MSC Commander, NOAA Admiral Cite Crucial Work of U.S. Merchant Mariners

 

SUNY Maritime President Echoes Need for Good Jobs, Partnerships

 

April 2012

 

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The commander of the U.S. Military Sealift Command (MSC) and the director of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Marine and Aviation Operations Centers recently praised the work of U.S. Merchant Mariners and their respective unions at the Maritime Trade Department, AFL-CIO meeting on March 8 near Orlando, Fla.

 

MSC Commander Rear Adm. Mark Buzby and NOAA Rear Adm. Michael Devany described the key roles played by mariners when it comes to protecting America’s national and economic security. They also talked about the ongoing need for industry partnerships and the importance of creating and maintaining good jobs – themes echoed at the MTD meeting by Rear Adm. Wendi Carpenter (USN), president of the Maritime College of the State University of New York.

 

Buzby gave a brief history of MSC and its missions throughout the years. He cited the “trust that has been established” between the agency and maritime labor, and said it was a privilege to address the MTD executive board.

 

“It is important to me to be here,” Buzby stated. “I can’t execute the MSC mission without you. National security and national defense rely on you.”

 

The admiral pointed out that agency and union leaders regularly meet to address various issues affecting both organizations, including mariners. He specifically pointed to the ongoing Civilian Marine Personnel Instructions (CMPI) 610 negotiations, and expressed optimism about final changes being implemented in the very near future.

 

Regular communications between labor and the agency also help address issues “before they become problems,” Buzby added. “All of this goes toward maintaining a strong U.S. maritime industry that is crucial to our continued leadership in a world that depends on the seas and the maritime trade.”

 

Buzby described MSC as a “growth industry” and said that “when it comes to new ships and missions, the pace seems to be picking up.” Among other examples, he cited the launch of the joint high-speed vessel USNS Spearhead, slated for delivery this summer. That vessel is one of 10 scheduled to be built; the first four will be crewed by civil service mariners, while the other six will be run by private American-flag operators.

 

The commander further noted that NASSCO is assembling modules for the first two mobile landing platforms and soon will launch the final ship in the 14-vessel T-AKE fleet, the USNS Cesar Chavez.

 

Finally, Buzby said that MTD-affiliated unions including the SIU “have been helping us as we take advantage of your expertise and training. We will continue to use your schools for some of our training. Of course, we take advantage of your seamanship, and your shipbuilding skills, and all the rest.

 

“We’ve been charting the same course as we move America forward, and I fully expect that to continue, so I’m looking forward to moving ahead together. So thanks for your continued help and partnership – in peace and war.”

 

Devany described NOAA’s missions and how mariners’ work supports the U.S. economy. Those tasks include weather forecasting, severe storms warnings, fisheries management, marine charting, coastal restoration and protection.

 

“All of these support maritime commerce and the U.S. economy, and our fleet is dispersed across the nation,” he pointed out. “There’s a vital national security role as well as a commercial role.”

 

Devany acknowledged the budgetary battles that are affecting NOAA’s fleet, but added, “We also have some opportunities to move ahead,” including a scheduled addition of a new ship that will be based in San Diego.

 

He also said it is “imperative” that NOAA work with maritime unions to help recruit “the mariners of the future.”

 

Speaking of those efforts and others, he said they “all require partnerships. The future of what NOAA does, the future of the people who sail on our ships, is built on partnerships not only with the folks that provide training, but also with the maritime unions…. I look forward to a continued positive relationship with all of you.”

 

Echoing not only the dominant theme of MTD President Michael Sacco’s opening remarks but also a key point in virtually every other address given at the meeting, Carpenter said, “I also believe it’s all about jobs, and it’s about how we innovate for the future.”

 

She said her parents grew up during the Great Depression, which enhanced her appreciation for the need for good jobs. “I understand firsthand your commitment to jobs, to good jobs, and how that fits into the maritime industry.”

 

Carpenter discussed maritime training and also how various regulations affect such training, including cost. “We must be united together in turning back some of these regulations that are stifling our economy, and stifling the jobs, and stifling our opportunities to move forward competitively in such a global industry,” she asserted.

 

She also touched on a recent visit to the SIU-affiliated Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education, calling it “a fine facility” and adding, “I believe that there are ways that we can move forward together” when it comes to innovative training.

 

Finally, she emphasized the importance of partnerships in the industry and how they will benefit everyone.

 

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