We all have goals: We want to matter. We want to be important. We want to have freedom and power to pursue our creative work. We want respect from our peers and recognition for our accomplishments. Not out of vanity or selfishness, but of an earnest desire to fulfil our personal potential. - Ryan Holiday
Through the Captain's window
Stories on Maritime Leadership
“Leadership is…the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.”
-Peter Drucker, my favourite management author.
“Human Resources Isn’t A Thing We Do. It’s The Thing That Runs Our Business.”
When I joined sea as a deck cadet, I was paid a stipend equivalent to 50 US dollars a month. But then, I was 17 years old and fresh out of school. My food and boarding were free on the ship.
At that time, the rumour was that the company was going to close down, and we would not be able to complete our sea-time required for cadetship. So I made a decision to complete it all at one go - almost 37 months onboard, without returning home on leave. That way, I could appear for my third mate's exams and start earn a proper living. I joined my first ship as a boy, and returned home a man.
“So many books, so little time.”
― Frank Zappa
You see hundreds of posts on social media (including this one), covering a wide range of topics- from leadership lessons from…., ‘5’ points to remember….., ‘secrets’ to ……, to videos on a wide range of topics. There is a lot of information passing through our screens every day. Do we still need to read books?
In this self-serving article, I’m going to share ‘3’ reasons why you should read books.
This article appeared in the June 2017 edition of the esteemed Nautical Institute journal Seaways.
The model first appeared in the book Golden Stripes- Leadership on the High Seas by Captain VS Parani.
‘What's called a difficult decision is a difficult decision because either way you go, there are penalties.’ - Elia Kazan
A new concept for understanding and explaining safety
This article appeared in the September 2017 edition of the esteemed Nautical Institute journal Seaways. The model first appeared in the book Golden Stripes- Leadership on the High Seas by Captain VS Parani.
“Concern for man himself and his fate must always form the chief interest of all technical endeavors, concern for the great unsolved problems of the organization of labor...Never forget this in the midst of your diagrams and equations.”
- Albert Einstein
In 2014, a fire destroyed the Engine Room of the bulk carrier Marigold. Luckily, other than a couple of seafarers who were hospitalised for smoke inhalation, there were no serious injuries. But the cost of the fire damage would be several hundred thousand US dollars.
“My life is one long curve, full of turning points”
Pierre Trudeau (15th Prime Minister of Canada, and father of the current (23rd) Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau)
Yes, the sequence of events leading to a ship-collision started on the computer on which the ship was designed.
Ships routinely lower their lifeboats to keep them ready for deployment in times of emergency. It was during one such exercise in my second year at sea that I learnt a valuable lesson in teamwork.
Inspections such as by Port State, Flag, Class and Oil Majors are now a fact of shipping. There is no doubt that these inspections have helped improve safety standards in shipping; the number of sub-standard ships has reduced and it is now difficult for rogue operators to endanger life at sea or damage the environment.
Let me tell you a secret and a story; my family calls me ‘Raja’, a shortened name for the great Tamil King Raja Raja Cholan. One of the Tamil idiosyncrasies, is that each uncle and aunt (who in those days were many) assumed the privilege of giving a child in their family their own favourite name. So, my overbearing but warm paternal uncle fondly named me ‘Raja’, proud that our family belongs to the district of Thanjavur, the capital of this king over a thousand years ago.
Most marine officers and naval architects will tell you that the righting-lever curve, GZ is a better measure of the ship’s stability than the metacentric-height (GM) value. I agree, and will narrate a personal experience which illustrates the point beautifully.
“A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them” John C. Maxwell
Accidents are a result of mistakes- we all know that. I share the insights from my years as a DPA, carrying out on-hands investigations and this article is about how to be smart enough to learn the right lessons, and how to correct them, which is not always that simple.
My first visit to the navigation centre of the ship, also called the Wheelhouse or the Bridge was when I was about eighteen months old.
My formative years were spent in Port Blair, the capital town of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. My father, originally from Tamil Nadu, a state in India, was a banker on the islands for nearly 36 years. My mother was a home maker and also from Tamil Nadu.
I was sixteen when I grounded my first ship. It was a rowboat actually but I learnt my lesson so well that I never had to go through the same experience for the rest of my career.
During my final year in high school, a group of friends and I went on a boating trip. The water sports complex was at the end of a lagoon, one of many in the Andaman Islands. The lagoon is lined with mangroves and has several ‘mangrove islands’ inside the backwaters.
It was during my first voyage as a ship captain in 2004 when I was approaching the port of Cristobal in Panama, I faced an emergency any ship could face- a main-engine failure! This was a container ship about 211 metres long, equipped with cargo cranes and built in 1977 in Denmark. The ship was since demolished and the aneroid barometer from that ship is now mounted in my living room bulkhead (oops, wall)!