In Peace and War
The safety of SIU crews is always our absolute top priority. With that in mind, the union is actively participating in high-level, recurring discussions involving our military leaders, vessel operators, fellow maritime unions and others – including the International Transport Workers’ Federation – who are diligently working to help ensure the wellbeing of mariners (and ships) transiting the Red Sea, the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, and the Gulf of Aden.
The formal launch of Operation Prosperity Guardian in late December signaled a new level of commitment from the U.S. and our allies to protect commercial shipping in those areas. As you undoubtedly know, Houthis have attacked multiple vessels there with drones and missiles, which led to the United States redesignating the Yemen-based rebels as a global terrorist group.
It is, to say the least, a volatile and fluid situation. But we are staying in touch with our crews who sail in that region, and at press time we are finalizing agreements that compensate them for working in dangerous areas. Financial considerations are incidental, though, compared to our members’ safety, and on that point we are confident in the plans and actions of our military personnel, working cooperatively with the U.S. Merchant Marine.
I appreciate our members’ dedication as well as that of our military and our allies. Stay tuned.
Apply for Scholarships
On a much lighter note, the Seafarers Health and Benefits Plan (SHBP) has taken steps to make it easier to apply for their 2024 scholarships, available to members and dependents. As explained elsewhere in this edition, it’s now relatively easy to handle the vast majority of the process online, and there is also a dedicated email address to help answer questions and move things along.
This is a great benefit and I encourage everyone to give it a look, whether for yourself or a family member or friend.
Recruiting and Manpower
Though hardly a month goes by without my mentioning the shipboard manpower situation, I want to assure Seafarers that the union isn’t letting up at all when it comes to recruiting and retention. We are working with the vessel operators – and we are making progress, resolving issues along the way.
Some of the language in the most recent Defense bill will aid in this endeavor, as it’ll more efficiently (and consistent with international standards) help us train new ABs. It’ll also help Seafarers accumulate enough sea time to upgrade your ratings.
As you know, the manpower challenges aren’t unique to our industry or our union. We take them seriously and although there’s not a quick fix, we’re getting there.
Remembering an All-Time Great
It’s no exaggeration to say I could write a book about SIU President Emeritus Mike Sacco, so there’s no way to fully do justice to his career in just a few sentences, paragraphs or pages. But, having worked with Mike for decades, I want Seafarers to know how much he cared about you and how much he loved this union.
Mike was a fantastic negotiator, but he never compromised on the things that mattered most to our members. He believed in you, he was proud of you, and he truly did everything reasonably possible to look out for Seafarers, pensioners and your families.
Mike was easy to work for in the sense that he was inspirational and he set such a tremendous example by working as hard or harder than the rest of us. Like pretty much any great boss, he could be challenging, too – but only because he demanded our best. Mike believed in second chances and he didn’t expect perfection, but he wasn’t someone who listened to excuses. If we made a mistake, he wanted it fixed and he always kept us looking forward, devoting every resource to the SIU’s health and the sustainability of our industry.
I am grateful to have spent so much time with him, and I hope that you’ll read every word of his coverage in this edition of the LOG. We will all miss him, but his energy, vision and leadership will live on through all of us in his SIU family.