SIU Stalwart Bill Eglinton Dies at 63

 

October 2014

 

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Friends and colleagues could be forgiven if they didn’t realize Bill Eglinton retired seven years ago.

 

Like some others who’ve devoted their working lives to the maritime industry, Eglinton largely remained on the job even after officially retiring, in 2007. Following a long career at the SIU-affiliated Paul Hall Center in Piney Point, Maryland, he spent considerable time in recent years continuing service on key domestic and international maritime groups, where he protected mariners’ rights. He still attended staff and membership meetings and other functions at the school, too.

 

Eglinton died unexpectedly on Sept. 16 in Baltimore, at age 63. To the surprise of no one who knew him, he was in the city for maritime meetings, representing both the SIU and the Paul Hall Center.

 

Eglinton’s passing spurred emotional reactions throughout the SIU family, many of which manifested themselves on Facebook, where Bill was a regular contributor. Hundreds of posts (maybe more) from Seafarers, retirees, former members, families and friends recalled his pleasant and outgoing demeanor, effective work, and dedication to his family.

 

“Bill influenced just about everybody who’s sailing today,” said SIU Secretary- Treasurer David Heindel. “He was always focused on the safety and welfare of seafarers and on helping them advance their skills. Internationally, he was always there to make sure the unlicensed guys had a voice. Bill always carried the SIU torch wherever he went, and he was just as important as anyone else in this organization.

 

“He was a big influence on me,” Heindel added. “He was always very positive, and I had all the respect in the world for him because of the balance he had between work and family. This is a tremendous loss.”

 

A native of Claremont, New Hampshire, Eglinton graduated from the Calhoon MEBA Engineering School in 1972 and later earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland in 1983. He was an instructor at the Paul Hall Center (then known only as the Seafarers Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship) from 1973-1980 and served as the school’s director of training until 2007.

 

Beginning in 1991, he regularly served as a member of American delegations to the International Maritime Organization in London. He was appointed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to serve on the Coast Guard’s Maritime and Homeland Security task group.

 

A retired member of the U.S. Naval Reserves, Eglinton also continued serving on working groups with the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and the Coast Guard’s National Maritime Security Advisory Committee and (separately) Merchant Marine Personnel Advisory Committee (MERPAC), among other endeavors. The week before his death, he was honored for 20 years of service with MERPAC, including time as its chairman.

 

Paul Hall Center Vice President Don Nolan said Eglinton played a major role in “building the foundation of the engine department here at the school. He was one of the original engine room instructors way back when, and he actually built the first engine room simulator here.”

 

Nolan also recalled Eglinton’s “great attitude and dedication. I have nothing but good things to say about Bill. His work with the IMO and MERPAC and all those other acronyms was also very important to us, and his commitment was incredible. I’d never heard of anybody having to give up their seat after 20 years because of time served, but that’s what just happened at MERPAC. It’s a tribute to Bill’s work ethic and how much he cared about mariners.”

 

Like Nolan and Heindel, SIU Manpower Director Bart Rogers, based in Piney Point, worked with Eglinton for decades.

 

“He was a kind man,” Rogers recalled. “He gave his whole life to the school and the union – he really did. I was at MERPAC with him last week and it was a reminder of how revered and respected he was in those circles. The admirals would turn to him for help.”

 

J.C. Wiegman, Eglinton’s successor as director of training in Piney Point, stated, “I worked with Bill for over 25 years and he was a unique individual who wore many hats, including as a member of the U.S. delegation to the IMO. He was abreast of all the changes that occurred with the STCW convention, and he was truly dedicated to the training of mariners. Bill always gave me information ahead of time so we could stay ahead of the (maritime) conventions. He was the pipeline for the issues that were being presented. I will miss him.”

 

Those most familiar with Eglinton’s work at the school rattled off long lists of his accomplishments in Piney Point. For instance, he played a vital role in the school obtaining degree-granting status (associate’s degrees in nautical science and marine engineering, respectively). He also developed or assisted in putting together the center’s curriculums for LNG ships, welding, refrigeration, diesel and third assistant engineer, among others.

 

More broadly, Eglinton proved invaluable to the school and the SIU as the STCW convention profoundly changed training requirements for U.S. mariners, first with the 1995 amendments and, currently, under the Manila amendments that are still being implemented.

 

In that vein, Heindel pointed out it was Eglinton who primarily developed the union’s training record book (TRB) in the mid-1990s, “which continues to serve our Seafarers very well.” It became a model for other organizations and an important tool to help members document skills as the industry gradually placed less emphasis on traditional Coast Guard testing and more on practical demonstrations.

 

For his part, Eglinton remained a teacher at heart. When he retired, he said, “My most cherished memories are from teaching. I truly loved it. Watching students suddenly get that ‘Bingo! I got it!’ look on their faces cannot be replaced by any other line of work.”

 

Survivors include his wife, Sharon; three children; seven grandchildren and a sister.

 

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