When a large number of civilian-crewed military support ships activated early last month, our members and port officials stepped up and smoothly filled the jobs on all three coasts. It’s a given that the SIU always answers the call, but when you combine a large-scale activation with a short deadline, there are bound to be challenges. I’m proud of the way our members in the halls and our people behind the counters came through under pressure, though I’m not surprised.
These are exciting times for our union, filled with opportunities, positive developments and of course the never-ending challenges. We have opportunities for growth and job security because of a combination of things, not the least of which is the professionalism and reliability of rank-and-file Seafarers. Some of you have heard me say this before, but when the union goes to bat for our industry, you are the first people we highlight. Your dedication and dependability help give shipowners the confidence to order new tonnage, like the ConRo and tugboat we’re spotlighting in this edition of the LOG. Your patriotism lets our military leaders know that we’ll be ready when the balloon goes up.
Those opportunities for a bright future also require ongoing political action, not just on Capitol Hill but at every level of government. Our industry is heavily regulated, which means we constantly have to educate lawmakers about the U.S. Merchant Marine. And of course, you all know about the bogus attacks on the Jones Act, which is a full-time battle. File that one under “never-ending challenge,” but be assured we are winning, while not taking anything for granted.
We don’t always publicize our political undertakings, but we’ve also been working to help expand the fleet of militarily useful U.S.-flag vessels, and I’m optimistic about those efforts. Stay tuned.
Another huge key to our future is the Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education, the SIU-affiliated school based in Piney Point, Maryland. I spend a lot of time at the school and keep a close eye on the steady – and sometimes spectacular – improvements there. The cutting-edge training available in Piney Point is right up there with political action in terms of importance to us.
Something else I appreciate about visiting the school is the opportunity to regularly meet Seafarers. Whether we’re discussing concerns or goals, or maybe just reminiscing, I enjoy working with and getting to know our SIU brothers and sisters. (At certain times of year, we’ve been known to talk a little football, too.)
These are the same members who earn safety awards like the ones reported in this issue. They’re the same Seafarers who donate their time to help others, also as featured this month. In short, they – you – are the kind of people who make it easy to stay enthused about working hard to help ensure ongoing success for the SIU.
Tensions Still High
I began last month’s message with a note about controversial attacks on two foreign-flag tankers in the Gulf of Oman. I’ll end this month’s column with a reminder that the international maritime community is still on alert following a reported alleged incident from July 10 in which armed Iranian boats unsuccessfully attempted to seize a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf.
The tanker reportedly was crossing into the Strait of Hormuz area when it was approached by boats from the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. A British Navy ship effectively intervened.
As it becomes harder to call these incidents isolated, I know our crews aboard American-flag ships will take every precaution in that part of the world and all over the globe.