For the most part of my career which I spent navigating the maritime field with the International Maritime Organization (IMO), on many occasions I boarded ships of different sizes and types, from small fishing vessels to cargo ships and dredgers, from passenger ferries to hovercrafts. The ships I took crossing the English Channel from Zeebrugee, Belgium to Felixstowe, United Kingdom and also from Calais, France to the UK were, I thought, the best I will ever experience in my entire life. I knew then that in my beloved Philippines we might never have such exceptional inter-island ferry service.
I was only half correct. When the transportation deregulation policy was introduced at the close of the century, there were noticeable changes in domestic shipping with the gradual dismantling of monopolies in shipping routes. As the “grandfather rule” which protected investments in shipping was abandoned, I took note of the replacement of wooden-hulled boats with bigger and faster steel-hulled ships especially in long haul distances.
I equated this makeover in Philippine ferry service with the roll-on/roll-off configuration (very much like the ships
I rode in Europe) to be the best thing that could ever happen to my beloved archipelagic country. I soon changed my mind as the big ships figured in maritime casualties one after the other. I realized it takes more than size and make to get a ship to fulfill its purpose of moving people and cargoes.
I must confess, only twice did I ever attempt to take an inter-island trip. In one such trip, I continuously asked the MARINA technical officers who were traveling with me if the ship was seaworthy after observing the ship was listing at its starboard side in a consistent manner. I hardly slept during the overnight voyage from Manila to Antique. Since then, I made a resolve never to take an inter-island ship again, a pledge I kept up to this time. And I went even further as to encourage family members to fly instead of taking a ship. Never mind that my professional work revolved on the maritime field.
I may reconsider that decision. I may try FastCat.
I look at the passenger terminals, the single ticketing system for a multimodal trip, the qualifications of the ship’s crew and the safety measures adopted by the company, the name of which fires up my nationalism: Archipelago! These are reasons enough for me to change my mind! And oh, FastCat leaves port on schedule, no waiting to fill the ship to capacity. I would like to experience that. Not even the airlines could fulfill such a promise anymore!
My work at IMO brought me to places overseas. Now retired, it is time to tour my country, my archipelago. I will try to once again brave the waters in an inter-island ship! I will take a FastCat.