­is­ter puts it, "With­out ships and nav­i­ga­ble seas there is no glob­al­iza­tion."

Most of us nei­ther know nor care much about what it takes to ship the stuff we take for granted. Like­wise, the lives and losses of those who la­bor to keep the great en­gine of global trade run­ning ef­fi­ciently are out of sight and out of mind.

Last year 41 large com­mer­cial ves­sels were lost at sea. That's cer­tainly an im­prove­ment on the 130 lost in 2010, but such trends are highly volatile and sub­ject to both eco­nomic and nat­u­ral forces.

A to­tal of 951 ships were lost be­tween 2010 and 2019 - a star­tling av­er­age of 95 ev­ery year. Of these, 228 went down off South China, In­dochina, In­done­sia and the Philip­pines. Ty­phoons, com­bined with the ever-in­creas­ing vol­ume of traf­fic from the Far East, have made this the No 1 dan­ger zone for ship­ping.

Dan­ger also lurks else­where. Since 2010, 49 ships have been lost in or near the Per­sian Gulf.

Gulf Live­stock 1, which was car­ry­ing al­most 6,000 cattle des­tined for the Chi­nese dairy in­dus­try, sank near the end of its voy­age from Napier in New Zealand to the port of

Tang­shan, in China's He­bei prov­ince a jour­ney of about 17 days. A dis­tress call was sent, but only two of the crew were found alive.

Chief of­fi­cer Ed­uardo Sareno was spot­ted by a Ja­panese navy air­craft and res­cued by the Ja­panese Coast Guard. He was found alone in the wa­ter wear­ing a life­jacket, hav­ing jumped off the ship as it be­gan to cap­size. He told his res­cuers that the ves­sel's en­gine had failed in the rough seas and, un­able to ma­neu­ver, had turned broad­side on to the waves and cap­sized.

A sec­ond crew mem­ber, found two days later, died shortly af­ter res­cue. A third, a 30-year-old deck­hand found cling­ing to a bat­tered, wa­ter­logged life-raft later the same day, sur­vived. An empty, badly dam­aged lifeboat has also been found, along with the car­casses of dozens of drowned cattle.

At sun­set on Septem­ber 9, one week af­ter the ship went down, the search for sur­vivors was fi­nally called off.

En­cour­aged by the fact that three life-rafts and a lifeboat have yet to be found, fam­i­lies and sup­port­ers have mounted a dig­i­tal cam­paign on so­cial me­dia to urge search and res­cue ef­forts to con­tinue.

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