Quit Weining

Kate Adamson, the founder of Futurenautics, draws parallels between Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and shipping’s rotten apples.

Hollywood is having a bit of a moment—you may have noticed. In case you haven’t, mogul and serial Oscar-winning movie producer Harvey Weinstein has finally been publically outed as a bully who has subjected numerous actresses to unwanted sexual advances and in some cases sexual assault. Allegedly.

One man’s behaviour—you might argue—doesn’t warrant this degree of brouhaha, but as is so often the case, Weinstein’s behaviour in a bathrobe is just a symptom of a deeper malaise. What’s being exposed is the real workings of an industry where powerful men routinely exploit young women (and no doubt young men too). And it’s even less appetising than the thought of Harvey in a bathrobe.

What the film industry is now struggling to come to terms with is that despite pretty much everyone knowing exactly who’s ‘Not Safe In Taxis’ as my grandmother would have said, absolutely no one had the courage to stand up and say it out loud.

In the case of Harvey Weinstein his ability to get movies made about subjects others wouldn’t touch, and his championing of independent film meant that value judgements were made by everyone from producers to financiers to stars. They decided that however unsavoury what Harvey did around the edges was, and sorry though they were for those who were damaged by him, there wasn’t much they could do about it. Because that’s just the way the industry works.

But industries don’t just work. Industries are made up of people and it was people who supported and facilitated Weinstein’s luring of women to one-on-one meetings, people who sorted the logistics with the hotels, assistants who set up the meets, travel agents who booked the flights, and the women’s own agents who told them to go.

Change happens when people make it their business, and it takes courage to be the first to stand up and declare. The Weinstein scandal wasn’t broken by the Hollywood Reporter, or The Wrap or Variety, although it’s almost impossible to think that all those journalists didn’t know exactly what was going on. That’s the problem with industry media, it’s so dependent upon the advertising revenues and the relationships with the powerful companies and individuals in its market that blowing open a story, or taking a stand just isn’t in its interest.

Most industries have a Weinstein or two. Some dirty open secrets that people shake their heads over in private, sympathise with the victims, but continue to book the hotel rooms and launder the bathrobes afterwards.

Crew abandonment is one of shipping’s Weinsteins. How is it that in the 21st century it is possible for seafarers to find themselves without money, food or water with no way of getting back to their loved ones? The parallels with Hollywood’s current local difficulties are legion. The Weinstein Shipping Companies need to be identified, pilloried and run out of town, but that’s only one part of the problem. What’s required is a cultural change amongst the vast network of enablers—from shipping organisations to insurers to financiers to flag states—who are willing to look the other way as long as the hit movies keep coming.

This particular dirty secret has been well known to the shipping industry media for many, many years, but none has ever taken a stand on it. Like Hollywood, one assumes that the relationships and the advertising money is just too vital to jeopardise for a bunch of seafarers who really should know better than to agree to meet Weinstein Shipping in a hotel room.

In our increasingly hyper-connected world the days of the industry Weinstein really are numbered, because as the digital ecosystems develop which connect new stakeholders around ships and shipping’s customers, the bathrobe isn’t just going to hang open, it’s going to be ripped off altogether. The kind of radical transparency we’re heading towards is going to mean that the only way to thrive, and indeed survive, will be to act with integrity and authenticity. Because those who don’t are going to find that box-office receipts won’t be enough to save them.

I’ve been promising Sam I’d write something for him for a while, because I think what he and Grant Rowles have created in Splash is quite special. It’s young, lean and growing with fantastic speed, building not just a readership, but a network—so if you’re looking for disruption in shipping then Sam and Grant are as good an example as any. Their courage in refusing to accept that nothing can be done, and the vision and purpose to push for a solution is a microcosm of what new digital businesses are doing the world over, challenging the legacy organisations who see the Weinsteins and myriad other problems, then just work out how to manage the dissatisfaction.

I remember a conversation with Roberto Giorgi about shipping’s Weinsteins when he told me that shipping had to get rid of the rotten apples. And he was absolutely right. Now Splash has provided the opportunity to stop whining about it and make a difference.

So do it.


  1. God sends his rain on good and bad alike.
    But mostly on the Good, because the Bad
    Have pinched the Good’s umbrellas.

    More than twenty years ago (yes, really) I wrote a column for A.N. Other Shipping Newspaper, then edited by Michael Grey, in which I suggested that the reason the good owners are so tolerant of the bad owners is because they genuinely don’t think that the bad ones can be half as bad as they actually are.

    I’ve worked in a shipowner’s office in which a colleague said “we’ve had a disaster..” and went on to report that one of our ships had had a four hours’ stop at sea. That owner could not conceive of someone not paying their crew on time, or indeed of not paying his bills on time, and was consequently inclined to give his fellow shipowners “the benefit of the doubt” on the grounds that “There, but for the Grace of God, go I”.

    The Grace of God is always welcome but in the case of this owner he had a staff of keen, capable people, ashore and afloat, who practically worshipped him and were utterly determined to ensure that he never needed to rely on the Grace of God.

    Class Societies and P&I Clubs and others are equally inclined to temper the wind to what they think is the shorn lamb, and to give the good owners and crews a hard time whilst allowing the less good to get away with – well, maybe not murder, but a great deal of bad practice, not excluding avoidable fatalities .

    If you doubt this, I recommend that you “inspect for purchase” a few sister ships of vessels in your own fleet, classed with the same Class Society.

    I’m therefore pleased to learn that Roberto Giorgi thinks we should get rid of the rotten apples, because the managers, IF they really wish to do so, can do a great deal to get rid of them. Managers do get to see all sorts of ships, and to hear all sorts of things that are not considered fit for the delicate ears of some owners.

    Sadly, experience teaches us that only when their financial interest is at stake, as in the case of the early hull clubs, do owners and managers really get keen on policing their fellow owners and managers. P&I Club managers create the illusion that they do so, because they run mutuals, but in reality they are somewhat more inclined to go tempering the wind to the shorn lamb again.

    Which is why I suggested that the reputable managers give a pledge to always pay and repatriate the people who work for them. Absent such concrete pledges, the good will continue subsidising, and getting blamed for, the bad and the downright ugly.

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