7 Bosuns Complete Recertification in Piney Point


September 2014


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The most recent class of bosuns who returned to the Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education for recertification shared plenty in common with previous classes. As they approached the podium to say a few words about their experiences with the recertification process Aug. 4, some of the bosuns no doubt felt a similar public-speaking trepidation that previous classes felt on that very spot. Nevertheless, the upgraders delivered inspiring speeches to the SIU officials, members and apprentices in attendance at the membership meeting in Piney Point, Maryland.


This class of seven Seafarers said they bonded as brothers while at Piney Point. While they learned important information from their instructors to take back to their fellow mariners at sea, they also learned from each other. They are Allan Oyao, Greg Jackson, Jose F. Castillo, Laurentis Colbert, Robert Arneel, Sanjay Gupta and Victor Cooper.


Throughout their three-week course schedule, the upgraders covered many topics, including safety training, international maritime conventions, conflict resolution, sexual harassment, Vessel Personnel with Designated Security Duties (VPDSD), union education, speechwriting and communication skills, and more. Some of these topics were refresher courses, but some of the information was new to the upgraders.


The course itself is considered the top deck-department curriculum available to students in Piney Point.


While each graduation speech was personal and heartfelt, there were a few common themes throughout the meeting. Thoughts of financial stability, providing for one’s family, and self-improvement were all present in the minds of the upgraders. The bosuns were all grateful to the SIU, and the Paul Hall Center staff and instructors, for providing them with these opportunities.


Meet the Bosons


Victor Cooper

First to speak was Brother Cooper, who joined the SIU in 1995. He first sailed out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and still calls Fort Lauderdale his home port.


Cooper said, “The bosun recertification class provided me with a lot of information about how the union operates, as well as training to help me become a better leader. With this knowledge, I am better prepared to answer any questions that my fellow brothers or sisters might have.”


He continued, “The knowledge I gained during my recertification will help me become a better communicator. Being bilingual, it’s important to learn how to effectively communicate with a crew [including] different nationalities.”


Next, he spoke about what being a member of the SIU had done for him. After many years of service, and investing his money wisely, Cooper said, “Today, I own my house. It’s paid for, thanks to the SIU.”


Cooper urged all SIU members to back the Seafarers Political Activity Donation (SPAD), a voluntary fund. He said the course reinforced the absolute necessity of the SIU remaining politically active to protect members’ jobs and keep the industry viable.


Finally, addressing the apprentices at the meeting, he said, “You’re in the best program in the country. You have a bright future. Ask questions, and be helpful.”


Robert Arneel

Next up to the microphone was Brother Arneel, who was celebrating his birthday. Originally sailing out of Jacksonville, Florida, Arneel still calls that area home.


He spoke about all he had learned while working towards his recertification. “I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of one-on-one instruction here at Piney Point. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m very grateful to the staff and the SIU for giving me this opportunity,” he noted.


He continued, “I’ve learned a great deal about the importance of SPAD, as well as the vacation, health and pension plans. Without SPAD, we wouldn’t be here. I will take this knowledge back to the ship with me, and be better prepared to answer questions from my brothers and sisters.”


A familiar face at the Paul Hall Center, Arneel has upgraded two other times since joining in 1991. He spoke about his experiences at the school, saying, “I’ve upgraded here at Piney Point a few times. Every time I come back, I’m amazed by all of the upgrades around the school grounds. And those new additions are wellutilized by upgraders like me and apprentices alike.”


He added, “The years I’ve spent as an SIU member have really changed my life. My home is paid for, my car is paid for, there’s food on my table and I’ve been able to save as well. All thanks to the SIU, and I’m humbled and grateful to be a member,” he said.


Turning toward the apprentices, he concluded, “Don’t miss the ship, stay calm, and be safe. Ask questions, and keep your eyes and ears open.”


Allan Oyao

Brother Oyao, hailing from the port of Anchorage, Alaska, approached the podium next. An SIU mariner since 1998, Oyao spoke of his experience at Piney Point.


“I learned a lot of very important information on a variety of topics, including the pension and vacation plans. I will take this information back to my shipmates. Overall, I’m very happy with my experience at Piney Point. I had a lot of fun, learned a lot, and enjoyed some very good food,” he said.


Oyao continued, “My life as a Seafarer started in 1998 when I was sailing as a deckhand on board SIU-contracted vessels plying the Alaska and mainland West Coast ports. I embraced seafaring in search of a better life and future for my family, as well as the adventure of travelling around the world. I have realized that the SIU has played many important roles in my life. It’s a great organization that works for the members’ job security. Having the financial stability of steady work means I can provide for my family and get my children a quality education. Had it not been for the SIU, I would not be standing here today. The SIU afforded me the opportunity to better myself through the various training and upgrading courses here at the Paul Hall Center, and I am now proud to have achieved this bosun recertification.”


He then addressed the apprentices who were in attendance. “To the trainees: I consider you a core component to the future of the SIU. Study hard, listen to your instructors, and remember, safety is always first. There is no limit to how successful you can be in this industry if you work hard.”


Jose F. Castillo

Brother Castillo, who joined the union in 1994 in Hawaii, expressed his gratitude for the knowledge he gained while at the Paul Hall Center.


“The instructors were all very informative, and I will take the knowledge I gained back to sea with me to educate my brothers and sisters. I believe that the information I gained will help me become a better leader,” Castillo said.


Castillo, who now ships from Houston, also thanked the SIU’s officials for working to protect members’ job security while boosting the U.S.-flag maritime industry as a whole.


He continued with some words of advice to the apprentices in the auditorium. “To my young brothers and sisters: Don’t give up. Learn from your instructors, and learn how to work with your classmates. When you get to sea, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Work hard, and carry your load. And don’t forget to support SPAD; it’s very important to support our union’s efforts.”


Sanjay Gupta

Brother Gupta, who has no relation to the famous medical doctor and TV personality, took the stage next. Gupta joined the SIU in 1991 in New York, though he now sails out of Tacoma, Washington. He first talked about what he had learned during his three-week stay.


“The recertification class has helped me become more knowledgeable about the SIU and its programs, including information about the pension plan and SPAD. With this new information, I can better answer questions about the union that my brothers and sisters might ask,” he said.


He then addressed the apprentices, imparting some wisdom he has gathered over his maritime career. “To the trainees: You are the future of the SIU. Study hard, learn from your instructors, be sure to ask questions, and be sure to donate to SPAD.”


Lastly, he spoke on all that he had accomplished, thanks to the SIU.


“Because of the union, I make good money and am able to support my family. I am proud to be a part of the most powerful union in America.”


Laurentis Colbert

Following up that speech was Brother Colbert. Sailing out of Norfolk, Virginia, Colbert was grateful for all that he learned while upgrading at the Paul Hall Center.


“I couldn’t have been in a better class,” he began. “We care about our union… I learned that the SIU is one big machine that requires each and every one of us to do our part. United we stand, divided we fall. We are all together as one, and I’m thankful to be a part of this great union.


“That’s why it’s important to contribute to SPAD, to ensure our job security. Be a union man, in mind and in soul.”


He continued, “My experience at Piney Point was outstanding. The school has grown so much! It is to your benefit to come to the Paul Hall Center for the advancement of your career, as well as your financial stability.”


Greg Jackson

Brother Jackson, a friend of the Seafarers LOG, was the last to address the audience. Jackson, who joined the SIU in 1980, spoke about what he learned during his trip to the Paul Hall Center.


“I have gained a lot for knowledge on how our union works and all the different people it takes to make this union great. This was my fourth time here at the Paul Hall Center, but this time I had the good fortune to be in a great recertifying class of bosuns. That made this one of my most memorable trips to the school,” he said.


Originally shipping from Mobile, Alabama, but now sailing from the Port of Baltimore, he spoke about his long history with the union, as well as being an SIU legacy.


“I was a trainee at Piney Point in 1980, and from there I started my deep sea career. I am proud to say I am an SIU member, like my father and grandfather before me. The SIU has been there for me in good times and in bad, and I am very grateful to be a part of this union.”


He added, “This has been a great journey for me, being a merchant seaman. I have seen places most people will not get the chance to visit, I’ve circled the globe several times in my life, and I’ve been to many ports of call, all thanks to the SIU. Our union has so much to offer, and I am proud to say that I am a member of the Seafarers International Union.”


He told the apprentices, “The sky is the limit for you. Stay informed, upgrade, and listen to your brothers and sisters aboard ship.”

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