Your Ama­zon pack­age, cour­tesy of a glob­al­ized corps of sailors

Arab News - - Opinion - JONATHAN GORNALL

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. 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 Sept. 2.

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 they reach us. The world of com­mer­cial ship­ping, upon which the global mar­ket de­pends com­pletely, is a mys­tery.

Yet more than 90 per­cent of world trade is wa­ter­borne.

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 is 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.

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, a jour­ney of about 17 days. A dis­tress call was sent, but only two of the crew sur­vived.

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

On Sept. 9, the day the search for sur­vivors was called off, Gulf Nav­i­ga­tion Hold­ing re­leased a state­ment say­ing that ev­ery­one in the com­pany was “dev­as­tated by the enor­mity of this tragic ac­ci­dent,” adding that: “All our thoughts and prayers at this time go out to the fam­i­lies of those who it seems have lost their loved ones.”

As for the rest of us, the least we can do the next time we take de­liv­ery of a par­cel whose con­tents have trav­eled the world is pause and re­mem­ber those who are daily in peril on the seas, and who at times give their lives so that we may ben­e­fit from the global trade upon which our life­styles de­pend.

Jonathan Gornall is a Bri­tish jour­nal­ist, for­merly with The Times, who has lived and worked in the Mid­dle East and is now based in the UK. ©Syn­di­ca­tion Bureau

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