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21st Century Seamanship

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21st Century Seamanship

This book has taken ten years to prepare and, as a few have commented, it was probably in the planning long before then, whether I realised it or not.

A career at sea or in a marine-related business requires amassing a terrific volume of knowledge and the art and practice of seamanship is perhaps one of the most encyclopaedic job descriptions there is.

When I went to sea, almost 30 years ago, many would talk of days gone by when no self-respecting Chief Officer would be without his Seamanship Manual, and when I was about 12 or 13, I remember still the day my own father gave me his copy of 'The Boatswain's Manual'. In recent decades, shipping seems to have moved at a tremendous pace and it left me wondering whether it was possible to capture such a broad scope in a single publication that appeals to the forward thinking seafarer. This is exactly where this book positions itself - a manual for the modern day seafarer in the 21st Century.

 This publication takes the traditional values of centuries of good seamanship and blends them with today's reality and it seems appropriate that it is first published in our company's 275th year.

 By its very nature, this book is exceptionally broad in its scope and further detailed study of the topics covered in this book is available in the 600+ publications Witherbys has in print today. However, in owning this book, you have shown that you want to know and understand more about your industry, an industry that quietly keeps the world moving, carries over 90% of world trade and is set to almost double in volume over the next 20 years.

I wish you every success in your endeavours and always a safe voyage.

Iain Macneil, Managing Director, Witherby Publishing Group

The term 'seamanship' is much misunderstood by those who are not required to practise the art. Seamanship is also hard to define succinctly as the breadth of knowledge, skills and experience the term encompasses take many a lifetime to acquire.

 When I arrived aboard my first ship a little over forty years ago, the ships that made up the world's merchant fleets, the technologies employed on board and the regulations that governed the industry, and indeed the seafarers themselves, bore little in common with today. However, despite all the technologies that connect ship and shore and keep communications links open at all times, the fact remains that, once a ship puts to sea, it is primarily dependent upon the actions of the master and crew to safely and efficiently execute the voyage, bringing profit to the owner whilst making sure all aboard return safe and well on completion. All must depend on each other, in a variety of circumstances; the ability to perform the broad range of tasks required safely and efficiently, whilst being fully aware of the associated hazards and mitigating measures, is in the broadest sense 'seamanship'.

The technological advances seen today have led to the launching of more and more specialist ships, all requiring equally specialist knowledge to operate them. There is a danger that the rate of technological advance outpaces the ability of the industry to train competent mariners to operate the increasingly complex ships on which they serve. The need for continued professional development for mariners is inarguable, but this can be difficult to achieve when many ships cannot provide access to the online references enjoyed by most other industries, a problem that has yet to be universally solved. That said, traditional knowledge and skills are still required as it is a stark fact that mooring accidents, lifeboat launching and enclosed space entry continue to kill and injure the unwary, as they have for many decades.

The inclusion in this book of significant incidents in sufficient detail to allow the reader to extract and apply the learning is so valuable as, without doubt, poor decisions and behaviours contribute to far too many accidents at sea. This book provides a solid foundation of knowledge to all those operating, managing and manning today's merchant fleet. I hope that 21st Century Seamanship will be a reference that is ready to hand on every ship and in every shipping company reference library.

Captain David Cotterell, Executive Director, OCIMF