Jobs Well Done, at Sea and Ashore

 

February 2012

 

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SIU President Michael Sacco discusses recent stories Involving SIU members and other timely topics

 

Seafarers don’t regularly end up in the news, but there have been a few well-earned exceptions lately, and those stories reflect our members’ spirit, generosity and professionalism.

 

As reported throughout this edition (and in some commercial publications as well), a number of SIU members from the USNS Dahl, Global Sentinel and the Tacoma area cheerfully pitched in for annual toy donations so they could brighten the holidays for others. Even though this type of activity is nothing new for Seafarers, and although they certainly don’t participate with any expectation of publicity, I think our brothers and sisters deserve the recognition. And I’m particularly proud that they once again made it a point to donate to American military families, in addition to other recipients.

 

In contrast to the relative calm of holiday philanthropy, Seafarers on the Ocean Titan helped perform a difficult nighttime rescue in very rough weather. Kudos to them and to the officers, from the Seafarers-affiliated AMO, for upholding the finest traditions of the Brotherhood of the Sea as they saved the lives of seven foreign seamen.

 

It’s worth noting that every one of the SIU members aboard the Ocean Titan during the rescue has trained at the union-affiliated Paul Hall Center, located in Piney Point, Md. The school remains vital in preparing Seafarers to handle whatever comes their way at sea, whether routine or, like in the recent case of the Ocean Titan, extreme.

 

Again, congratulations to everyone who was involved.

 

Lessons from Tragic Accident

 

It’s at least somewhat ironic that the fatal grounding of the Costa Concordia is shedding light on the decades-old problem of so-called flags of convenience, also known as runaway flags. The irony is that this particular ship wasn’t an FOC.

 

Nevertheless, this tragic accident has opened Congress’ eyes to take a broader look into the cruise-ship industry. And suddenly, the general public in the United States is waking up to the fact that most cruise ships operating in this country are indeed sailing under runaway flags, with the notable exception of the SIU-crewed NCL America vessel Pride of America, based in Hawaii.

 

Congressional hearings are scheduled to examine safety in the industry. There may be some cynicism about those hearings – in this industry, tragedy inevitably is followed by federal review and even more regulations, some of which have dubious effects – but I believe this scrutiny is warranted.

 

If nothing else, it’s positive for our industry – and for safety – when CNN and other news outlets properly identify the FOC sham. Maybe this can be a first step toward raising the bar throughout the industry. As I’ve said many times in the past, a professionally trained mariner is the key to crew AND passenger safety!

 

Takes a 4-Letter Word to be Heard

 

In this election year for the White House, it is more important than ever for the SIU to remain politically active – not just at the federal level, but at every point of government. We all know that the maritime industry is heavily regulated, so our livelihoods depend on electing people who will support the U.S. Merchant Marine.

 

Grassroots action takes many forms, and our capacity to mobilize for pro-maritime candidates remains a vital strength. So too is our financial support of those candidates, and that is where the union’s voluntary fund, the Seafarers Political Activity Donation (SPAD), comes into play. I know times are tough, but your support of SPAD is hugely important this year (and beyond). If you already contribute, I thank you for doing so. If you haven’t signed up, please consider it. We all know elections cost money, and SPAD helps make sure our voices are heard.

 

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