Many of the senior officers (mostly Master mariners), I am sure would have come across the issue of meeting ETA or any similar type of commercial pressure (the latest is though going slow steam, as low as possible) during there tenures on board the merchant ships.
It is a common perception among the seafarers that the charterers mostly treat the ships as a Truck lorry but they forget that its without wheel and any effective brakes (except suddenly going Full astern and hoping not to collide) and the masters sometimes do budge under such pressure and try to please a little those port captains and operation managers of charterers.
Nevertheless, this debate can go on with both commercial and technical perspectives and there own point of views, but as a seafarer its worthwhile to look into history of commercial pressures and Master giving in to such pressures and there will be nothing more interesting than the history of the fateful Titanic.
It is said that the owner of the Titanic, who was travelling in the ship during her maiden voyage wanted the ship to be recognized as the fastest liner service to cross the Atlantic and somehow managed to influence the Capt. Edward John Smith, to increase the ship’s speed to an unsafe level and eventually he was blamed for liner’s speed that fateful night of her collision with Iceberg.
At the British inquiry into the sinking, led by Lord Mersey, several passengers blamed Bruce Ismay, chairman of the ship’s owners White Star Line, for the Titanic’s excessive speed, which was found to be primary reason for the liner hitting the iceberg. The press had already branded him a coward for choosing to escape from the sinking ship, and witnesses said he’d also been pushing its captain to claim the Blue Riband accolade for the fastest Atlantic crossing.
But they didn’t offer Lord Mersey any proof to support these claims and, though the mud stuck to Ismay in the public consciousness, it should probably have been thrown at the supposedly put-upon Capt. Edward John Smith.
Ismay Knew that the Blue Riband was out of the Titanic’s reach. Her top speed was 23 knots and Mauretania, the smaller Cunard liner that had previously set the four days, ten hours and 51 minutes record, could manage 25.Indeed, Ismay’s proud boast was that the White Star was offering comfort and reliability rather than speed.
Still, Captain Smith allowed Titanic’s average speed to reach more than 21 knots just before the accident, despite the fact that he’d received three ice warnings. Reports indicate had she not sunk, the ship would have docked in New York up to half a day ahead of schedule, and it’s likely that Smith was simply hoping for an impressively early arrival on its maiden voyage.
Though in modern times with advanced ice and weather warning systems on board ships and vessel traffic systems and checklists for various sea conditions, and all, & where Masters are empowered through ISM to take right decision, the chances of such accidents due to undue commercial pressures are reduced, but it still depends on the resolve of the Master to remain on the right and safe course.