Alison Cusack, a lawyer from Melbourne-based Cusack & Co, on how shipping ought to make the most of being thrust into the limelight this year.
She’s stuck! When the world woke up to the iconic image of the Ever Given stuck near sideways in the Suez Canal, 2021 became the year the public discovered shipping.
Yes, the early Covid days with empty stock shelves (heightened by panic buying) and long shipping delays whilst the entirety of the globe’s population sat at home to ‘wait it out’ heard grumblings through those near and dear to the supply chain touch points. However, the general public knew naught of the humble containership and the thousands of containers at sea (and… in the sea, thanks ONE Apus).
Let 2022 be the year the public discovers seafarers
For six glorious days news stories blanketed the mainstream media (even though they got plenty wrong) espousing the critical infrastructure that is the Suez Canal leading to many armchair pundits. “Just take the boxes off the top to lighten the load” (thanks Barry – with what exactly? And put them where?). “Can’t they fly a helicopter into start lifting containers?” (No Bob, lashing plus weight issues equals a really expensive, bad idea.)
I have never been more able to quickly express what it is that I, a shipping and maritime lawyer, do than say – you know – the Suez Canal blockage. Oh yeah – I love that ship!
But is the 6pm news really public conscious? I’d say no. The real test is the Gen Z awareness.
And boy were they aware! TikTok was flooded with shipping memes and footage, sea shanties were written in her honour. People were saying “Yassss Queen – don’t let anybody tell you how to live your life” and this ship was a cult hero about following your own timetable in life.
The “Guy with the Digger At Suez Canal” amassed 56,000 Twitter followers and someone even wrote a children’s book. I’m yet to read said book, ironically I think production hit supply chain issues.
Memes and internet trends die pretty quickly in the TikTok 60-second era so I was most surprised when the Ever Given had a resurgence at Halloween with many showing off their Ever Given inspired costumes.
Just yesterday she was traversing the Suez Canal and the public’s collective desire to see her get stuck again “for the lolz” was palpable. I’ve never seen so many people wish for (economic) disaster just so they’d have a reason to talk shipping again.
What does this mean for us shipping folk? Firstly, we can talk about what we do and it’s seen as cool, interesting and meme-able, which is honestly the best you can wish for when being thrust into the limelight. Secondly, it gives the general population an understanding that goods don’t magically fly from point A to point B. This has started a collective conscious discussion about manufacturing on shore versus the climate impact of offshore manufacturing and reliability of the supply chain.
Most importantly, it has given us the golden opportunity to raise the awareness of the plight of the seafarers. If the supply chain and shipping industry was invisible to the general public, the seafarers who diligently and safely bring our commercial goods to shore were non-people who had never once crossed the minds of those outside the immediate supervision of crew management.
These souls, who have been isolated from shore, for our benefit, who we can slightly empathise with for those who endured long lockdowns, deserve public recognition but more importantly, support.
Lockdown without the internet would be unbearable. Lockdown without knowing when you’d set foot on land is untenable.
Let’s use this public conscious to get our seafarers vaccinated, safe and home.
Let 2022 be the year the public discovers seafarers.