One of the great things about the maritime industry is the difference in work cultures. The different work cultures come about because of historical and geographical differences which don’t much matter here. The important thing is that they exist, which is a good thing. The system allows people to pick the trade that suits them best. “To each his own”.
A maritime “work culture”, I believe, is a mix of work hours, days at sea, time off, degree of manual labor, degree of watchstanding, etc. Mostly it is a philosophy based around this question; are we going to approach the work to be done passively or aggressively? Both ways work. To say one is better than the other is an empty argument. But the difference in attitude does strongly influence the work culture. In some work cultures work is approached by thinking first “How do we do this without anybody getting hurt?” In some work cultures work is approached by thinking “Get the job done.”
As soon as people read that statement they immediately take sides. It’s one of those completely polarizing issues. One side will say that it’s not “passive” to get a job done safely. And maybe that statement is correct in all aspects. But those in the “aggressive camp” will say they are just as safe and will argue the other side, forever. In reality, when both cultures get to work they both get the job done, and usually no one gets hurt. They just have different attitudes to completing the goal. Humans being what we are, however, we endlessly haggle over who is “right” and who is “wrong”, so we can trumpet our superiority over the other guy and feel better about ourselves.
I’ve fished and I’ve sailed deep sea. The fishing industry has an aggressive work culture. My opinion is that the deep sea union trade has a passive work culture, in comparison to fishing. Everything is relative. Those aren’t value judgments. Neither is right, neither is wrong. If you like fishing, go fishing. If you like sailing deep sea, sail deep sea.
Just as there are a lot of different human personalities out there, there are a lot of different work cultures. To say one culture is better than another is like trying to say one personality is better than another. It’s a childish statement. Remember: the non-union GoM captain might slam the union tug captain over work culture, but the dentist thinks you’re both crazy for doing what you love. Which of the three is right? Silly question.
People are what they are, and luckily we have enough different work cultures in the maritime trades to accommodate most people. If you don’t like unions you can avoid them. If you like unions you can join them. If you like warm, calm seas head south. If you prefer cold weather and the drama of heavy weather, head north. There are jobs that are relatively easy for the people who don’t like sore muscles. There are jobs that are physically hard for people who can’t sit still and who like physical work.
Just as there are people who like to relax by sitting in a Lazy Boy and watching TV, and people who like to relax by running 26 miles in their underwear, so there are work cultures suited for the motivations and drives of different people