Thursday, June 19, 2014



A Few Words From Our Resident Legal Scholar:

File:Brandeisl.jpg  Our Chief Legal Correspondent the late Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1916-1939) Louis Brandeis. Its a rather long story, we're sure you're wondering, if new to the blog, how we got a famous dead guy to work for us. Click here and scroll down to his image to read the story: ADMIRALTY LAW SECTION 

  "I didn't write the diatribe below but I can understand the emotions of the staffer who did. Evidence is often developed at terrible costs and forms an all important system of markers on the way to Precedent. Precedent is a terrible thing to waste."     

 It was only last Sunday that we again linked you to the on line book "BLOOD ON BROWN WATER" by the National Mariner's Association (NMA) , a chronicle of the numerous safety regulatory proposals that the NMA had previously presented to the Coast Guard and then the Congress. The issues included, but were not limited to, excessive work hours on the two watch system that has become common on commercial vessels under 1600 gross tons admeasurement, potable water standards for smaller commercial vessels, the health hazards of second hand smoke for mariners, noise levels, the career wrecking workings of the "medical NAVIC" (Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular, the Coast Guard's equivalent of law making by executive order) and a variety of other safety related issues. We have reported on many of these issues in these pages. We were alerted by letter from Capt. Richard Block, Secretary of the NMA on Tuesday June 17, 2014 that the association would conduct its last day of business on June 30, 2014 regardless of the status of the latest request for redress of grievance. Simply, the NMA, the only voice for the non union American merchant mariner, typically serving in the "work boat trades" will be no more.

 Approximately 124,000 merchant mariners will have no official voice as of June 30, 2014 before the Federal Regulators and Congress. However in the nearly 15 years of the organization's existence , despite some notable successes, basically the government ignored the hazardous work environment of America's work boat industries, and the voice of the NMA. When the Coast Guard wasn't busy ignoring the NMA it was usually quietly, but diligently vilifying the organization. That is not to say that in the over 15 years the organization existed that it accomplished nothing. The NMA took up the individual cases of many non union merchant mariners thrown under a bus by operation of the Coast Guards mariner credentialing system,or administrative law judge system. For the individuals helped at no charge the end of the NMA will be a psychological blow. With no union to look out for them, and now no professional organization, a lot of mariners are going to be feeling a bit exposed. In some of these individual assistance cases the NMA help set important precedent in the admiralty courts that may help injured seamen far into the future. Probably the longest lasting legacy of the NMA will be their numbered reports which should be of much lasting value to maritime personal injury lawyers far into the future, and to legislators attempting to improve the dangerous lot of America's work boat crews. The report collection may also aid safety professionals, and maritime historians. 

 The NMA was originally formed by the AFL-CIO and four of the seagoing merchant marine unions as a non union professional association designed to focus on contentious safety issues unique to the "work boat trades" such as towing, off shore oil and mineral industry support, dredging and marine construction , ferry and excursion boat operations. On July 30, 2003 the AFL -CIO and the maritime unions cut the NMA loose as a non collective bargaining organization to sink or swim on its own. It stayed afloat for over 9 years but an aging board and executive roster coupled with an empty purse has forced the orderly closure of the organization. The board by the way didn't exactly "age in place" the board and all executives have always been characterized by retirees. The lengths that industry went to to suppress any open participation by actual working crew members was incredible and often of dubious legality to put it kindly. The Coast Guard of course would offer no relief to merchant seamen whose rights under the labor laws or the constitution were being violated by their employers. The work boat trades are a rough trade and they are going to be harder on the American seaman with the NMA off the scene.

 What we want to see here at American Admiralty Books is the preservation and continued distribution and availability of the hundreds of often book length numbered reports of the National Mariner's Association. These have helped to generate important admiralty precedent, form parts of legislative and regulatory histories, and document historic and still relevant working conditions across the industry. We pledge our best efforts to insure that this collection does not disappear or become forgotten. Some of the shorter reports are available to read on line and the longer ones can still be ordered from the NMA web site:
for the time being.  We will keep you informed


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