Boat people

Boats are in the news a lot at the moment, sadly for all the wrong reasons! We currently live in troubled times and it is impossible to ignore the plight of millions of people who had to flee their home and are on the move, many of them entrusting their “fortune” to criminal gangs and the high seas.

We are told that the number of forcibly displaced people in the world is now higher than it has been at any time since World War Two and as much of this exodus is played out in the media, it is difficult to remain untouched. Perilous sea crossings in unsuitable, overcrowded vessels are a daily occurrence and tranquil holiday resorts in the Mediterranean and their coastline communities are experiencing violent disruption to their daily life and have witnessed unprecedented misery and tragedy.

Some experts believe that people smugglers who often force refugees out to sea in dangerous boats are deliberately targeting (merchant) ships in the knowledge that they will try and rescue them thus sending their victims floating off knowing that rescue will be their only chance of survival.

It would appear that the time-honoured tradition of ships coming to the aid of distressed vessels is being abused.  All too often governments are relying on seafarers and their sense of moral and sometimes legal obligation to cope with a human tragedy on an epic scale. Seafarers are often risking their own safety and security in these large scale rescues. We have yet to see if the ever increasing number of refugees and migrants arriving on the Mediterranean coast lines will have an impact on the tourism industry, a lifeline for many of the countries affected.

The marine leisure industry, on the other hand, has much to smile about and is set for global growth. A recent survey by UK trade association British Marine shows that business performance in the country’s leisure, superyacht and small commercial marine industry experienced a number of upward trends over the past year. A similar upturn has been reported in Europe and the US with a slightly lower growth in Asia-Pacific. In the wake of the positive growth figures comes growing investments and an increase in workload and employment. And the industry is feeling positive about the future as well. It would appear that all is rosy for the moment – or is it?

Economies are volatile and stock markets react not only to market conditions but also events like natural disasters, terror and wars. Instability in the Middle East and the resulting refugee crisis leave their mark and also further fuel the debate within the troubled Eurozone regarding autonomy and independence. Close to home, a British exit from Europe seemed inconceivable only a short time ago but now has some serious and growing support. Whilst a possible “Brexit” and/or “Grexit” may cast a long shadow over the EU as a whole, other European countries too are seeking to force the EU to abandon the economic course it has sought to forge recently. What impact, if any, that will have on the wider European economy in general and the relatively new recovery in the marine leisure industry specifically remains to be seen. However, it would appear that political risk, economic and, for many, personal uncertainty are here to stay.

Renate Maddocks-Born

Posted on Oct 06, 2015

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