Sunday, July 22, 2012

BLOOD ON BROWN WATER  CH.2, Installment 1



  "America's "work boat men"generally work a "two watch system"meaning that there are only enough crewmen to operate the vessel around the clock divided into two watches. This means that each crewman , whether a licensed "officer" or unlicensed "rating" must cover 12 hours of vessel operation during each 24 hour period. Deep sea mariners by international convention work four hours on and eight hours off in a three- watch system. This is also the true of many foreign nations in their domestic or cabotage trades, including many third-world nations. By contrast most working mariners in the American towing industry work six hours on and six hours off around the clock for tours of duty that last two to four weeks but often last much longer.

 Not without good reason, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has called for introducing scientifically based hours of work regulations as a "most wanted"improvement in maritime safety for over twenty years. To understand what years of such working hours and conditions can do to a man, we introduce you to Captain Antoine Collins Verret from the pages of a widely read report from the National Mariner's Association."

 The relevant report being "Report to Congress: abuse of Mariners Under the Two Watch System NMA Rpt# R 370. 176 pages $36.20 non member price. Hyperlink to NMA reports below:

Editor note: In the NMA's "Second Request to Congress" they have not yet asked for abolition of the two watch system. Instead in the "Second Request", and in their report # R-370 they detail how management has over the years removed from the crews certain positions that have shrunk total crew size and turned the 12 hour maximum work day into a minimum 12 hour day. The NMA seeks the restoration of those positions and a change in the two watch system to allow for the rest periods mandated by international convention for all other mariners. Such requests taken directly to the Coast Guard so that the issue could simply be addressed through regulation have been dismissed as a "labor management dispute". However most of the affected mariners are not union members and have no representation. There simply is no "labor management dispute" over working hours and conditions. With the affected crews being employees at will, and the Coast Guard unwilling to enforce the existing regulations against anyone but the captain of the vessel (also an employee at will); the working hours and conditions are whatever management chooses to impose.

EDITORIAL OPINION: The evidence is mounting that the two watch system as presently administered by commercial work boat management  presents a public safety issue. The various subcommittees of Congress which always hear the management side of any issue and find unorganized labor voices difficult to find, has often watered down needed regulation at the behest of industry lobbies. But because of a number of high profile bridge accidents involving fatigue impaired mariners, and the release of an official Coast Guard report affirming chronic fatigue is induced by the two watch system as presently practiced; the "Doctor's Caucus" of Congress and individual members of both parties from seemingly non maritime states that have have experienced bridge accidents and, are aware of and interested in the issues. 

 This is probably management's last chance to preserve the highly profitable two watch system before Congress imposes the internationally recognized Three Watch system. Management should actually second the NMA's Second request, bite the bullet and restore the average of two very specific crew positions and research a new split for the 12 hour MAXIMUM work day already mandated by present, but ineffectively enforced regulations.

To be continued

No comments:

Post a Comment