Continued from page 1
Oh deary me! Scratching of head ensues and attempts at throwing computer or phone over side are resisted. It is then that an Engineer happens to be passing by and that he notices that Captain is suffering from high blood pressure. Then a couple of mouse clicks later whole problem is solved, missing file relocated or email winging its way upwards or across blue ocean. Yes, I have found that majority of Engineers have an easier grasp or ability to understand computers and software involved than have Navigators. Not sure why and I am not going to get into this subject but believe me it is fact!
Satellite phones also changed way of communication with outside world. Before all communication from and to ship went via Captain. Every piece of writing could be censored or displayed at Masters discretion but nowadays Chief Engineers, Mates and even Second Engineers are sending their own stores orders and emails to Head Office. Engineers talk directly to Superintendents about their mechanical problems, mates read incoming emails when alone on watch and all can be done without others being able to oversee or hear what is being said. The satellite phone has brought to ship a sense of industry ashore, ability to communicate and talk easily when and where you want without having to wait for a week or two or without having to use an intermediary to pass messages along.
Nowadays a ship without some form of email/sat communication is improbable and all at sea are fully familiar with system and expect to be able to use it when and where they want. All part of being at sea in Modern day Merchant Navy one could say! Emails and mobile phones have become a part of life everywhere so why should seafarers be any different? Now with such systems being commonplace calls are cheaper and affordable. Emails can be written whenever computer is free and sent at minimal cost, this cost often being carried by company as pennies rather than pounds are involved.
Imagine future, instant diagnosis of engine problems, expert advice at hand for engineers. The Engineers have a serious problem and have broken down in middle of Atlantic Ocean. They are scratching their heads as to what has gone wrong and only people that can help them are 2000miles away in an Office unaware as to drifting vessels plight. Today we can call these experts up and describe problem and thus gain invaluable insight into what may be wrong or what they can possibly do to rectify problem. The future gives them this: A mobile phone to take down to work site, a video camera to send instant pictures of area and problems to Head Office, a recording of full conversation to replay later (for insurance and blame), instant download of possible solution or temporary repair of problem and immediate advice from expert ashore who can see exactly what is going on.
Yep, that is future that we will look towards, a few years down line we have gone from haphazard and unstable radio communication to instant and clear access anywhere anytime!
What will next fifteen years bring? Whatever it may be just make sure that you have an Engineer at hand.
Ieuan Dolby 10th October 2002
Ieuan Dolby is the Author and Webmaster of Seamania . As a Chief Engineer in the Merchant Navy he has sailed the world for fifteen years. Now living in Taiwan he writes about cultures across the globe and life as he sees it.