BLOOD ON BROWN WATER
LAST MESSAGE FROM THE ALAMO
America's work boat crews are aging and not being replaced. The same is true for their few labor leaders. In this installment of our serial presentation the leaders ask for your help in influencing Congress to act to save this work force not just for the sake of the mariners, but for the security of the nation.
The Last Message from The Alamo
The National Mariners Association (NMA) is not a union, rather it is a professional association of career mariners that studies safety issues and publishes reports to improve the safety, health and welfare of merchant mariners. The association also advocates at times for action based on its reports. It is neither a union nor a lobby but is the only independent voice of the 126,000 mariners presently laboring under third-world conditions to bring America its heating oil, gasoline, grain, jet fuel and countless other bulk and non time sensitive commodities. These are also the merchant mariners who move America's oversized objects on our internal waterways and keep them off of our highways. Among the more sensitive and important objects these dedicated maritime professionals have ever moved is every moon
rocket and engine ever constructed by NASA. They also moved entire companies of tanks and armored vehicles from inland military installations to embarkation points for foreign deployment at New Orleans and other ports of embarkation. What they do is important but rather obviously unappreciated by their employers or the government.
Over the years, the National Mariners Association published more than 230 reports documenting deplorable working conditions, occupational health issues, and unfairness in the Coast Guard's administration of this large segment of the American Merchant Marine. NMA has delivered and will continue to deliver our reports to the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Directorate, the Inspectors General of the Departments of Transportation and Homeland Security, and to various Coast Guard rulemaking dockets and with, far too few exceptions, received nothing more than a deaf ear and a blind eye. We have delivered our reports and testified before Congress with only moderately better results. Often when the Congress does act and the bill writing begins the vessel owners and their trade organizations show up,
claim to speak for all their employees, and succeed at watering down the provisions of new legislation.
The Coast Guard then is often subjected to similar pressures from vessel owners to water down
enforcement.. When this happens all that NMA has on its side is the truth as documented in our well prepared published reports. We have no political campaign money to distribute, no entertainment budget, no professional lobbyist, and no permanent presence in Washington
DC. There has never been an effective counterweight to the influence of the owner management trade organizations determination to maintain the status quo and improve the bottom line even at the expense of their own mariners. One of our latest reports is titled “Report to Congress: Abuse of Mariners Under the Two-Watch System.”(1) Armed with the truth contained in this report we have again asked Congress to grant some relief to our mariners. This time however we are attempting to assure that there will be some counter
weight to the owners’ demands. We don't normally use the type of language found in this work nor do our reports have titles like “BLOOD ON BROWN WATER.” We are reaching for the American public for support. The officers of our association are aging. Our mariner rank and file members are mostly “at will employees,” who must keep their membership in our organization secret or risk dismissal. Our officers are largely retired officers who survived maritime operational careers and began at the time when the operating companies passed out of the hands of their original captain entrepreneurs to professional
managers with MBA degrees and without experience on a vessel and without empathy for working men and women who grew up in the boat business. [(1)NMA Report #R-370, Revision 4.]
There are no more like us in any pipeline since the Coast Guard has started to act as an instructor approval authority. Today to teach a Coast Guard-approved course not only must the course content be approved by the Coast Guard but also must the instructor and they favor active Merchant Marine Officers rendering much of the vocational technical instructor corps part time and subject to ship owner discipline. By producing “BLOOD ON BROWN WATER” we hope to enlist the aid and oversight of the American people and the “Doctors Caucus” in Congress. There are more medical doctors in the U.S. Congress now than ever before. There is a greater need for reform of existing and passage of new needed regulations. than ever before. If anyone in Congress can be beyond the reach of ship owner influence and understand our safety and health issues we believe that it may be the "Doctors Caucus" who we are attempting to reach in the hope that they can enlighten the maritime subcommittees where any relief bills will be crafted. But, we also need the help of the general population of Americans. We appeal to you now to assert your interest in safe and reliable water transport conducted by healthy American crews helping to insure your timely and efficient delivery of products and safety when on or near the water. Below is a copy of our latest request to Congress. Please note that we aren't even asking for the eight-hour work day that all
other American workers and other mariners enjoy, just effective enforcement of a 12 hour work day. We hope that our book has provided you with a basic understanding of the plight of our mariners and a bit of a look inside our typical reports without many of the technicalities that we feel compelled to provide when drafting a report to Congress. To the American people from this, quite possibly our last stand before circumstances and age remove us from the scene, we ask that you come to the support of our mariners.