Dear Governor Bryan:
On behalf of the Seafarers International Union (SIU), which has maintained a strong presence in the U.S. Virgin Islands for more than a half-century, we are perplexed by your recently announced partnership with a for-profit maritime school that charges $22,000 per year for tuition.
The SIU – which represents thousands of USVI residents via our affiliated United Industrial Workers – has an associated school in Maryland offering U.S. Coast Guard-approved courses for entry-level mariners and for experienced seafarers. The school – the Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education – is highly regarded throughout the industry and it does not charge tuition.
We provide viable career paths, and we also have immediate job openings for credentialed mariners. Our union has contracts with the vast majority of American-flag deep-sea vessel operators, plus collective bargaining agreements with several major inland tugboat companies. Those contracts, typically including excellent pay and benefits, mean ample job opportunities for Seafarers.
Additionally, graduates of our apprentice program (which is certified by the U.S. Department of Labor) are guaranteed a first job aboard a U.S.-flag vessel.
This would seem to offer a far more attractive opportunity for USVI residents than the one you publicly committed to. Our training facilities and curriculums are second to none; our school doesn’t charge tuition; and we’ve got plenty of jobs for our members.
We welcome the chance to work with you to explore training and career opportunities for our fellow citizens from the USVI.
President, Seafarers International Union