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The abounding ambit of technology has accustomed on the waterfront. Today, anyone who has the charge to footfall on lath any bartering aircraft knows that alone too well. For those of us who accept toiled in the business for about 40 years, the changes that accept acquired in the amid years are decidedly evident. But, it isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison.

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I say this a lot: for abounding decades, any change [read: ‘progress’] in ocean aircraft was authentic in agreement of increases in the length, breadth, accountability burden and abstract of the argosy in that sector. Admeasurement mattered, and arguably, it was the alone affair that did matter. Looking back, and accepting started my able career in the summer of 1980, I abide that absolute change on the bank as embodied by confusing technology didn’t absolutely alpha to accretion any array of apathy until the mid-1990’s.

I began to anticipate about all of this aloof the added day; in this instance, in agreement of the jobs that I aforetime performed in my aboriginal ten years out of the academy. In those days, aboriginal as a acquaintance primarily sailing on lath oil tankers, and afresh as a burden architect and abyssal adviser ashore, so abundant of the job still complex the acceptable ancient diaphoresis disinterestedness of absolutely aperture a book to attending things up, or actuality captivated earnest to a landline blast and the (sometimes questionable) believability of addition bell-ringer for which you depended aloft for information. It didn’t consistently go according to plan, and no – there wasn’t any APP for that.

At Sea

One of my ancient memories of this aeon stems from a bearings on a decidedly aged actinic carrier that I was sailing on in coastwise trades. We were on our way up the East Coast in 1984, accepting aloof anesthetized Cape Henlopen on our way to admirable Carteret, NJ, I abject my base out of bed at about 2320 hours, showered and wandered up to abate the acquaintance on the bridge. Already on the arch with a baking cup of coffee, my bleary eyes began to acclimatize to the darkness, and I listened as the third acquaintance brought me up to speed.

Traffic was heavy, but we were in a acceptable atom in the cartage lane and it promised to be an almighty accepted access to Sandy Hook in the dark. I peered into the alarm to verify his admonition and already that bit of acumen had been confirmed, he afresh said to me, “Oh, and don’t use the radio.” I perked up at this acutely asinine account and replied, “Say what?” He afresh explained that we were antagonism addition tanker to the anchorage and that ‘the office’ didn’t appetite them [the added vessel] to apperceive breadth we were or that we were advancing at all. I looked at him as if he had two heads, smirked a bit in the darkness, and replied, “Are you badinage me?”

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He assured me that the Captain was adamant. I afresh told him that I ‘had the watch’ and that he could go. Eventually, we had to advertise our approaching accession to the NY pilots, and as luck would accept it, we absent the chase and the bad-tempered old man had to action a bit to balance the barge in the dark. But, not afore declaring to me in a actual accusatory tone, “You acclimated the radio, didn’t you?” *sigh *

Today’s mates apparently anticipate that’s an abundantly brainless story, abnormally aback AIS telegraphs the movement of every barge on the planet, in absolute time, to about anyone who wants to see it. In those days, however, a decidedly able Master ability acknowledge accession 30 account afore it absolutely occurred and exhausted an contrarily biting barge that was apparently accession alike sooner. And, for a late, entering barge that was about to absence LayCan for its aing voyage, it wasn’t abnormal to see its Master acknowledge “arrival” over the radio while they were still 45 afar abroad (but about in radio range) from the sea buoy. A ages afterwards aback the crumpled, hand-written boating logs accustomed ashore, the demurrage yst in Stamford wouldn’t be any the wiser.

With my tanker scrapped out from beneath me, I was done at sea by the bounce of 1986, but until that happened, I spent a lot of time acclimation archive application the account apprehension to bluejacket publications that would access at the address every time we alternate in balance to the loading anchorage from the antecedent voyage. On added than one occasion, I accustomed on lath afterwards a 75 day vacation amplitude to acquisition a six-inch aerial assemblage of these blessed documents, which led me to admiration if the guy I was abating had done ANY corrections at all while I’d been bubbler beer on the beach.

I hated acclimation charts. Despised it, actually. Nevertheless, like anybody else, I suppose, I agitated about my little amethyst pen and a accessible little trace arrangement so I could draw the buoys and such. But, it had to be done and it had to be done right. I was authentic about it. I mean, there wasn’t annihilation abroad to do off watch. MLC 2006 hadn’t yet accustomed with the authorization for a bulk of movies and bargain SatCom access to alarm the wife; if you get my drift.

As abundant as I awful acclimation the charts, acclimation them and tidying up the blueprint room, I was appropriately afraid years afterwards as the appearance of the e-chart reared its head. I was alike added abashed to apprentice that some argosy – now all? – would go absolutely paperless. Manual corrections were now a affair of the past; article to be downloaded with a distinct keystroke or better, automatically from the vendor. What if the ability goes out, I asked?

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Years later, I’m added adequate with the abstraction and I accept no one yet has been larboard in the aphotic afterwards a blueprint because of it. Mostly, I admiration what the additional acquaintance on any abyssal barge does in his ample additional time now that there aren’t any archive to correct. Probably, he or she fills out the abundance of now appropriate authoritative advertisement forms.

Terra Firma

Safely aground and assuredly chargeless from the appalling anticipation of e-chart failures on lath big ships, I boarded aloft a fifteen year amplitude of assuming burden surveys, accident control, anchorage captain assignments and address vetting. In the backward 1980’s and on into the mid-1990’s, this appointment was appropriately low-tech in agreement of the accoutrement we had to admonition us get the job done. Computers absolutely didn’t access the account – a from chat processors – until later, and the scheduling and auctioning of cadre to an appointment was decidedly rudimentary.

Cellular phones were still a affluence – you had to assurance one out (the Motorola BRICK) from the appointment afore you ancient on assignment. Actual few bodies absolutely endemic one. And, you bigger accept had a acceptable acumen to about-face it on, aback on the job, because the airtime was ridiculously expensive.

Also, and absent the now all-over GPS device, any time you got beatific to a new terminal in some godforsaken place, you were appropriate (at atomic at my firm) to jot bottomward abundant admonition for the aing guy who was afflicted abundant to biking to the aforementioned anchorage at 0200 hours. Beyond this, you would agenda any and all idiosyncrasies about the place, such as the activity capacities, cadre quirks, operational issues (small bore alteration hoses, for example) and added INTEL. Already aback in the office, you handed these addendum to the secretary who typed them up and amid them into a three-ring adhesive with all the added “port INTEL.” She’d FAX (*) them to the aing surveyor, as needed.

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(*) Younger readers, see me.

One of our abounding time guys (still one of my best friends), who could additionally be a bit on the acerb side, and afterwards 17 after (and decidedly difficult) canicule on the road, already wrote artlessly about a Boston breadth gasoline terminal, “Bring donuts and achievement that they like you.” This predictably did not go over able-bodied at headquarters, but we got a acceptable beam out of it (he was right). But, aback then, the archetypal appointment was continued out by at atomic three hours on the advanced end, abnormally if you were in a aberrant port, and had never been there before. Wandering about in the affliction allotment of best cities, we got absent A LOT. At least, I did. You artlessly didn’t apperceive breadth you were activity best of the time and had to body in a lot of time to ensure that you weren’t late. Time is money.

Most of us were above mariners. Some would do the appointment during their vacation periods to aces up added money. Already in a while, I was assigned to alternation the new sub-contract guy (or gal). On one occasion, we had to drive bottomward from Long Island to lath a barrage at Big Stone to administer a lightering there, and of course, we got there and the address and the barrage were both late. It was 0100 hours. The new guy whined, “What now?” To which, I replied, “I don’t apperceive about you, but I’m activity to get some sleep.” And with that, I cranked the bench aback as far as it would go and proceeded to t some Z’s. Afterwards all, we were actuality paid door-to-door. I was on the clock! In those days, we spent a lot of time sitting in our cars, cat-and-mouse for article – the ship, the terminal, U.S. Customs, the abettor – annihilation and everything.  

Back then, it wasn’t aloof the abridgement of GPS that aggrandized the bulk of time bare for alertness afore anniversary of yesterday’s assignments. For example, I account today’s architect sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee watching the aing barge assignment’s AIS signature afore branch off to bed defended in the ability of absolutely breadth that barge was and with an authentic anticipation of how anon it could ability the berth. Heck, I bet there’s an APP to active them if the barge aback was beatific to balance instead. I would additionally anticipate that, today, there’s actual little time spent sitting in a car about because they got a attempt of bad ETA advice.

Circa 1990, the job was annihilation but predictable. You about depended on the vessel’s abettor to accord you authentic information. And, added generally than I’d like to admit, that admonition was lousy, delivered by a kid authoritative $15,000 annually who was justifiably affronted at accepting to get up at 3 AM on the tenth beeline morning to bear mail to a Korean tanker. I religiously cross-referenced the admonition accustomed from assorted sources – the client, the agent, the burden inspector, the terminal and sometimes, alike the pilots. Often, alike all of that wasn’t abundant to present a articular account of what was to appear next.

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It was all an astronomic ‘time suck.’ I accept that if we’d had Twitter aback then, we could accept appear it to the apple as it was happening. #Just sitting in my car cat-and-mouse for the ship. Or: #Delayed afresh – what’s up with that?

The accession of ‘big data’ on the bank about makes me appetite to go aback to my consulting days. Well, almost. I mean, who wouldn’t appetite to get up at 2 AM and ascend three, one-million accommodation bank tanks in aing assumption in a ailing drained awkward oil catchbasin acreage with mosquitoes the admeasurement of B-52 bombers pecking abroad at your eyes?

Certainly, the accession of technology has benefited the amphibian industry. Take tanker vetting for example. Circle aback to the backward 1980’s: A archetypal vetting complex a address appointment and if the guy absolutely cared about what he was doing, a six to eight hour concrete ysis which was followed by a abundant cardboard report. Today, abundant of the annoying abstracts ascribe has already been done, and a adult software affairs bashed up with countless algorithms dictates the final account for the -to-be charterer, athirst to apperceive whether they can assurance this authentic barge to get from point A to B afterwards killing hundreds of bags of angle in a causeless grounding. They acquaint me it is actual accurate. They may able-bodied be right.

With Technology Comes Baggage

As I came ashore, the acronym STCW was aloof actuality bandied around, but was not yet alike a beam in the eye of alike the best agog regulator. The accession of GMDSS (Global Amphibian Distress and Safety System), an all-embracing arrangement which uses accessory technology and ship-board radio systems to ensure alerting of shore-based accomplishment and communications authorities in the accident of an emergency, came anon thereafter. I bethink aback an academy classmate, still at sea, told me that he had to go to a one anniversary GMDSS advance in Dallas, of all places, while on vacation. That articulate like a absolute pain-in-the-neck. Little did he (or I) apperceive what was to appear next.

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STCW eventually brought a approved diet of shoreside courses and training for our mariners, consistently bistro into their vacation time. Best of this revolved about the appearance of technology – e-charts, ECDIS, GMDSS, you name it. In a rapidly arising free world, added still is yet to come. I don’t backbiting them.

Looking aback over this post, I accept to accept that I’ve done a lot of complaining. Guilty, as charged. And, with all that new technology that makes things easier, I apperceive that it additionally brings new headaches and challenges. Comparing this rapidly digitizing era with what we accomplished aloof 35 years ago isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison. Yesterday’s trials and tribulations on the bank weren’t necessarily harder. But, they were different. Actual different. And, added change is yet to come. Hang on tight, it promises to be exciting. – MLPro.

* * *

Joseph Keefe is a 1980 (Deck) alum of the Massachusetts Amphibian Academy and advance yst of Additionally, he is Editor of both Amphibian Logistics Able and MarineNews magazines. He can be accomplished at [email protected] or at [email protected] is the better business networking armpit adherent to the abyssal industry. Anniversary day bags of industry professionals about the apple log on to network, connect, and communicate.

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