Coast Guard Captain Eric Christensen’s recent editorial titled “Sounding the Alarm on U.S.-Flag Compliance” paints an unfair and inaccurate picture of the American-flag fleet and its operators. He leads the reader to believe there’s an epidemic of non-compliance by U.S. operators, when in fact the Coast Guard’s own data shows that less than one-half of one percent of American-flag vessels have reportable problems.
The SIU and the other major seagoing labor unions are responding formally to Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert Papp; but, we wanted to immediately state that Christensen’s article is a blanket indictment that ignores the achievements the U.S.-flag industry has made in training, safety and education. This would be roughly the equivalent of our posting an editorial suggesting that Coast Guard officers are untrustworthy because a single one of them got caught selling mariner credentials.
Christensen’s paper cites only one specific recent case – and that one involves a non-union company that is infamous in American maritime circles. (The company isn’t named in the paper but it doesn’t have to be; anyone familiar with that outfit’s “record” knows them by the description.)
Our union and our contracted companies share all of the goals Christensen mentions in his paper: safety for the crews, safety for the ships, and safety for the environment. We collectively spend billions of dollars and incalculable man-hours pursuing those goals and have set standards above those set by international conventions.
The reaction by the maritime press to Christensen’s paper validates our original concern; the articles that are based on his writing give the impression that our ships are sub-standard.
The U.S. Merchant Marine deserves better, especially from an agency which regulates us and with whom we enjoy a respectful, productive working relationship based on common objectives.