Wednesday, March 28, 2012

MERCHANT MARINE INTEREST (updated: 11/25/2015)

American Admiralty Books Safety & Privacy Policies   EU VISITORS WARNING POSSIBLE COOKIES AHEAD

Too many American Seamen Today are Working in Third World like Conditions
 Richard Henry Dana wrote Two Years Before The Mast describing his experiences aboard an American commercial vessel in the nineteenth century.  His vivid descriptions of squalid shipboard conditions, brutal work hours, bad food, and cruel shipboard discipline launched a maritime law reform movement that lasted into the third decade of the twentieth century. Today the American flag international transport merchant fleet has shrunk to about two hundred vessels , mostly engaged in government cargo operations and naval support.  These ships are heavily unionized and the merchant mariners generally enjoy working conditions, quarters, and food far superior to the legal minimums provided for in law as a result of union contracts. Unfortunately, while things in the international large transport fleet have improved, for the remaining seamen, even while the fleet has shrunk in response to foreign competition, the same is not true in the one growth sector of the American Merchant Marine.

Editor's note: The National Mariner's Association Ceased Active Operations and Publications a little over a year ago. Their numbered reports will soon be available through the Library of Congress. None of the abuses complained of the mentioned report in this post have yet been addressed by Congress. There is no other active lobby for non union seamen that we are aware of.

 The National Mariner's Association (NMA)  has just published its second report on the abuse of 126,000 American Merchant seamen employed as the officers and crews of the vast fleet of offshore service and supply vessels that provide logistic support to our offshore oil industry, and the nation's harbor tugs.NMA members also include the crews of the towboats and barges that bring the export grain down the Mississipi and the heating oil and gasoline up by barge, as well as a wide variety of other "work boats".  It comes as a surprise to many Americans, even naval veterans who are well aware that we import by sea 66 of 77 strategic materials, to learn that America conducts more commerce by water between and among the states than between our nation and the world. The lion's share of our export coal and grain travel by river barge to tidewater for transfer to seagoing ships and export. Most of the heating oil and gasoline used in the American Midwest is refined in Baton Rouge and New Orleans from both domestic Gulf and imported foreign crude stocks and distributed inland by towboat and tank barge.Most of the jet fuel used to power the Navy and Air Force planes stationed in the Florida Panhandle is transported by tank barge from Houston area refineries. This is just the barest sample of American interstate commodities being transported by our domestic ( "Jones Act") merchant fleet, manned for the most part by U.S. Coast Guard credentialed members of the United States Merchant Marine. In these vital trades, unions are the exception, not the rule.

 According to NMA Report # R-370, Revision 4  now available through the NMA website and soon to be delivered by hand to Congress conditions in the Jones Act and offshore service fleets have degenerated to minimum 12 and 15 hour workdays, unsanitary and haphazard food preparation conditions, and the entire work force suffers from chronic fatigue where ever the "two watch system" is in place. While even third world crewmen enjoy a standard 8 hour work day under the International Convention of Standards of Training and Watch Keeping (STCW), American work boatmen are often subjected 12 to 15 hour minimum work days as a result of the two watch system exception that our nation took to the Convention. The 12 and 15 hour daily work limits were originally intended to be maximum allowed work days but management shrank the crews by eliminating certain "extra" personnel like the cooks making it impossible for the crews to actually avoid working over these limits which a two watch system imposes. More importantly, the way these long working hours are imposed , often on a six hours on / six hours off rotation what little sleep the crews get is broken and disturbed. Within the pages of the NMA report are Coast Guard study results that clearly indicate that many crewmen including pilot house personnel are so fatigued that their key cognitive skills are as impaired as someone under the influence of alcohol.

 This impaired condition of America's work boatmen has impacted more than their health, it has killed ordinary land lubbing Americans just trying to cross the bridges over America's commercially navigable inland waters.  The Queen Isabella Causeway disaster put 15 Texans in the water. There were others before and since Queen Isabella, and not all involved just automobiles, the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway at New Orleans years ago lost a passenger bus when struck by a tug and barge, and more recently in Alabama a passenger train was derailed at a bridge by an errant barge. The incidents have been wide spread geographically and separated by time but the death toll is too large to ignore. Fortunately for the work boat company managers responsible for imposing these conditions and the Coast Guard officials who have apparently been lax in enforcing working hour rules or producing the fatigue reduction regulations that Congress has asked them to produce; the maritime manslaughter law that was imposed a few years ago on a New York Ferry System , office bound manager has not been invoked ....yet.

 The new NMA report is actually the second in a series that describes and documents the horrific working conditions in this segment of the American Merchant Marine.  An earlier report NMA Report # R202, RV 5 was simply titled " Deplorable Treatment of Limited Tonnage Mariners (many work boats are under 1600 gross registered tons) was the first canary in the coal mine.  These NMA reports are well documented, accurate, and very useful to legislators, lawyers, analysts, and safety managers; but probably more than a bit technical for the average American who would simply like to get the scoop on how to avoid getting killed on their next bridge crossing. The loss of lives is not the only loss being imposed on America by the short sighted management practices of America's non union work boat fleets. While the fleet and available cargoes are generally expanding, the labor pool is drying up.What young person in their right mind wants to sign up for the type of working conditions described in these reports?

 We must hope that this industry doesn't disappear because it is the most fuel efficient form of transport and in many states the only real competition to rail transport.  Of equal importance, and rarely recognized in even government circles, this segment of the Merchant Marine is not the "weak sister", but the heart of the system. It is the Jones Act protected activities that harbor and grow our maritime skill base between major conflicts when we suddenly have to expand from 200 international transports to 5,000 ( the estimated number for a two theater of war operation that featured a major return of forces to Europe).  Sailors and ship builders can't be produced overnight. It is our Jones Act fleets and the "second tier" shipyards that serve these fleets that keep the pool of skilled labor large enough to be expandable.  This role of domestic shipping as the critical mass of the American Merchant Marine has existed since colonial times.

 In our Merchant Marine Interest section we describe the recent history work  THE WAY OF THE SHIP which describes the history of our Merchant Marine with the domestic fleets front and center and clearly identified as the heart of the system.  Unfortunately this large but well written history does not describe the present deplorable management imposed, and Coast Guard tolerated working conditions that are destroying the system.  So a layman would have to read a large history volume and two book length technical reports to grasp what is going on and what the typical voter has at stake.  The battle is one of David and Goliath, on the side of the status quo are maritime management and their industry associations and lobbies. On the side of public safety are the much abused mariners of the out of sight and out of mind domestic fleets. What is needed is another Richard Henry Dana and another Two Years before The Mast. We need a highly entertaining and rather scary, fact based book with real page turning "infotainment" value that the general public will read. Tom Clancy, where are you?  


Saturday, March 24, 2012


SEE: OCEANOGRAPHY: CLIMATE CHANGE, NAMAZU-Blog by Vic Socotra on  Thursday March 22, 2012

 Namazu, the giant Japanese mythological catfish whose wiggling causes tsunamis and who Vic Socotra used to introduce us to the many causes and potential combinations of causes that can trigger climate change made quite a splash around the American Admiralty Books' water cooler. Meteorology has long been an examination subject on professional merchant mariner examinations. Few professionals are more weather concerned than professional mariners. Measurable climate change is already causing adjustments in U.S. Coast Guard planning and budgeting as the Coast Guard attempts to respond to the increasing need for a year round significant presence above the Arctic Circle. The Chinese, who have no Arctic coast are sending survey ships into the High Arctic because they have an interest in a shorter route for their exports to Europe. The long sought after Northwest Passage is becoming a summer reality. Climate change may not be exclusively a maritime subject, but maritime professionals are a bit like the canary in the coal mine being among the first to notice and be affected. Professional mariners are also well equipped, given the amount of technical training in meteorology spread throughout our professional culture, to discuss the subject. But climate change doesn't stop with maritime concerns. With the world's population largely concentrated in large urban centers and their core cities; changes in agricultural production could mean starvation for some.

 What Vic Socotra used the giant mythological catfish Namazu to explain was that climate change, even rapid climate change, could possibly be induced by our own green house gas emissions; but it can, and has been, induced by quite natural causes and inevitably will be again. Sun spots, orbit wobble, axis rotation irregularities, volcanic activity, solo and in combination, have in the past induced very rapid and very large climate change. This fact shouldn't stop mankind's attempts to reduce his greenhouse gas emissions, but points out the clear and present danger of focusing only on that; as if the cleaning up of our pollution somehow assures us against sudden and dramatic damaging climate change; it doesn't.Climate change could be thrust upon us overnight even in the cleanest and greenest of all possible worlds. Many web sites debate or argue for one view or another on the current climate change situation which appears to be a warming trend with green house gases from human agricultural, and industrial, and transportation activities as the favored most probable cause. But Namazu reminds us that even if we escape this particular bullet, one never knows when he will wiggle again with catastrophic results.

 We have decided to depart just a little from our exclusive maritime orientation to allow something of a dialogue between our visitors, marine professionals and "civilians" alike, on climate change. But we don't wish to revisit the on going debate over "global warming", "green house gases", "carbon emission credits" etc.. We'll call this forum the "NAMAZU SCHOOL". In the NAMAZU SCHOOL we start the discussion by mutual acceptance that climate change can occur due to both man made conditions and natural causes, and it can occur due to any combination of natural and man made causes, or by any single cause of either variety. Most importantly, since we know that a single, simple natural cause such as excessive volcanic activity can induce rapid climate change, and has induced it in the past; we assume that rapid climate change can occur in a very short time frame,and eventually will happen again. We call the dead certainty that mankind will once again, at some point, face widespread and massive climate change THE NAMAZU CERTAINTY.

To our collective, very practical, mariner minds the "NAMAZU CERTAINTY" compels the question; "what should governments, and others be doing to prepare for and and be able to mitigate against the negative effects of the NAMAZU CERTAINTY"? A major climate change on a global scale means major changes in agriculture. Those initial changes in agricultural patterns spell initial crop failures and starvation for some. This begs the question; how can agriculture be insulated from climate change? The Kraft exhibit at Disney World suggests that great quantities of fresh fruits and vegetables can be raised indoors in hydroponic "food factories", lessening urban dependence on far flung lines of supply for these food sources. Who should be responsible for encouraging this production national, regional, or municipal governments , or some combination of these? How could such production in the face of stiff traditional agricultural production competition be encouraged? How do we get such urban food safety nets on line without damaging the economics of traditional agriculture or relieving urban factory producers from the price constraints of the traditional competition. Should governments build, operate and hold in reserve such "food factories" for the eventual NAMAZU CERTAINTY emergency? How about urban or at least indoor protein production? NASA space colony studies seem to focus on aquaculture and small meat producing species like doves and rabbits, these all lend themselves to indoor production methods. Should national agricultural authorities encourage more green house type production even in areas of mild climate as a hedge against lost production when the NAMAZU CERTAINTY strikes? Frankly, when we initially put our collective minds to it, grain and other complex carbohydrate production was the stumbling block, we are unaware of production techniques for these dietary staples outside of extensive agriculture. Often in climate change, a bust for one region may be a boon for another. Perhaps the answer to a climate shift that devastates some grain producing areas is a more flexible global grain transportation net work.

 Let's not forget the more maritime consequences in this discussion. Sea levels are definitely rising at least in the short term. Port and shore line protection have to be discussed and planned for. The "hard' (breakwaters, and cement revetments) verses "soft" (barrier island and marsh construction) debates have to be considered , and again who is responsible for what? What can a state or municipal government do on its own even if the federal government fiddles while NAMAZU wiggles? We invite our visitors to think on these subjects and others in the context of the "NAMAZU CERTAINTY" and to give us your comments. On just this subject at least, we won't delete your thoughts if they are non maritime. The NAMAZU SCHOOL is a forum for a complete discussion of what we should be doing now to prepare for the sure and certain coming climate event that we use the term "NAMAZU CERTAINTY" to symbolize. Give us your thoughts starting in the comment section of this post. We will publish new posts as we develop new collective thoughts. Members of the NAMAZU SCHOOL of climate thought, believe that we should be preparing now for climate change. Lets leave the debate over whether or not it is already in progress and who or what is responsible to the politicians. Lets try to find the new mandate to give the political office holders on what to  really do about it besides "reduce green house gases", we'll just call that a good idea for one of the possible NAMAZU CERTAINTY possible causes that is in sight. The NAMAZU School of thought suggests that even a reduction in green houses gases, generally acknowledged to be a good idea, could , in conjunction with an event like extraordinary volcanic activity,result in a sudden cooling. Its time for practical planning for sudden climate change of any sort. That is the NAMAZU CERTAINTY and the NAMAZU solution. Lets get started right here on the details. Let us have your thoughts in the comment section or use the comment section to propose a guest posting.

Click below for a video on the current climate change debate

Friday, March 23, 2012


NAVAL and MERCHANT MARINE INTEREST:( Updated 11/25/2015) 
Image result for images of noaa ships  PD
It's Midnight, Do You Know Where Your Next EEZ Is?

  When my life began in 1948, the final year for all steel models, my ship master uncle's main political navigation concern was entry into a foreign nation's "territorial sea". By the time my seagoing career started in the mid 1960s there was already a growing list of considerations for maintaining "innocent passage" in an expanding zone of ocean in which adjacent coastal states claimed special rights. The world had discovered oil on the outer continental shelves (OCS) and had codified special rights over the OCS for adjacent coastal states. The latest expansion on that concept is the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The international consensus on the EEZ is that it is not dependent on the geophysical definitions associated with the OCS Convention. Some legal authorities had hoped that the EEZ concept would put a 200 mile cap on the outward expansion of adjacent coastal state's exclusive economic rights to bottom resources. But the Russians and the Chinese, just to name two powers, are busy using the EEZ concept in conjunction with the OCS geophysical concepts to claim far more than 200 miles at the expense of neighboring adjacent coastal states. For years, of all of the somewhat qualified rights of innocent passage through these expanding offshore zones of evolving particular adjacent coastal state's rights; oceanographic research was perhaps the least controversial of the internationally recognized rights of "innocent passage". This once happy state of affairs is no longer the case.

 If you are doing voyage planning for an oceanographic research ship today you have to keep in mind that what may well be "academic oceanographic research " to you, may well be considered "economic research" to certain claimants of EEZ rights, real or simply claimed. While probably no one would object to your use of a standard fathometer in an EEZ today a towed seismic array would probably be an open invitation to a boarding by naval, customs, coast guard, or natural resources authorities of the claiming state. If your ship has any other sensors that you normally operate on the high seas or other more specific authorized research areas you may be well advised to turn these off, tag the controls and log the time and position of the ship when the sensors were secured in order to avoid trouble.Unless your mission is to contest someone else's claim you probably don't want to risk trouble in a disputed zone. When in doubt we suggest that you turn off the non navigational electronics.   Here is the problem for practical voyage planning and navigation. How does your bridge team know when they are about to enter an EEZ or contested or claimed EEZ? 

 We searched books in print and several chart and map providers and could find little of use as a practical chart table reference. Moreover the situation with EEZs is in constant flux. So we suggest that the voyage planning team make up their own chart room reference during the voyage planning stage from the latest data. Fortunately, through the astute voyage planning work of a young NOAA Corps Officer we have become aware of an excellent source of electronic information that can serve the purpose of a voyage planning team. Those of you under 30 will immediately recognize this resource and those of you like me who are two days older than water and one day older than dirt will be amazed. Go to "Google Earth

At Google Earth you will find a down loadable graphic and geographic coordinate description of the world's EEZs. The data is easily converted by the cyber skilled into almost any electronic chart or navigational software. The source data is also available in "GIS" shape files for use in professional geo-referencing client software. This is not the only available reference on EEZ locations around the world's oceans but it is the best we have found so far after a wide and fairly skilled search so we thought that we'd share it with fellow navigators and voyage planners and this seemed like a good place to do it. We hope that if any of you have an equal or better resource that you will lets know via a comment as soon as possible. Good luck and unless you intend to challenge some adjacent coastal state's claims, don't cross into an EEZ without securing your non navigational sensors.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Oceanograpy: Climate Change


American Admiralty Books Safety & Privacy Policies   EU VISITORS WARNING POSSIBLE COOKIES AHEAD

(Earthquakes and tsunamis are part of the Japanese psyche. Living as they do on islands floating on the grinding of the Pacific tectonic plates, both are common occurrences. Mystical explanations helped explain the apparently random and frightening events. This image shows the giant catfish, Namazu, whose wiggling tail causes earth tremors and giant waves. Namazu is mostly kept under control by the god Kashima. But when Kashima is tired or distracted, Namazu flicks his tail and rattles the earth.)

I may have more bile than I need this morning. It is quite a remarkable thing to have a once trusty appendage suddenly collapse on you. It defies all experience, suddenly looking up from the floor. But I think it will get better. 

I hope so- it is remarkable to feel so good one moment and then be writhing in pain the next. There must be an explanation for it.  I am inclined to think it might have been the flicking of Namazu’s tail that catapulted me into this strange alternate reality. 

You heard about the tornedo in Dexter, Michigan, last week. It was horrendous, though thank God no one died. My buddy Muhammed lives in Ann Abor, not far from the epicenter of the activity. He said: “We got good hail out of it.   Dexter had a lot of damage, probable F3 Tornados.  Weather is wild here!”

It hit 75 and humid here today, what a contrast. Really awesome to see Nature at work! When the atmosphere, the ground (being mined and drilled), the thoughts of people are out of balance. Then, things get put back in balance.   The weather guy calls it physics.  Maybe it is.” He concluded with the observation that he thinks “it is Spirit at work.”

As you know, it is easy to "dis" religion. But no one I have ever seen or talked to thinks about Science when a possible Tornado approaches,  people pray.  It works.  Let's just say I was not standing on my front porch doing Physics problems 60 minutes ago.”

I was thinking the other day that hurricanes have diminished in number and intensity, even though our ability to track them has increased measurably. An early Spring here- with the usual attendant savagery of the change of season- is matched by a late and record-breaking winter in Alaska, and snows in Europe that range as far south as North Africa. 

Is it La Nina? Sunspots or the lack of them? The regular precession of the wobbling earth? 
I liked this explanation this morning, and I try on belief systems. As you know, the earth's orbit around the sun is not quite circular. The closest approach of earth to the sun is called “perihelion,” and it now occurs in January, making northern hemisphere winters slightly milder. This change in timing of perihelion is known as the precession of the equinoxes, and occurs on a period of 22,000 years. 
11,000 years ago, perihelion occurred in July, making the seasons more severe than today. 
Add in the fact that our planet is not round. Our earthly hotel has an orbit that varies on cycles of 100,000 and 400,000 years, and this affects how important the timing of perihelion is to the relative strength of the seasons. 
The combination of the 41,000 year tilt-cycle and a 22,000 year precession cycle affect the relative severity of summer and winter, and may control the growth and retreat of ice sheets. Cool summers in the northern hemisphere, where most of the earth's land mass is located, appear to allow snow and ice to persist to the next winter, allowing the development of large ice sheets over hundreds to thousands of years. 
Conversely, warmer summers shrink ice sheets by melting more ice than the amount accumulating during the winter. 
That is the Milankovitch Theory, anyway, which was thought up by a Serbian scientist named Milutin Milankovitch back in 1920, which means he does not have a dog in the current argument about Anthropomorphic Global Warming, or its cousin, Catastrophic AGW. 

The legion of things we do not understand about how climate and weather work- they are of course not the same- and whether the current theory on CO2 emissions is correct is something else. There are Greenhouse gases, of course. But what exactly is it they do? We have Dr. Mann's hockey stick graphic. How does that work with everything else?

I listened to Dr. Michael Mann flacking his new book the other day on NPR, and he spent precious little time on anything like science. Apparently he solved all this stuff a long time ago, and he has moved on mostly to policy recommendations, something that the Ivory Tower has always prided itself on. 

I am no “denier,” as the current vituperative discourse goes. Of course the climate is changing, and of course the greenhouse effect has been known for a long time. Look at the evidence: Global temperatures- to the extent that we have them without resorting to pine cones and buried logs from Siberia- have increased almost a full degree (Celsius) since 1840. 

Dr. Mann says there is a tipping point, we may have hit it already, and urgent action is required. I got an idea of what that might be in the form of a thoughtful piece by a fellow named Gary Stix. He laid it out in the pages of Scientific American this morning. He is wrestling with some heavy stuff. He is calling for immediate and massive social change. 

"Global prosperity now depends on our species' success at a totally unfamiliar assignment: to "fit" our many billions of people on this small planet, with its finite resources and finite capacity to withstand pollution. The job will be very hard and will require sustained focus…

Behavioral economics and other forward-looking disciplines in the social sciences try to grapple with weighty questions. But they have never taken on a challenge of this scale, recruiting all seven billion of us to act in unison…. In principle, species-wide alteration in basic human behaviors would be a sine qua non, but that kind of pronouncement also profoundly strains credibility in the chaos of the political sphere....How do we create new institutions with enforcement powers way beyond the current mandate of the U.N.? Could we ensure against a malevolent dictator who might abuse the power of such organizations?"

Sounds like fun, but "Whoa," I thought. “Of course not. The only inevitability in this warming or cooling globe is that the over-arching ego of the human species won’t change. The most powerful emotion is not that of reproduction, but to tell others what to do. 
Oh, BTW, Gary is not a climate scientist, according to the home page of Scientific American. His job is to: "Commission, write, and edit features, news articles and Web blogs.... His area of coverage is neuroscience. He also has frequently been the issue or section editor for special issues or reports on topics ranging from nanotechnology to obesity.”
More help from another quarter- a neurological approach to AGW. Let's get cracking, shall we?
Oh, yeah. What does the Milankovitch Theory say about future climate change? That good doctor claimed that orbital changes occur over thousands of years, and the climate system may also take thousands of years to respond to orbital forcing.

Is this urgent? Could it be that AGW actually fending off the next ice age? I dunno. 

Dr. Mann and Gary Stix seem pretty worked up about it, and I guess I am, too. I am thinking that that pesky Namazu is working up for a quiver of his tail. Maybe we should all run to the other side of the tilted earth's axis?

Copyright 2012 Vic Socotra

Click here for a video on the climate change debate, click on the return arrow in the upper left corner of the YouTube tool bar.