Progress in Piney Point


March 2015


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SIU President Michael Sacco talks about the upgrades happening at the union’s affiliated school in southern Maryland


Our union and our affiliated school in Piney Point, Maryland, both have a history of progress that I believe is a source of pride for everyone associated with the SIU.


To me, there’s never been a better example of that advancement than the current upgrades taking place at the school. We’ve reported on the project for the last few months, so you may know about the new simulators, refurbished classrooms, new claims building and other technological improvements taking place. There’s no hype here – this is a gigantic improvement for the students, instructors and staff.


Officially named the Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education, our affiliated school is really known to most as Piney Point. Those who took classes there from the late 1960s through the 1980s also may think of it as the Lundeberg School, a shortened version of its original name: the Seafarers Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship. (The Paul Hall Center still includes the Lundeberg School, as well as the Joseph Sacco Fire Fighting and Safety School.)


I think you know me as a straight shooter, and it’s in that spirit that I’ll say Piney Point was pretty much a mud hole when I first arrived there in 1968. At that time, I don’t know if anyone other than the school’s namesake could have truly envisioned the first-rate facility it would become. The transformation over these many years is almost unbelievable.


But it doesn’t happen by accident. It takes strong leadership and good people throughout the team. The man who first envisioned and pushed for the school, the late SIU President Paul Hall, provided that initial leadership. His belief in what the school could become never wavered, even if some of the people around him had doubts.


It’s the nature of any educational facility that the work is never done, and that’s probably doubly true in the maritime industry. Between the rapidly changing technology and never-ending regulations, there’s a lot to learn, and there are many hoops to jump through.


That’s why Piney Point is so crucial for us. It’s one of the most important keys to the job security of our rank-and-file members. With all the political battles we fight in Washington – and believe me, they’re also critical and can feel all-consuming at times – we can’t lose sight of Job One: providing qualified manpower for American-flag vessels on the deep seas, Great Lakes and inland waters. We simply couldn’t fulfill that mandate without Piney Point.


I’m excited about the upgrades at the school and looking forward to Seafarers enjoying the related benefits.


I’m also proud of the progress we are making with our union halls, and this is nothing new. If you think back to all the improvements we’ve made since the late 1980s, it’s remarkable. Since then, we’ve established new facilities in Alaska and Guam. We’ve made major improvements to existing halls in Wilmington, Algonac, Piney Point and Fort Lauderdale. We’ve moved to better locations in Tacoma, Oakland, New Orleans, Jacksonville, Baltimore and, most recently, Jersey City. We’re in the process of starting to build a new hall in Houston, and another top priority for us in the very near future will be Puerto Rico.


As with the current upgrades at the school, these changes are not the result of mere chance. They are the end-products of effective management and decision-making, strong support from the membership, and everyone doing their part. We’ve got that winning formula in the SIU, and while there are plenty of challenges currently facing our industry, I know we’ll continue to survive and flourish.



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