SIU Aids in Philippine Recovery


December 2013


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Editor’s Note: This article was written in mid-November shortly after Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines. Additional reporting appears in the NEWS section.


Seafarers are answering the call to action following the devastation brought to the Philippines by Typhoon Haiyan.


With thousands dead, millions displaced and infrastructure in many places destroyed, the need for relief has been enormous. Heeding that call, the SIU, its members and its international partners have mobilized to do their part in helping the country recover from the second-deadliest storm in its history.


In the days following the storm, which made landfall Nov. 8, several SIU-crewed ships were activated and dispatched to the region to provide emergency supplies, medical services and housing. Stateside, the SIU activated and began soliciting donations for the Seafarers Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF) to help financially with what is expected to be a daunting recovery. Individual members, meanwhile, pitched in on a personal basis, with at least one crew holding a relief fundraiser for victims of the storm.


The SIU also teamed with the affiliated International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and other international partners to provide further relief and ensure the donated funds make their way to mariners and their families.


When it came to the at-sea relief effort, several SIU-crewed ships sailed with the U.S. Navy’s George Washington Carrier Strike Group (GWSG) – an assembly of vessels sent to support the Third Marine Expeditionary Brigade in assisting the Philippine government. The SIU ships participating included the USNS Bowditch, the USNS Charles Drew and the Emory S. Land. The Bowditch is operated by Maersk Line, Limited, while the latter two vessels are part of the SIU Government Services Division fleet.


“We have the ships conducting a variety of missions,” said Rear Adm. Mark Montgomery, who serves as GWSG commander. “The USNS Bowditch is surveying water conditions in the Leyte Gulf. USNS Charles Drew and USS Lassen have helicopters and supplies that are bringing emergency supplies into Tachoban, one of the worst-hit areas. Emory S. Land also provides good ship-to-shore hotel services to Tachoban.”


 The SIU-crewed hospital ship USNS Mercy was also activated for service in the aftermath of the storm. Berthed in San Diego, the Mercy has already spent time working in the area.


“In 2012, the Mercy participated in the annual Pacific Partnership mission, which included working with Philippine authorities in the vicinity of Tachoban, the area hardest hit by Typhoon Haiyan,” read a news release issued by the U.S. Navy regarding the activation of the Mercy. “Because of the long-standing partnership between the two nations, the U.S., working through the Philippine government, is able to rapidly respond with critically needed capabilities and supplies in times of crisis.”


Amid all of this, the SIU crews of the USNS 2nd Lt. John Paul Bobo (operated by Maersk) and USNS Pililau (operated by AMSEA) also made the trip to the Philippines for disaster relief.


On the financial front, the SIU’s decision to activate the SDRF allowed those who weren’t traveling to the region to do their part in the relief effort. Designed to aid devastated mariners and their families, the fund is activated following disasters around the world and has helped thousands of people get back on their feet.


The crew aboard one SIU vessel – the Maersk-operated USNS Henson – took it upon themselves to start raising money immediately. AB David Arcilla said the crew of the Henson knew right away they wanted to help victims of the storm.


“After hearing of the deadly disaster in the Philippines caused by Typhoon Haiyan, we on the USNS Henson initiated a monetary drive to supply aid to the victims.” Archilla said. “The real reward for us is being able to alleviate some of the suffering and comfort others in their time of need.”


The generosity was greatly appreciated. In a heartfelt message to the SIU and its members, Dr. Conrad Oca, president of the Associated Marine Officers’ and Seamen’s Union of the Philippines, said he was touched by the “genuine concern for our less fortunate brothers and sisters who have become helpless victims” of the storm.


“SIUNA’s donation will certainly go a long way towards helping our needy and suffering countrymen in Central Philippines,” Oca said, speaking not only of the Henson effort but also that involving the SDRF. “The kindness and concern you have shown are very reassuring for our people and speaks well of the convictions and principles you stand for.”


The SIU and the U.S. Merchant Marine have a long history of responding to such disasters. From stateside emergencies like Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Katrina, to international disasters like the Japanese tsunami and the current devastation of Typhoon Haiyan, SIU crews have helped with recovery all over the world.




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