New Jobs, Relief Missions, Political Victories Highlight 2013

 

January 2014

 

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The SIU had quite an eventful year in 2013.

 

Opportunities for Seafarers continued to expand through new contracts, tonnage and offerings at the union-affiliated Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education (PHC). Those gains led to new SIU jobs and additional training programs.

 

The SIU fought back against Washington budget cuts that threatened vital maritime programs. Attempts to gut the Maritime Security Program (MSP) and Food for Peace were met with strong opposition. The union once again demonstrated its legislative involvement.

 

Seafarers also came to the aid of those in need – from helping the millions devastated by Typhoon Haiyan in The Philippines and refugees fleeing the war-torn nation of Syria, to rescuing American crews stranded by rough seas. That bravery would be celebrated by the industry.

 

Following are the top headlines of 2013:

 

New Tonnage

 

When it came to the addition of new tonnage, 2013 had plenty of highlights. The year began with good news from TOTE, which ordered several LNG-powered containerships to operate under the company’s SIU-crewed Sea Star Line. January also saw the creation of additional SIU jobs and tonnage when SIU-contracted International Shipholding Corporation acquired United Ocean Services.

 

That news was followed by a flurry of activity in the spring. It was then that SIU-contracted Maersk Line flagged in the Maersk Chicago – the first of eight containerships that would replace eight older, smaller vessels. The company also added the research vessel USNS Maury to its fleet.

 

 The SIU also generated new jobs with U.S. Navy. In April, the Navy christened the joint-high-speed vessel USNS Millinocket, the third of a planned fleet of 10 vessels. The Navy also accepted delivery of the USNS Montford Point, which would be operated by SIU-contracted Ocean Ships.

 

In May, Crowley christened its 17th articulated tug-barge (ATB), the Liberty/750-3, as the final vessel built in a $1 billion, decade-long ATB construction program undertaken to expand the company’s presence in the Jones Act trade. That followed the christening of the Crowley tanker Florida, an event that added even more tonnage to the SIU fleet.

 

Things heated up even more during the summer. In June, American Petroleum Tankers placed an order for four LNG conversion-ready tankers to be managed by Crowley. That was followed by the christening of two tugboats – the MV Ahbra Franco and MV Robert Franco – by SIU-contracted Harley Marine. Seafarers-contracted Bay-Houston Towing also welcomed an additional SIU tug, the Chloe K, in 2013.

 

In August, Crowley announced an agreement to build up to eight product tankers, furthering SIU tonnage and the prospects for new jobs. Crowley followed that news in the fall with its order of two LNG-powered combination container- roll-on/roll-off (ConRo) ships. Those ConRo vessels were touted as the first of their kind.

 

SIU-contracted Seabulk Tankers made news with a pair of tanker orders with General Dynamics NASSCO. The company announced an order of two LNG conversion-ready tankers in September, followed by order for an additional tanker and the option of building yet another.

 

As the year drew toward a close, SIU-contracted Matson Navigation Company announced it was ordering two new containerships. The first ship would be named the Daniel K. Inouye, after the late Hawaii senator.

 

Contracts

 

Several SIU contracts were approved in 2013.

 

Seafarers along the Great Lakes had good news early in the year as the union negotiated re-openers covering wages and benefits. Those agreements were reached with: Erie Sand and Gravel; Champion Auto Ferry; Upper Lakes Towing; and VanEnkevort Tug and Barge.

 

The SIU also reached two well-received, favorable contracts covering boatmen employed by Crescent Towing. The contracts, which applied to New Orleans and Savannah, were nearly identical three-year agreements and were approved overwhelmingly by members.

 

SIU members also ratified contracts with Matson Navigation and Express Marine during the summer. A four-year agreement was reached with Matson, while the union forged a three-year contract with Express Marine.

 

Late in the year, SIU boatmen employed at E.N. Bisso & Son unanimously ratified a new three-year contract featuring numerous gains.

 

Typhoon Relief

 

As they have done so many times before, Seafarers jumped to action following a major disaster in late 2013.

 

Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines Nov. 8, causing widespread destruction. With thousands dead, millions displaced and infrastructure in many places destroyed, the SIU and its members immediately began doing their part to aid in the recovery.

 

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. SIU crews on the USNS 2nd Lt. John Paul Bobo and USNS Pililaau also made the trip to the Philippines for disaster relief.

 

Back home, the SIU activated and began soliciting donations for the Seafarers Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF) to help financially. Several SIU crews also began fundraising drives of their own.

 

Heroics, Recognition

 

Seafarers also made many at-sea rescues and acts of bravery in 2013, culminating in several crews receiving recognition from United Seamen’s Service (USS) at its annual Admiral of the Ocean Seas event.

 

The crews receiving awards included: the USNS Bowditch for rescuing the crew of a grounded ship near the Philippines; the Maersk Utah for rescuing 83 stranded Syrian refugees off the Italian coast; the Ocean Atlas for fending off an African pirate attack; and the TS Kennedy, TS Empire State and SS Wright for aiding in the recovery of the New York-New Jersey region following Superstorm Sandy.

 

Political Fights

 

Despite facing near constant political attacks on key maritime programs, the SIU was able to score some big wins in 2013.

 

Those victories started in earnest on Dec. 20, 2012, when President Barack Obama signed the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2012. That law included several key components pushed by the SIU, including provisions that increased transparency with Jones Act waivers and made the TWIC process easier for mariners.

 

That victory was followed by the announcement in February that U.S. Reps. Cedric Richmond (D-La). and Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) would form and co-chair Congress’ first-ever Maritime Caucus to focus on issues vital to the maritime industry.

 

The SIU was also victorious in its year-long fight to obtain full funding for the Maritime Security Program (MSP). Threatened by across-the-board spending cuts and a glitch in the previous year’s funding, the MSP received its full $186 million for fiscal year 2014, thanks in part to the efforts of the SIU. The MSP ensures 60 militarily useful, American-crewed, U.S.-flag ships are in service and available to U.S. armed forces in times of conflict or emergency and results in many Seafarer jobs.

 

Some political battles, however, have not yet been settled. A proposal to dismantle the nation’s Food for Peace program was still making its way through Congress as the year came to a close. The SIU teamed with its congressional allies to fight back against the measure and entered 2014 determined to ensure Food for Peace – and the thousands of American jobs tied to it – remain intact.

 

Paul Hall Center

 

The union-affiliated Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education also had a busy 2013.

 

The campus’ multi-stage restoration project took a big step forward with the unveiling of the school’s waterfront park. The park’s scenic lighthouse highlighted a nearby brick walkway that began filling up with engraved bricks donated by Seafarers and loved ones to commemorate those they cared about.

 

The school also announced its decision to expand its AB-to- Mate program to the general membership in 2013, giving Seafarers yet another opportunity to advance their careers.

 

Saying Goodbye

 

The SIU said goodbye to several friends and allies who passed away in 2013. They included: SIU Port Agent Jack Allen, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), former ILA President Richard Hughes and former MEBA President Jesse Calhoon.

 

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