martin's marine engineering page logo The sun sets on a Maersk box ships sailing in the Indian Ocean, picture by M Leduc, May 2015

Off watch : Seafaring on film

Interested in maritime theme films? Here, I list films featuring seafarers, mostly documentaries, and let you know what's out there and worthy of your off watch time. They are an interesting look into the life and business of being a seafarer on today's oceans.

Please let me know of other marine theme documentaries or movies that we should see (or not).


"A Hijacking (Kapringen)"



2013’s Hollywood block buster, Capt. Phillips, briefly introduced the general public to the very real problem that is modern day piracy. Obviously the message from Hollywood was the usual one, with easy answers found at the end of a gun, which, when you think about it, is really the heart of the Somalie pirate situation.

A Hijacking takes the viewer on the tedious road that way too many people have found themselves on as a reslt of these crimes. The story is that of the cargo ship MV Rozen, that is commandeered by pirates on its way to India. While I saw much over dramatization in Capt Phillips, this film was by far, more believable, if not downright scary close to what I imagine, is the real situation faced by those involved.

A Hijacking is not a “flashy” movie, and unlike Capt Phillips, the camera work is steady, most of the time. Although it is a powerful story, the "creative license" is limited, with the style of the film, deferring to more tangible realities. Similar to Capt Phillips, the director chooses an almost documentary tone to convey the story.

The main protagonists are the ship’s Danish crew, the Chief Engineer, Captain, and the Cook. Generally the story follows the Cook, while under capture, and the various challenges dealt him. While onshore, at the Orion Seaways headquarters in Denmark, the story follows the CEO, as he negotiates with the pirates. The stresses are well conveyed and realistic.

I am not sure how close, it is to a real occurrence, but this story of fiction, is definitely not recommended viewing for any spouses of sailors bound for the Indian Ocean. Both, Capt Phillips and A Hijacking, were conceived at the height of the Somali piracy crisis; the situation, in that area, has improved somewhat, but we certainly cannot let our guard down. The piracy problem remains a very serious one, in numerous areas of the world.

This film does a great job at chronicling the many problems around such a traumatic event, or at least demystifying the process. I would certainly recommend it, if you can find it. The film is in Danish, with some spoken English and Arabic, so you’ll probably need the subtitles.

" The cargo ship MV Rozen is heading for harbor when it is hijacked by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean. Amongst the men on board are the ship's cook Mikkel and the engineer Jan, who along with the rest of the seamen are taken hostage in a cynical game of life and death. With the demand for a ransom of millions of dollars a psychological drama unfolds between the CEO of the shipping company and the Somali pirates. "

From IMDB

Martin Leduc
January 2014

 

"Whale Wars - Season 3"



By now most of us mariners, in North America anyways, are familiar with the antics of the crew of Sea Sheppard Society, in the Antarctic anti whaling campaign. Every year, the Japanese operate a fleet of vessels carrying out whaling activities, under the guise of research. In the past two documented seasons of the campaign, we have witnessed some pretty interesting seamanship in the environmentalist's quest to halt these "research" activities. I personally enjoyed the previous two seasons, so I was looking forward to lay down in my bunk, and watch the "warriors" duke it out at sea.

I don't know if the crew of Sea Sheppard is getting more skilled at sea, or the show is a bit more polished, but I sense that the overall professionalism displayed is probably better than most would expect. Obviously the drama of the chase is the primary focus of the show, but one has to remember, these are primarily volunteers manning these ships. The interpersonal drama has subsided in this series, with more of an emphasis on the physical assets at the Sea Sheppard's disposal, and their interaction toward achieving their goals.

Well its pretty hard to ignore since the main tactic in season three, the utilization of two new vessels in the campaign against the Japanese whaling fleet, the MV Addy Gil and the MV Bob Barker. Bob Barker, yes, named after the game show host guy. Captain Watson, the head of the organization, and the Captain of the veteran campaigner MV Steve Irwin, is now elevated to commodore, with a "fleet" at his disposal.

The MV Bob Barker is an old Norwegian Coast Guard Vessel, that is a bit faster than the Steve Irwin, but more importantly, is ice strengthened. Ice is of course a major challenge in the Antarctic, and the Steve Irwin definitely was in precarious waters in the two previous seasons.

The Adi Gill is smaller, but much faster craft. But with speed comes limitations, which ultimately prove fatal for the vessel, midway through the season. As an engineer you might be familiar with the Ady Gill and its previous role as Earth Racer. The vessel successfully sailed around the world burning bio-diesel, and shattering speed record while doing so.

The surprise introduction of the new fleet mates probably made the Japanese cringe considerably, but also made for a fresh new angle on the show. Passionate as he is, there is only so much Paul Watson, I can take.

As with all popular culture, the captain is the main focus of the vessel, but in the case of the Ady Gill, the captain is Paul Bethune, and he certainly comes across as an energetic passionate character - certainly an interesting shipmate, if albeit a bit unpredictable. He brings a welcomed sense of adventure, proudly showing his Kiwi roots.

Like I mentioned above, the show seems to have kicked up the professionalism, whether on the vessels, or in the production of the show, why, I am not sure, but there is a considerable marketing machine involved in this endeavor, so the results are probably starting to materialize in this season. The show is a reality type television program, but nonetheless is used by the Sea Sheppard to advance their cause. So I think we end up seeing less of the "oh my god, they did not just do that" moments, that we were seeing in the first, and second seasons.

Regardless, Whale Wars remains a fast paced action / drama show. Great photography and editing, and this season, not too much personal drama. It remains very popular across north America, and can be found online and coming to DVD in December.

Martin Leduc
August 2013

 

" Contraban "



Went to see Contraband last night. Even with the possibility that my wife would feed me to the fishes, for the thought of spending one night with Mr. MM, I think he's done some good work, in the past... but Contraband is not some of his good work.

50% of the movie Contraband occurs on a container ship - yup, a real life big cargo ship, painted with a MSQ on the side, I imagine they used an MSC boat for their aerials. Anyways ports and ships are prominently filmed in this action movie.

Allot of the action occurs in the eerily quiet engine room of the "MV Borden", with a bad guy / good guy (?) chief engineer, a dirty coverall clad, chain smoking brute, who cowers at the very sight of the clean uniformed third officer, who's usually about two steps behind the Admiral... huh sorry, got confused with all the uniform get up, I meant the Captain. By the way, the Borden is home to "hundreds of crew" - according to the official movies website.

The display of shipboard life is as full of holes as the story. The only accurate thing was probably the silly representation of US Custom Border Patrol, although the scene where they "take down" a 60,000 ton ship with a couple of speed boats and some helicopters, as the ship is leaving / and again, when entering the busy harbour is quite laughable. Of course Hollywood and the Government loves to flatter each other, anything that gets the "law heroes" boys to show off there big nuts. In one scene, two sour looking CPB agents (see, there was some accuracy) interview the star, and ask him "do you think were stupid", which left me thinking, is that a rhetorical question?

In one scene they have sold us on the idea that draining oil from the lube oil storage tank in the engine room, "but... not too much", results in the "pitch propeller" to start smoking, almost as much as the burly chief engineer. The engine of course is at full speed, and they are unable to control it, heading towards the docks at about 15 knots hurling towards some Panama container yard. This reminds me of that equally bad scene in Speed 2.

But of course, the captain orders the anchor to drop, which only the star of the movie can seem to release, using an 10 pound sledge hammer - remember this is a 5-7000 teu container ship. The anchor drops, but as underwater filming shows us, has some trouble setting. But when it does, it stops the ship in about 50 meters, making a perfect parking job. Some might say a "minor" allision ensues - sending rows of containers tumbling upon the dock, but these are just details.

In the next scene, with workers cleaning up the cargo using push brooms in the background, the captain is given a dressing down by the Panamanian security guard, "What kind of engineer do you have on there ^&#%&^$@, first time Chief Engineer????" to which the captains sighs in defeat. About three hours later the container ship sails out of port... wow that is some film!

And on IMDB the "goof" they had registered -

"Factual errors: Captain Camp would not have been at the helm while his ship was passing through the Panama Canal. Panama Canal pilots take over the ship during passage."

Are you freakin kidding me, that's the only thing people noticed??? Why the hell was the ship - from New Orleans - transiting the Panama Canal, to fetch a couple hundred boxes, just to return to New Orleans. Are people so out of touch with shipping... their world, to even notice this? Friends, we are in deep shit as seafarers, this "film" gets overall positive buzz everywhere I look.

Martin Leduc
February 2012

 

" Company Men "



The Company Men is not an extraordinary Hollywood film, but it does have a bit of an interesting setting for us mariner types. The setting of this "corporate drama" is of a large US industrial conglomerate, the fictional GTX of Boston, with a focus on the drama of "cost cutting" to please shareholders in the company's shipbuilding division. The cost cutting measures result in the firing of thousands of people in the shipyards, including at the top of the "corporate ladder", to which the impacts on the characters is chronicled in this film.

The end is pure Hollywood; if you see it, you will understand. Otherwise it was a interesting drama with Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper, Kevin Costner, and Ben Affleck. A few years ago, I kinda lost interest in Affleck movies, due to his constant acting obsession to save the world. The Town was pretty good drive away from this, but poor old Ben makes a bit of a return to his charitable ways in this one...

Martin Leduc
January 2011

 

" World's Toughest Fixes - Cruise ship engine "



Some long time followers of The Monitor, might remember a little blurb quite a few years back, on Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s plans to install a Wartsila 12V46 auxiliary engine on their Radiance Class ships. These ships were solely powered by two gas turbines when they came out of the Meyer Werft yard in the early 2000’s, making them environmentally friendly and ahead of their time, but unfortunately, not very competitive when it came to fuel costs.

The other day, I had the pleasure of watching a television show called World’s Toughest Fixes, which was covering this actual carrying out of the plans, in the shipyard. Kinda neat to see the idea go into actual production. The fascinating process of shoehorning this massive engine and alternator into a space that was never originally designed for it, is the star of the show.

The seventh episode of the first season was my first introduction to the show playing on National Geographic Channel. The show’s host, Sean Riley, with a job as, and a passion for rigging, takes us to the Grand Bahamas Shipyard in Freeport, where the Radiance of the Seas is in a three week dry dock. Apart from the usual busy yard tasks, work on the ship included azipod maintenance and the installation of an auxiliary diesel generator which the show focuses on.

The show is centered on the shipyard’s point of view, and the complex logistics of getting the engine into the ship. Disappointingly, but quite understandable, considering the scope of the work involved with such a project, the show does not dwell on the complex work once the engine is in, and the finish product, because of that, the show remains topical for most season engineer, but none the less interesting.

The over dramatization on this episode was refreshingly light, compared to various other television shows showcasing ships, which is nice to see. Although I did take some offense, on behalf of the crew, when the host remarks, at one of the ship’s bar, after a successful docking, that the crew were now relaxing because their job was done, and that the "shipyard was taking over" – perhaps for the entertainment and casino crew, but certainly not for the marine department.

The hour long show is produced by National Geographic Television in 2008, the second season's episodes play every week on Thursdays, and I see they have several other marine themed shows. I am not sure where you can catch this particular episode in its entirety, although you can see some clips here.

Martin Leduc
August 2009

 

" Freak Wave "



Rogue waves are stuff of legends and seagoing folklore, at least that’s been accepted for in marine engineering and naval architecture circles for years. Reports of incredible damage, disappearance of ships under mysterious circumstance have been gathering quite a bit of media coverage in the last decades. Freak Wave, a 2002 documentary style show, co produced by the BBC and Discovery Channel, explore the phenomena and offers some pretty convincing arguments that explain the rogue wave, a 100 foot wall of water that crushes large, even well designed ships, with fury.

The show starts by laying out the predominate belief of a linear wave patterns and how vessels are built accordingly. Ok so it’s a little dry at first, but the show quickly gets interesting with lost of visuals of dramatic seas and serious vessel damage, that makes even the most seasoned mariner wonder the strength of their ship. A TV “who dunnit” theme takes over, although not overly tacky, and introduces to the science of wave prediction, using the latest technology. The research shows trends that throws conventional wave wisdom into a tailspin.

Towards the end of the program, an American Wave Mathematician, Dr. Orsborn, gets giddy as he explains that a wave pattern matches a theoretical model that most experts had discounted for many decades. The data all points to two different types of waves, and unfortunately, ships were built with one type in mind.

The show is sure to interest any mariner and certainly brings a pause to mind, regarding the overall design of your ship in the open ocean. The production quality is excellent as most BBC documentaries are, and the subject and the research is presented by a wide array of academics and professionals. I highly recommend this show, if not for the subject matter, then for the cool and dramatic rough seas pictured, and the damage they have caused.

You can read a further description of the program on BBC's website. Wikipedia, like always, has a neat page on rogue waves. Pictures are screen shots from the show.

Martin Leduc
June 2009

 

" Whale Wars - Season One "



Generally seafarers and “tree huggers” are usually on opposite sides of the social spectrum. One usually being a lofty idealist, and the other being a pragmatic realist. To see the both come together, as they do in the television show Whale Wars, is a bit of a guilty pleasure. As I write this, I am at sea and hear that Whale Wars: The Second Season is hitting the airways of Animal Planet, and I am actually looking forward to it when I get home.

The first season introduces us to the small ship, MV Steve Irwin, named after the famed “Crocodile Hunter” star and charismatic animal lover. The vessel and its crew are on a mission to find and disrupt any and all whale hunting activities by a large Japanese fleet, in the expansive waters of the Antarctic. The vessel, and the organization behind it, Sea Shepherd Society, is led by famed environmentalist and co founder of the Greenpeace movement, Paul Watson. An interesting character, somewhat enigmatic in the show, but undeniably resourceful and calculating, perhaps traits learned from being at sea for quite some time.

The crew, from various nationalities, are, from what I can tell, strictly volunteers with no seagoing backgrounds, and judging by some of the actions of the officers, they lack the beneficial background as well. Most of the crew though, seem to be vegan and somewhat free spirits, which on a ship at sea, for 6 weeks at a time, would be most interesting to see sustained, although the producers don’t follow this angle.

The show revolves principally on the interactions above the water line, although, there is a brief reference to the engine room with an untimely black out (like there is a good time for those), and late in the season, a cylinder valve drops. That destroys the turbo on one of the engines, and the vessel is force to retreat and make repairs, requiring some major funding and interesting fund raising sources. I though I had problems generating Purchase Orders through my company’s purchasing system!

The heart of the show, like most “reality TV” is the drama between the principal characters; the deck officers, the bosun and deckhands, the doctor, the cook, the captain. Hell, those people usually produce enough drama to rival Coronation Street on a regular ship, never mind that most of them are greenhorns with a penchant to correct the world’s ills. Therein lays the fun of the show. Of course, the show being on a ship in sometimes rough seas in the Antarctic, certainly adds quite an interesting visual setting for the average land “blubber” viewers (pardon the pun).

No matter what your politics are, Whale Wars is a well made TV show that I enjoyed watching. Filmed in I a stark, darkened and cold tone, it is skilfully edited into a fluid format that easily relays the ultimate goal of the series, and that is to raise awareness of the Sea Sheppard Society and its endeavours. One gets the feeling that the Japanese, and their orderly and hierarchical culture, are a bit overwhelmed by these environmentalists and their tactics.

Martin Leduc
June 2009

 

" The Merchant Navy "



The Merchant Navy is a quasi recruitment film / reality television program that hit the airwaves in the UK in late 2008. Produced by Scottish Television and sponsored by Careersatsea.org, The show follows the daily operations of professional seafarers, generally new recruits, aboard various types of UK registered ships.

In the first three episodes, the cameras follow three maritime college cadets, of varying backgrounds, on their first sea phase on board a Maersk container ship, the MV Gateshead, departing from Miami and transiting the Panama Canal. We get to follow the greenhorns through the normal shipboard tasks and expectations that we all, working at sea, have been through. It is kind of a trip down memory lane, for some, and a good insight for those considering a life at sea.

Of course there is anxiousness, homesickness, excitement and a captain who may be a taking his acting career a little too seriously. The training officer, a grizzled but jovial marine engineer who is on his last trip before retirement, discusses some sadness about leaving the life at sea, as he “shepherd” our three recruits on board their new ship, bringing some perspective to the career of a seafarer.

The fourth episodes follow three cadets, deck, engine, and electrical, as they board P&O’s new ship Ventura, for its maiden voyage from Southampton. The viewer is treated to various, albeit brief, looks behind the scene of a large cruise ship. From comments by the chief engineer and second engineer, to the cadet being “distracted” by the female dancers, the show gives a quick look at life on board and the challenges of such a large complex ship. Life for the new cadets is not made any easier by senior cadets sending them on wild goose chases.

The last two episodes for the season, I am not sure why, seem to be more interesting, it seems that the show finds it purpose. We meet this episode’s ship in Singapore. The MT British Progress, a modern VLCC, in wet-dock period, before proceeding to Iraq, to take on a full load of crude oil.

The jitters that one might have because of such a large engine room, the related hustle and bustle of shipyard days, and the complexities of shipboard life, are somewhat overshadowed by the fact that they are heading into an active war zone by way of the Malacca Straits, a pirate infested water ways. Along the way, the show shadows various officers on their daily activities; supervising engine rebuild, boiler survey, cargo tank inspection and down time after work.

The show is very well produced, although the first half seems a bit “fluffy” and lacking a rudder, maybe trying to be too much like a “reality tv drama”. The second half seems more honest and lets the images and scenarios brings out the natural anxieties of being at sea, without being forceful.

One of the things I liked about this show is that it is relatively easy to access, providing you have a decent internet connection and some free time. Plus, the narrator’s Scottish accent is so, shall we say, hypnotically captivating – I’m weird that way. STV offers all six episodes of the series on their website in great quality; each episode is made up of two segments of about 10 to 12 minutes long. Visit the website to watch.

Martin Leduc
June 2009

 

" Mighty Ships "



I just finished catching the second half of Discovery Channel's Mighty Ship. If you are in North America, I am pretty sure you can catch this new series on your local cable TV signal. In Canada its on Discovery Channel on Tuesday, 21:00 hrs - which I believe repeats every four hours after, for the duration of the day.

I was pretty impressed with the quality of the show and the material covered. Like usual, the most featured area is of the bridge / deck operations, but in the Becrux episode (a livestock carrier - pictured), they featured an unscheduled engine shutdown to investigate an overheating problem. The show on the Emma Maersk is quite good as well, following the chief engineer and his duties quite extensively, which I like. The Emma's chief comes across as a damn good subject for the show, extolling the many "virtues" in a chief that I admire.

I have not caught all the episodes yet, being a seafarer, such is life. But from what I can see, seasoned seafarers might find that it is a very topical look at life on board, but I think overall its a great view of ships and shipping. Like usual for most maritime documentaries, many errors are made in the description of activities and processes by the narrator. Most professionals will easily have raised eyebrows at some comments made in the various episodes of the series. The producers also take a good deal of leeway in the over dramatization department, which I find annoying - not everything has to be life or death to be interesting.

I would encourage you to catch all six episodes, filmed in High Definition which premiered in late July and is produced by a Canadian team - Exploration Productions. The original show featured the Queen Mary 2, which you can catch, commercial free, online, from their website. The subsequent episodes features the worlds largest container ship Emma Maerks, the Becrux livestock carrier, and Wilhelmson car carrier Faust, Canadian Coast Guard Icebreaker Henry Larsen, the Great Lakes bulk carrier Paul R. Tregurtha, and the Tyco cable layer Resolute. You can find show time and details here.

Martin Leduc
February 2009

 

National Film Board of Canada



The National Film Board of Canada has recently put up much of its collection online, for all to access. This is a fantastic resource for all that is Canadian, but also an interesting look back at seafarers and technology. Most films are quite dated and specific maritime films are somewhat difficult to find, but within a few minutes I was looking at arctic exploration documentary, another was a 1979 production on oil conservation, featuring a good deal of offshore platforms, tankers, navy ships and such from the period. You can access the archive online.

Martin Leduc
February 2009

 

“ Piracy in the Straits ”



Singapore, at the bottom of the pirate infested Malacca Straits

50,000 ships transit the Straits of Malacca every year; the world's busiest shipping channel. Not only is it a navigation challenge, but it has become a notorious area for pirate attacks - a major security challenge. This 2005 documentary films starts out by laying out the piracy problem through the experiences of various ship captains, as well as introduce the viewers to the greater geographical, economic, and military importance of the Malacca Straits. In a post September 11 world, this particular problem of piracy, originating primarily from the Malaysia archipelago, invokes a heightened level attention due to the predominately Muslim populace and the poverty of that country. The modern day piracy acts in the area started out as "simple" theft, over the years it has escalated with more serious consequences of murders, kidnappings, and hostage taking. The logical conclusion points to a more sinister use of pirate tactics by fundamentalist, and or terrorists, to carry out a spectacular attack. This is the background of the report.

Filmmaker and expert in the area, Mr. Eric Frecon, is followed by a camera crew into Malaysia, just across the straits from opulent Singapore (pictured), in an attempt to meet the pirates and to explain the scope of the problem, and the various challenges of tackling it. Although unable to reach the the upper echelons of the pirate groups, Mr. Frecon does a good job of introducing us to the "foot soldiers" involved, their situation, and the benefits as seen from the pirates point of view. The film then concludes with steps taken, and those needed to mitigate this escalation of piracy incidents and possible terrorism implications. Overall I found the film to be an informative, not overly alarmist (as sometime this topic has become), well packaged documentary of a relevant topic, presented in a professional manner with flawless filming.

The film is just over 50 minutes long and made by Patrick Benquet and Eric Frecon. It is a production of "Beau Comme Une Image" with the participation of France 2 and France 5. It looks like it was originally in French; the version I obtained was from Australia, and was reworked for an English audience, with a clear narration and easy to read subtitle where necessary. The regional maps of the area and the country names, though, remain in French, but most people should have no problem understanding the geographical locations highlighted. I am uncertain where you can obtain this film; you can try various peer to peer networks for possible copies or look for it to be broadcast on television.

Martin Leduc
August 2008

 

" International Shipping: Life blood of world trade "



I received this short video, in DVD format, from the International Chamber of Shipping, a UK based organization representing Shipping Associations from numerous countries across the world. They put out this video to educate the general public of the importance of shipping and its effect on everyone's daily lives. Basically it's a promotional video for shipping. The project is part of a larger promotional campaign, another part being the website, www.shippingfacts.com, which offers much of the same information, but in an online format.

It is narrated in six different languages and is a little over eight and half minutes long. The video offer insight and information on the benefits of shipping. It exposes the viewer to some of the regulatory framework and how they come about. It also introduce the viewer to the most common types of ships they may see, and their purpose. The presentation also offers the average non nautical viewer facts about the role shipping plays in the daily financial lives.

It is filled with lots of clips of ships and seafarers in action, which is certain to keep your attention. It is also peppered with many facts that are sure to make the average person think allot more about the impact shipping has on their daily lives. I enjoyed it and I would expect people who see this, may be more appreciative of seafarers and shipping in general. The video can be obtained free of charge, yes, free, from the website above. Since I have some bandwidth, I have made it available for download (in English only) on this website by clicking here or on the picture above.

Martin Leduc
August 2007

 

" Master's Orders, Pilot's Advice "


At a recent Vancouver Island Branch meeting of the Canadian Institute of Marine Engineering, a presentation was made by Capt. Ed Lien, a pilot with the Pacific Coast Pilotage Authority. He showed numerous pictures and explained some of his experiences in the role of a BC pilot. One of the features of the night was the showing of "Master's Orders, Pilot Advice"; a documentary on a day in the life of a Marine Pilot in British Columbia.

The documentary was first released in 2002 by Triad Communications, but has been recently update, to include a focus the security benefits of Pilots. Regardless of where you are in the world, you are sure to be impressed by the quality of the production with plenty of action shots and insightful narrative. The film follows several pilots on their journeys aboard visiting ships, from cruise liner leaving Vancouver bound for Alaska, to assisting a US Navy aircraft carrier getting into harbour, and several other types of ships in between.

The film not only gives a detailed look of a pilot's work, but is a real treat for any professional seafarer or ship enthusiast. It provides such a rare and modern glimpse of ships and seafarers and the important work they do. The film is smoothly made up of sweeping aerial sights and tight "people action" footage onboard ships on Canada's beautiful British Columbia Coast.

"Master's Orders, Pilot Advice" is occasionally shown on the television's Knowledge Network in British Columbia, Canada. It comes in DVD or VHS format and most likely available at your public library. It can be ordered from Vancouver based Triad Communications at their E Store for about $30 Canadian dollar.

Martin Leduc
November 2006

 

“ Betrayed; The story of Canadian Merchant Seaman ”



I had long heard about this video documentary “Betrayed; The story of Canadian Merchant Seaman”. A film by Vancouver based Elaine Briere, produced by the Knowledge Network and Saskatchewan Television Network in 2004. The preview (available online) left me a bit sceptic, but I finally got a hold of it and I give it "Three Anchors".

It’s a story of the “not so long ago” in our Canadian maritime world, told by several members of the Canadian Seamen’s Union . It has a bit of rhetoric, which always turns me off, but it’s only a small part of the piece. Overall it gives good insight into the current condition of the Canadian (which is very similar to allot of other former maritime nations) commercial maritime industry.

It covers the time after the Second World War, with the abandonment of the merchant navy by the Canadian government; subsequently, the creation of the Canadian Seamen Union. Then it’s brutal dismantling by US and Canadian shipping interest, aided by the government and the American Seafarer International Union using force and McCarthyism tactics. It touches on the shipbuilding industry and of course current events as a result, namely Canada Shipping Line. CSL is Canada’s former prime minister’s company, which evades taxes and responsibility by using Flags of Convenience. Furthermore, exporting that mentality to modern day Australia , where the government there appears to have the same loathsome attitude towards its merchant shipping.

I found the documentary satisfying and interesting. In today’s world it’s very easy to get lost in our own environment and forget to see around us, the effects that complacency has on us all. This film gives us some depth and insight in our maritime world.

You can purchase it through email at the creator's website. You can borrow the video (for free!) at the Victoria Public Library and I imagine at most reputable public libraries.

Martin Leduc
October 2005

 

“ Turbulent Waters ”



I had the pleasure of running across is “Turbulent Waters” a documentary by Malcolm Guy and Michelle Smith, co produced by the National Film Board and Multi Monde in 2004. I really liked this one because it is very current, is not ancient history, although the problems are age old. You see faces that could be on any of today’s commercial ships.

It tells the story of three International Transport Federation (ITF) inspector as they go about their business, representing seafarers being bullied by unscrupulous “business practices” and ship owners. One is in South Africa, he facilitates the arrest of a Greek Owned bulk carrier on behalf of Ukrainian seaman, who were owed wages for months. The second inspector deals with injured and unpaid seafarers in Vancouver. The third story is of an ITF inspector in France, where the Pilipino crew strikes in protest of conditions and wages on a German Owned container ship. They subsequently get blacklisted and the story follows them to their homes in the Philippines .

I give this one "Four Anchors". Well done, great insight, and timely. This is a great glimpse of life at sea, which the majority of the public is not aware exists, or believe to be much more romantic.

This video is available to borrow, for free at the Victoria Public Library, if you are in Victoria, or you can order it on the NFB website or through Bullfrog Films.

Martin Leduc
October 2005

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