Six individuals recently arrived at the summits of their respective maritime careers to date when they graduated from the Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education’s (PHC) Steward Recertification Course.
A three-week in-residence curriculum at the center’s Piney Point, Md.,-based campus, the class is billed as highest level of training available to SIU members who sail in the steward department. It encompasses hands-on training, classroom instruction and orientation meetings with representatives from different departments of the SIU and Seafarers Plans. Course modules include ServeSafe, which focuses on safe and sanitary galley operations; first aid and CPR; galley operations; firefighting; leadership and management skills; computer training; nutrition; and communications.
Graduating from the class and receiving their recertification credentials April 7 during the union’s monthly membership meeting in Piney Point were Earl Castain, Benjamin Ines, Zlatko Lucic, Christina Mateer, Derrick Moore and Charles Washington. In keeping with a long-standing tradition, each of the new recertified stewards addressed union officials, fellow upgraders, apprentices and guests who attended the meeting.
Collectively, the new recertified stewards expressed their gratitude for the opportunities they have been afforded to enhance their skills, improve their lives and those of their families, and become better shipmates to their brothers and sisters aboard SIU-contracted vessels. In addition, each thanked the union leadership for its continued support, and the PHC vocational and hotel staffs for their excellent instruction and accommodations, respectively. Finally, they acknowledged a host of other individuals who played key roles in their successes.
Lucic was the first to address the audience. A Seafarer since 2004, he sails out of the port of Wilmington, Calif., and has upgraded his skills at the Southern Maryland campus on four previous occasions.
“I’ve been sailing now for almost 12 years and it’s been a great time,” Lucic told those in attendance. “I ship out of the port of Los Angeles as a chief steward … and when I get back, I’ll be sailing as a recertified chief steward.”
Reflecting on the impact the SIU has had on his life since he came aboard, he said it had been extremely noteworthy. “The union has been very important to me because it has enabled me to realize my lifelong dream that I have had since I was a kid,” he noted. “That dream was to travel the world.”
After expressing his appreciation to the union leadership and the school’s instructors for his steward recertification experience, Lucic sent out a special thanks to Chef Paul Gilrod. “He has been very instrumental in my development … without him, I wouldn’t be here today.”
Lucic ended his remarks by urging the trainees to take full advantage of the opportunity that each of them has been afforded to be successful. “Work hard, study harder and one day you will be standing where I am now,” he said.
Castain, who sails out of the port of Piney Point, was the next to take the podium. A native of New Orleans, he was a member of PHC Apprentice Class 422. Over the years, he has returned to the maritime training center on numerous occasions to enhance his skills.
“I’ve been part of the SIU for 26 years,” said Castain, who donned the union colors in 1987 when he was 23 years of age. “It’s been a great career to date” he continued. “I have traveled all over the world and had the opportunity to meet a lot of good people.”
Castain then congratulated his classmates on their respective achievements and thanked union officials for “all that they do behind the scenes” on behalf of the rank-and-file membership. “I want to give a special thanks to President (Mike) Sacco and other officials at headquarters for everything they do for us,” he said.
Castain concluded by urging the trainees to always do their best when they are at sea. “I encourage you to work hard, ask questions and remember safety first,” he said.
“I’m very happy and grateful to the SIU for this opportunity,” said Ines. “Being selected for this recertification class is a big honor for me and my family.
“It ensures my continuing professional development and expands my qualifications to handle greater responsibilities,” continued the Philippines-born mariner, who sails out of the port of Oakland, Calif. “This means I can live up to the expectations of my employer, and I owe it all to the SIU.”
Ines told the audience he joined the union in 1995. “Since then, the SIU has provided me the opportunity to perform various duties and participate in many training programs,” said Ines, who has upgraded at Piney Point four times. “These programs have been responsible for my professional growth. Because of them, I was able to qualify for and handle various duties and responsibilities aboard ship. These programs have also ensured my continuous employment … and at the same time enabled me to provide for my family needs.”
Ines said he became a chief steward because the SIU supported him all the way. “It (the SIU) kept opening doors for further professional development and I became a chief steward because of those opportunities,” he said. “Now I am in the recertification class …. I am very proud that I am one of the few who gained admission.
“It took five years, but the wait was well worth it,” he said. “I’m sure that the training I received will allow me to be of service for years to come.”
Ines advised the trainees to study hard while they were undergoing their training and to learn from their instructors. “Always work as a team,” he concluded.
Moore hails from Norfolk, Va., and is home-ported in Jacksonville, Fla.
“I started shipping with the SIU in 1988 out of the port of Norfolk as a wiper,” he told union officials, his brothers and sisters and guests. “That lasted for one year.… The following year, I switched over to the steward department and the rest is history.”
After finding his niche working in the steward department, Moore said it was full steam ahead preparing for a productive career.
“After I got off of my first ship as an SA, I came here to Piney Point to upgrade my skills,” he said. That initial visit to the maritime training center was followed by a host of others since. On each occasion, Moore was preparing himself to negotiate the steward department’s ultimate hurdle: recertification.
“The steward recertification course has been very informative for me,” Moore said. “It has given me the knowledge I need to go on a ship and effectively represent my fellow shipmates as well as the union.”
After reminding those present about the importance of the Seafarers Political Action Donation (SPAD), he urged them to continue supporting it. “We need contributions to SPAD so our officials can continue fighting for us,” he said.
Moore then thanked the union’s leadership for being afforded the opportunity to attend the recertification class. He sent special recognition to Piney Point Port Agent Pat Vandegrift, and PHC Chefs John Hetmanski and John Dobson for the knowledge they collectively imparted on him. Moore also gave shout outs to officials and staffers at the ports of Norfolk and Jacksonville for the support and guidance they rendered him throughout his career.
“The best advice I can give to the trainees and anyone else coming into this industry is to learn your jobs inside out,” Moore said in his concluding remarks. “Also, if you plan on living long, put some money aside for your pensions and your 401Ks … you will need it.”
“I’ve been sailing since 1990,” said Washington upon taking the podium. The Houston-born mariner, who sails out of the port of Mobile, started his seafaring career aboard vessels in the cruise industry. “I started out dumping trash on Saturdays aboard the Independence and Constitution,” Washington told those in attendance. “I slowly worked my way up the ladder to get where I am today.
“I was not in a training program so it took me longer to get where I wanted to go,” he continued. “I worked on cruise ships until 1999 and then came to Piney Point to upgrade my skills.” His initial trip to Piney Point would pave the way for things to come; his current stint at the school marked the seventh time he has upgraded at the maritime institution.
Washington’s career has been anything but monotonous. “I’ve been all over the world during my career,” he said. “It would be easier to tell you where I haven’t been rather than tell you where I have been.
“I’ve been aboard vessels that were boarded by pirates in Bangladesh and Angola,” he continued. “It’s been an exciting career to say the least and the union has been good to me … it has kept me employed.”
Turning his attention to his union brothers and sisters, Washington said they already were versed on what working in the maritime industry entails. “You upgraders already know what this career is all about,” he said, “so to the trainees, it’s all in your hands for the taking. Work hard and leave your attitudes at home. Be good shipmates and learn, learn, learn.”
Washington concluded by thanking the union leadership and the school’s vocational staff for making his upgrade training a positive experience which will remain with him.
Mateer was the final speaker to address the audience. She sails out of the port of Wilmington, Calif., and donned the union colors in 1988.
“I am very grateful to the union for allowing me this opportunity to finally become a recertified chief steward,” Mateer said. “The class was a very rewarding and excellent experience for me.” She said she learned a great deal about union contracts and how they are negotiated; about new mariner credentialing requirements; and the political activities of the union and how they affect the entire membership.
A native of Philadelphia, Mateer has upgraded at the PHC on four previous occasions. “This is my 16th year in the union,” she said. “And during those 16 years, I have traveled all over the world, met some amazing people and explored many intriguing places along the way.”
Addressing the trainees, Mateer said, “When you go out on the ship, remember to keep an open mind, have a good attitude, work hard and try to learn as much as you can from your union brothers and sisters.”
She offered similar advice to all members of the steward department, suggesting “always try to educate yourselves both on and off the ships. Try to learn new recipes, especially healthy ones. Always remember, you are never too old to learn something new.”
Mateer concluded by thanking the union, her family members and friends for “always supporting me along my journey to get where I am today.”