only thing you need to remember is you are away from
your loved ones and your family and your life. As I tell
everybody, we all have a real life and that’s at home
and this is our job.
When you look back to when you were first
captain, how have things changed in technology,
operations and skills of the crew?
PHILLIPS: A ship is a ship no matter what type. They
all have their idiosyncrasies, but the technology has
changed. There’s more computer work, which can
both make your work a little easier and increase your
workload, because now you’re able to do something
The regulations have changed dramatically — pollution, entry requirements for customs and immigration. Ship traffic, there’s more control there. The vast
increase in the use of computers now has made e-mail
— instant communication — a part of the job, where
it really wasn’t before.
When I first started, we still had the teletype, where
you might get one or two messages a week and usually
they were very important. Now, with e-mail, as everyone knows, you’re flooded by e-mails and many of
them are very unimportant, which actually decreases
communication and inhibits the actual production. But
the people coming on today are definitely more computer savvy than I am. I think they’re smarter than I am,
most of the ones who are coming on new. But they’re
still like me, when I first got on a ship. I really knew
nothing, even though I’d been through four years of
school and got a license. As a captain who’s been sailing
for 30 years, now I know how little I know. …
But the basic job of running a ship is still the same.
pirates are banding together at the mother ships and
that is their family and, like a gang, there is some connection to each other.
Until there is an alternative, until there is a choice
for the people, you’re still going to have pirates, and
that’s why no one facet to my plan would stop it, but
each thing together, I think, would stop an incident
before it even happened. But until the international
community gets in there and gives the people a choice
to do the right thing, to get [their] kids in school, to
get a job, to better [themselves], which I think we all
want for our families, I don’t think you’ll see a change.
What would you say to people who are considering a Merchant Marine career?
PHILLIPS: I think it’s a great career. It’s a way to see
the world. It’s a physical career. It’s getting more and
more technological and sedentary, maybe, but it’s still
very physical. The hours are long. It’s a career that
changes every day and it’s different every day. … The
Much of the general public still does not realize that the containers they see on tractor
trailers and trains came from a ship. What
would you like them to know?
PHILLIPS: What’s been said over the years is still true:
85 to 90 percent of what you consume, buy, wear, came
[by] ship. At one time or another, it was water-borne.
It is the cheapest mode of transportation. The people
in the industry … are very dedicated, patriotic and
take pride in their jobs.
We don’t work a normal work week. We work probably more in one week’s time than most people work in
four weeks’ time. We don’t have set hours. We can be
upwards of a 24/7 operation. It’s continually moving
and we don’t get weekends. We don’t get vacations on
the ship. … The good part is you’re 100 percent
focused, and that’s one thing I like. When I’m home,
I’m home. When I’m working, I’m working. I like that
SEAPOWER / AUGUST 2009