27 January 2013

Ship's crests

Among the various kind gifts we, sometimes, receive from the ship's Captains as a token of appreciation for a pilotage job well done, the ship's crests are, in my modest opinion, the most important ones.
Material value apart (these pieces are basically the ship's coat of arms - either made of metal or plastic - glued over a wooden shield plaque), their symbolic value is quite important: they are the ship's highest symbol and, for that reason are reserved only for official ceremonies, such as offerings between ships or between ships and shore institutions (namely port authorities and Pilot corporations). This normally happens on the vessel's inaugural call in a particular port. In both situations the ceremony assumes a generic form where crests are exchanged between both intervenients.
Therefore, this gift to an individual person is very rare. Personally speaking, in almost eight years of pilotage life, I received this kind gesture only once: in a docking manoeuvre of the M/V Oceana, in the port of Funchal, a few months ago.
In the maritime heraldry, the ship's crests occupy the highest rank. It's the ship's "visit card" by definition. Similarly to the noble families of the medieval times, it gives us, in a glimpse of an eye, an idea of how proud she is about her name.