Thursday, November 29, 2007

Updated Post-Graduation Requirement for Kings Point

Graduates from the US Merchant Marine Academy (Kings Point) are required to fulfill an obligation to the Navy and the Maritime Administration (MARAD) since the federal government pays for the education. Traditionally graduates from Kings Point have been able to work shoreside in support of the maritime industry (e.g. cargo planning, port engineer, ship broker, stevedore, port operations) to fulfill the MARAD obligation. I received this email and it appears that has changed. This may be one of the reasons Maine has higher enrollment.

"The current commitment for graduating midshipmen is sail (afloat) or serve on active duty for five years. The shoreside waiver, available up to 2007, has only been approved by MARAD for Shipyard positions and a few maritime related government positions (e.g. NAVSEA, MSC, etc.) You would only be able to hire those alumni who have completed their five year obligation or be willing to hire them and permit them to sail the necessary time to meet their obligations (128 days) similar to those who hire members of the National Guard. MARAD has now authorized "brown water" sailing jobs (tugs, ferries, offshore supply boats) and foreign flag vessels that have MOAs with MARAD (BG LNG, OSG and SeaRiver Maritime) to meet the obligation. Therefore, there are now more than enough afloat positions for the entire graduating class.

Pete Rackett '61
Executive VP
USMMA Alumni Foundation"

Friday, November 9, 2007

Pilot Loses His Bearings, San Fran a Nation Disaster

I am a huge supporter of my fellow mariners- and I know that a lot of mariners will not speak ill of their own kind - in lock step with those who wish to protect the industry, but when something as tragic as this latest accident happens I have to break ranks and speak my mind:

The San Fran Pilots Associations - and most pilot associations are fundamentally flawed. They fill their ranks with under qualified personnel and pay them more than they are worth. Yes- the exams and the apprenticeships are difficult- but I have noticed in my career that it is very difficult for unlimited tonnage mariners to get into these associations. After sailing for a number of years (I did my own pilotage in and out of ports) and observing/ listening to the pilots - I have seen a fair number of poor pilots. This does not mean that I think all the pilots are bad- there are some who are exceptional- but they don't weed out the bad ones.

I would say that 75% of the pilots I have met came from the tug/barge community and had less than 1600 ton licenses. I ran into one pilot who had a 100 ton license (Which amounts to nothing and has very lax standards). I have even run across two pilots who could not even swim. This is a license requirement- why would the Coast Guard or the Pilots Associations let this slide? The amount of nepotism and who-you-know politics in getting a pilots job is ridiculous.

Even the skilled unlimited tonnage officers that run the nations hopper dredge fleet and sail in close quarters are excluded from the pilots programs. Officers from these dredges would probably be the MOST qualified for the job because they know the harbors like the backs of their hands. The pilots reject time from dredge officers intentionally. Instead of hiring the master mariners that have dedicated their lives to the study of sailing and ship handling - the pilots associations hire tug boat skippers with little to no large vessel experience. I appreciate what the tug boaters do for us- and they play an enormous role in our economy. But the pilot associations should be required to hire the best of the best from the community of practice: Individuals with master mariners licenses - unlimited tonnage- any oceans.

I was lucky enough to speak my mind today on national radio- though I didn't get a lot of air time and didn't get to make my entire point. I had the opportunity to discuss the accident briefly on The Savage Nation. (The Savage Nation is a conservative talk show hosted by the great Dr. Michael Savage. Savage is my favorite radio personality because of his strong conservative values and razor sharp wit.) Anyways- I heard Savage talking about the accident - so I couldn't help myself- I had to call in. Savage, a civilian/ recreational boater himself has sailed under the bridge and brought up the question that is on my mind - "How could you possibly hit that bridge?" and he is correct- it shouldn't even be possible these days with all of the technology. RADAR, ARPA, GPS, LORAN, AIS- there is just no excuse for this accident. I have sailed through the bridge as well and I would think you would need to intentionally aim for it- just because there is so much water.

In my quick conversation I didn't get a chance to say everything I wanted to. I should have mentioned that the Coast Guard grossly under reported the spill and has caused even more damage by lack of response. Had the emergency response been more organized- this disaster could have been minimized. I think the responder crew on scene was surprised to see how big the spill was- since they were told it was 140 gallons (Turns out it is more like 58,000 gallons)

As mariners we need to take a hard look at the people that are making the big decisions in our industry and how our major organizations do business. I think that we (professional unlimited tonnage mariners) should start our own pilots associations and run the old guard out of town.

Spill Links::

Subscribe To The MaritimeLinks Editors Blog!