SIU Asserts Vital Importance of Training


Union Testifies at House Hearing Spurred by Costa Concordia Disaster


April 2012


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The SIU was called upon to testify at a Congressional hearing on cruise ship safety Feb. 29. The hearing, dubbed “A Review of Cruise Ship Safety and Lessons Learned from the Costa Concordia Accident,” was called in response to the deadly accident involving the Costa Concordia passenger vessel off the coast of Italy earlier this year.


Due to the severity of the accident, and the widespread media attention that accompanied it, Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Chairman Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) of the House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee both called for the hearing to address safety concerns within the industry.


SIU Legislative Director Brian Schoeneman testified that one of the top priorities for the union and its members has been safety training. In fact, according to Schoeneman’s testimony, the SIU leadership has long been preaching that having a well-trained and qualified crew is one of the most important steps a ship operator can take in an effort to ensure safe travels.


“This is why the SIU places so much emphasis on training,” said Schoeneman. “Since our founding in 1938, we have had been providing mariner training as a key part of the benefit of being a union member.”


Schoeneman also pointed out that with access to union-affiliated training facilities such as the Paul Hall Center in Piney Point, Md., and at Barbers Point, Hawaii, Seafarers are some of the best equipped to deal with unforeseen emergencies when at sea.


“The SIU has established a state-of-the-art training program to ensure that both our mariners and our other cruise ship personnel receive the best, most up-to-date and in-depth training available anywhere,” said Schoeneman. “We’ve invested a considerable amount of time and money into training, so when our members go up the gangway they know what to do if the unthinkable happens.”


Another significant issue that was raised by the SIU is flag-of-convenience vessels and the unfortunate amount of market share they have in the cruise industry. While the Costa Concordia was not an FOC ship, a majority of those in the Caribbean and Hawaiian cruise industries are. SIU officials are quick to point out that crews on FOC vessels often don’t have the stringent safety training that American, union mariners have.


Others testifying included Coast Guard Vice Admiral Brian Salerno, the president of a cruise line trade association, a mariner whose work has included serving as captain of the SIU-crewed Pride of America, two of the passengers from the Costa Concordia, and an executive from Princess Cruises.


The consensus of those testifying before the subcommittee is that safety in the cruise ship sector must be a top priority.


“Experience has long since proven that training and practice saves lives, especially in situations where every second counts,” Schoeneman concluded. “It is important to remember that the best way to protect passengers and respond to an emergency is to ensure that crew members are well-trained and professional and that passengers and crew alike know what to do in an emergency. Training saves lives. It is that simple.”



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