Log-book 18-03-2020

5th Lesson: Heavy Corona-water sailing

Petra Štogrová Jedličková

The current coronavirus epidemic affects life of every one of us (I hope not in absolute terms). We had to change our lives and business models very quickly so that we could cope with the current situation, but also to survive not only a possible infection, but above all the economic and social consequences that the current storm caused and will provoke in the future. I dare say, and I hope that no one will denounce me that maybe the subsequent ripples will be worse than the storm itself. I hope it will not touch anyone personally, if I dare to highlight the positives of the current crisis and – in line with my style - to align my observations with what I have experienced at sea.

The virus on board is something the normal crew totally refuse. If you are (already or potentially) sick, the right captain will simply not take you aboard. I once experienced an epidemic on board, gradually everyone got sick, and the biggest problem was that sick people are then weakened and de facto threatening the lives of everyone else, and most of all the captain. This is probably obvious to everyone, so I absolutely did not accepted any risk in the form of "I was in Italy, ha ha, flying a plane and taking a taxi to the meeting" or strong statements like "it's OK", "I am not sick so no problem” and “the mask does not suit me so I do not wear it". The only acceptable approach, in my opinion, is a strict quarantine and compliance with all sanitary and other rules, even if it later turns out to be unnecessary. I assume that now we all learned the consequences of underestimation, we will wear the masks automatically and the next time some virus comes (unfortunately, probably worse), we will all pull these rules straight and we will not hesitate or joke about them for a few more days.

Many people asked me if I had a closed cabin fever at sea. Honestly, never at sea, but at home in a forced home office I am slowly getting it! We've all focused on transforming quickly our business into a 100% digital and distance form, and we made it! I'm really proud of that. Now, however, we face another challenge as to manage the home office in combination with children on home-classes, the lack of personal contact, the complexity of communication and overloaded data connections. The result is a huge time and mental burden. I think it is a topic for virtual social networks, where I would expect help, but it is also an excellent practice of effective management and discipline of home office for those who have not had experience yet. Above all, I enjoy how suddenly things can be solved faster and remotely. In our case it was the transition to paperless communication and the reduction of meetings. I hope that such optimizations will last even after the crisis ...

You don't sail into the storm without preparations. You will reduce sails, use engine if you need to, save supplies, protect everything that could be damaged and protect the crew with rules and rescue equipment. I observe and also help in the economic storm by almost identical steps, i.e. set the best course, apply clear rules (including business continuity plans), save money and cut non-essential costs, use reserves if necessary, and mainly ensure safety and eliminate risk. Every professional crew is trained for crisis situations, while companies have developed contingency plans, but in both cases, they are tested by practice. Honestly, even professionals make mistakes in critical situations. Czech television recently broadcasted a documentary about a helicopter dropping into a stormy North Sea, and a professional pilot forgot to give GPS coordinates when calling MAYDAY. This is a stupid mistake, for which you will be kicked out by the Czech Telecommunication Office from the ordinary exam for the SRC license (an international certificate issued to marine radio station operators). In preparation for this exam, I listened to a few real MAYDAY calls, and neither of them was perfect. Having the situation me rushing into icy ocean waters with 18 people aboard I might not even be able to stutter the word “MAYDAY”, so it is easy to criticize this from home sofa. Let's prepare for mistakes, however, just as the military or aerospace industry does, let's learn from them. It's called After Action Review, it will save lives in future operations or in our case, business in the next crises.

Every storm is followed by a cleansing process, the deck is rubbed, the mess is thrown out. Everyone is happy to have survived and proud of how they survived. I look forward to this moment and I think it will only strengthen us all, not just in terms of immunity!