Straight Out of James Bond…September 10, 2013
Just FYI–life is good. Busy but good. I’m not blogging regularly because life is so good, not out of feelings of failure. I promise, when life slows down I will post more. But this is for you Enchanted Seashells. I’m a football widow tonight so I have some time…
I’ve posted before about pirates, when I first learned the still exist today and how I reacted to recent pirate attacks. See Pirates Are Real.
But there are other dangers. Other realities. When 9-11 happened, the Chief (then a 1st A/E without a permanent assignment) was home for an extra two weeks because he had covered for another due to a personal tragedy. In the aftermath of that national tragedy we all know the hassles of air travel and new TSA restrictions we all endure now. The Chief cannot travel with as much equipment as before; he’s usually flagged for inspection because of his short-notice ticket purchases; and I’m flabbergasted that Transportation Security Authority personnel are not familiar with Homeland Security issued TWIC cards for a form of identification. (TWIC: Transportation Worker Identification Credential)
Everyone should remember the big emphasis on Air Marshalls being put on planes. Most people do not know that they toyed with putting Sea Marshalls on commercial vessels coming into ports. I remember asking the Chief about it. *If* I remember correctly he was not thrilled with the idea but he’d say things like, “Air travel is by far safer than our ships and ports and people don’t realize it.” Then he’d tell me things about the vulnerability of our ports and how easy it would be to cripple our ports and shipping infrastructure. I’ve often accuse the Chief of being a bit morbid. I guess while having Sea Marshalls would offer necessary protection, even Homeland Security and the Department of Transportation had to see that the logistics of implementing such a program was so prohibitive, it never came about. (The Chief says it was a short-lived, pain in the rear program domestically.) I try to forget and block out what the Chief has told me.
So there is an old World War II saying: Loose Lips Sink Ships. You just never knew who might be listening in on your conversations, no matter how secure you thought you were, putting Our Boys in jeopardy. Families were kept in the dark about where sailors were headed.
Today there are any number of websites you can access to track real-time data on from the required automated identification systems (AIS). In theory, isn’t it great to be able to show little Johnie where Daddy is on any given day? But I still wonder about the value of this, especially in this day of piracy and terrorism.
Is the Chief’s morbidity rubbing off on me?
After this next tale you’ll understand that another dose of reality chipped away at my naivety.
A few years after 9-11, the Chief was sailing 1 A/E still but with a regular ship. He was actually due to come home that week but the Captains were switching out too and you can’t have a total turn-over without some overlap. So the Captain got to go home first and the Chief would have one more trip up the coast. It was a Saturday night. I was scrapbooking with a friend, the girls were in bed. The phone rings.
“If you see anything on the news, I’m okay.”
I let it go for a little bit, until my curiosity got the better of me (my friend marveled at my self-control. I started searching on the internet for news from his location. Nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing on the national news either. My friend went home close to 11 PM. I admit I was feeling a little anxious.
Another phone call.
“Well all the other guys called and told their wives though they weren’t supposed to. The deck watch saw a diver in the water. You know, all decked out and with those personal propulsion units straight out of James Bond.”
“All non-essential personnel have been evacuated. The Captain, Chief Mate, Chief Engineer and 1 A/E are essential.” The Captain and his relief who had just arrived had to both stay onboard, not making the leaving Captain’s wife too happy about the delay.
Um, yeah, you’re essential to me! I want you off that ship! The Chief proceeded to tell me that U.S. Coast Guard and the port’s police, fire & rescue were all swarming the place. They were stuck for probably another 12 hours. I asked if they were going to put divers in water to examine the hulls. The Chief tells me, “no, this is a zero viability port, only a couple of feet of draft with a couple knot current. It could take 100 divers three days to examine every inch of the hulls in these conditions.”
They were cleared to return to their activities after those 12 hours. I guess they figured if nothing blew up within that time period it wasn’t going to. But they were also closely monitored while leaving port. Just in case.
Then I had to ask: What would a diver be doing so close to the boats like this?
What? This is when the Chief lamented about all the data so openly shared. Any drug smuggler can have a diver attach a package to a hull in one port, know it’s destination and general time of arrival, and another diver is waiting in the next port to pick up the package.
Wow. I really didn’t need to know this.
Yes, it can be comforting to know where the Chief is … and I’ve watched him on the National Geographic Panama Canal cameras twice … but I just have to wonder how smart it is to have all this easy access and open data.