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After a sea career spanning 43 years, in June of 2021 I finally called it a day and left my last vessel. Some would say this should have been a sad moment. But actually the overwhelming emotions experienced were those of total relief and elation, as during my time I had avoided the unfortunate incidents that have befallen so many in recent years.

With almost 25 years serving as master, I had not experienced significant damage to any vessel, nor lost one container overboard, and most importantly I had never lost a colleague.

However, in the last 10 years it was difficult to keep on top of everything, and my health suffered as a result. On each ship it was a constant battle to keep my fellow seafarers on the correct track, rather than following their own path of least resistance.

For example, on joining my last vessel I noted the common problem that crew overtime records were farcical and rest hour violations were occurring far too frequently. The usual struggle then followed to ensure recorded hours were true and rest hour violations all but eliminated by the use of proper planning and simple flexibility. In this I had little support, to the point where the second engineer stated, and I quote: You are the problem, Captain, because you are the only one who follows the rules!

Life on a container vessel has become a nightmare for the master and a more hazardous place for any seafarer. A vessel carrying over a thousand tonnes of ammonium nitrate is a floating bomb, and we should have drenching systems to cover the accommodation blocks and boat embarkation decks, in order to give the crew protection and time to abandon ship. It is with much regret that my concerns on this subject were mostly ignored by the industry.

I feel that, despite all the new laws and regulations that have been thrown upon us, standards throughout the maritime sector have actually eroded away, and I had to fight to keep my crews safe. It always caused much sadness when I heard of shipping disasters and fatalities of fellow seafarers, but I shall at least be forever grateful that I can say: Not on my watch.

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