Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Forest and the Sea

Nothing like seeing familiar things in a new way. In his wonderful book "The Forest and the Sea, Marston Bates points out many startling similarities between the rain forest and a coral reef.

In a more humble way, I have a forest/sea connection as well. While at home I tend a small woodlot and am the member of a woodlot association. One of the concepts I learned is the stakeholder system, that is, the owner of the woodlot is not the only person who has a stake in the woodlot. The neighbors, the public in general, hikers, birdwatchers, ATVer, fisherman all have a stake as well.

It struck me one day that the stakeholder system is valid aboard ship as well. Aboard ship reducing risk, staying on schedule, on budget, keeping the crew sufficiently rested, is a constant balancing act. There is the shipowners, vessel operators, charters, cargo brokers, cargo owners. There are facility operators, pilots, agents, longshoreman. There also is the crew, the unions, the families of the crew, maintenance and regulatory requirements and so on.

In some cases theses interest coincide and sometimes they conflict. To sort it out there are instructions from the owners, the charter party agreement, union agreements as well as less formal guidelines and customs.

Granted, this insight is not as profound as Bates, nonetheless it is sometimes a useful concept when sorting out competing claims or explaining decisions.

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