Bureaucracy strikes again

Home is the sailor, home from the sea … and that’s where he stays

I’m a marine engineer. An involuntarily retired marine engineer with 40 years’ experience. I’m fit and I’m good at what I do. A Certified Foreign-going Chief Engineer, Steamship and Motorship. There are people around the world who need experienced Class 1 marine engineers desperately. Even old-timers such as myself and especially we rarities qualified in steam.

I want a job.

Recently I was offered a job. It’s been 7 years since I was at sea as chief engineer, so I was happy to accept a position as second engineer.

Everybody’s happy, right?

Well, now that you ask – no…

Oh dear, they’ve changed the rules

In the good old days when I first qualified, a Chief Engineer’s Certificate and my naval Engineer Officer’s Charge Certificate qualified me to be the engineering boss on any non-nuclear ship afloat.

Then the international bureaucracy brought in a requirement to have a licence as well as a certificate. This was progress. The licensing process ensured that people were up-to-date in areas such as safety, first-aid, fire-fighting and the like. No objections from me.

Every 5 years engineers are required to renew the licence. If I hadn’t served a minimum period of sea service in the preceding 5 years I could still serve at sea with my certificate, but only in a rank below that of the certificate. So as a Chief Engineer I’d have to do 12 months at sea as Second Engineer to revalidate my Chief Engineer’s licence.

Fair enough.

“Yeah, that’s fair,” said the pen-pushers. “We’ll soon take care of that!”

I had to inform the people who wished to employ me that I couldn’t take the job. The rules now state that I can’t serve in a lower rank to re-qualify. I must do a 12 month refresher course.

“OK,” I told the New Zealand Maritime Safety Authority’s Chief Examiner, “I’ll do the course.”

“We don’t have a course,” says he, “Not enough demand.”

“OK, I’ll go to Australia.”

“Sorry, no demand there either.”

So, to cut this short, I’d have to go to Canada or the U.K. It would cost me in the $100,000 ballpark range all up, with no guarantee of a job at the end.

I expressed my innermost thoughts to Mr Marine Examiner.

“Oh, it’s all different now, you wouldn’t be able to cope.” Says he who hasn’t been to sea in 30 years.

I can cope. For 40 years I’ve driven ships ranging from salvage tugs and survey ships to the biggest car carrier in the world. From an 80,000 ton diesel electric pipelaying vessel to steam turbine frigates and a 60,000 shaft horsepower cruiser. The ship hasn’t been built yet that I wouldn’t walk onboard tomorrow and confidently take over. With the possible exception of nukes.

You gotta love bureaucracy.

I’m disgusted. Really irritated. Burning with indignation.

Pissed off, to be more precise.