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  • Peter Kam Fai Cheung SBS

Under The Sun

Do you have any seafaring experience? A primary school classmate of mine took it as a career, developed technical skills, navigated tankers in the oceans, explored the world and is still doing a jet captain job ferrying travellers between Hong Kong and Macao. I love the sea, have seriously considered getting a pleasure vessel operator licence, but found that I should be content with a simple substitute.

When I furthered my legal studies in London (1986-1987), I seized the opportunity to learn Maritime Law, Carriage of Goods By Sea and Marine Insurance from shipping law experts. My post-graduate classmates only discovered that I had been sitting in the lectures when I did not surface for the examinations. Nevertheless, I submitted a dissertation on shipping registration to complete the course requirements of my LLM in Public International Law.

During a recent visit to the JMSDF (Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force) Kure Museum, Hiroshima, I was thrilled to get inside a retired 76 meter-long Akishio SS-579 submarine, peered through the periscope into the Hiroshima Bay, and attempted to "navigate" it. Later, I tried a full-mission bridge simulator of a 100,000-ton tanker for port navigation. It then dawned on me that navigating was very different from driving and why there were collisions at sea.

I believe seafaring is hard as seafarers have to adapt, endure, stay lively and be fearless, among other qualities and technical capacity. The cramped quarters of the submariners and the sonar sounds are scary even in times of peace. Knowing my physical, mental and financial limits now, my simple substitute is just to swim to any beach-anchored floating platform and lie lazily on it under the sun!

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