Merchant Marine Interests


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 In this section, which we are just beginning to construct, we will attempt to review the literature associated with merchant marine operations, especially the merchant marines of the United States and those of the English speaking nations. We will also pay attention to any works dealing with international trends and events recognizing that at this point in history the majority of the world's ocean trade is carried by ships of "open registries."



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THE INTERNATIONAL SAFETY MANAGEMENT SYSTEM ISM), this changes everything. ISM changes the law of limitation and extends civil liabilities and even criminal sanctions beyond the captain and into the board room. Follow the evolving developments via our series of posts and on line training at Id you want to have your existing system audited as required by law, or if you have developed issues with implementation, or simply have a question; contact our resident expert:

File:Supertanker AbQaiq.jpg
William H. Toohey III AFNI
Toohey Marine LLC
Master Unlimited
ISO 9001:2015 Lead Auditor Class
(Bureau Veritas)
ISM Lead Auditor (ABS Certified)
IMCA CMID Vessel Inspector
Vessel Compliance/Training/Safety Officer
Cell: 504-432-1958


"Open registries"  are sometimes referred to as "flags of convenience." The ships of the "open registries" display the flags of, and are registered in nations that do not require that their merchant ships be built in their nation, or be crewed by their nationals. Nations like Panama, Liberia, Singapore, Cypress, or the Marshall Islands register ships of owners of most any nationality and issue seamen's credentials and officer licenses in their merchant marine to citizens of any nation. This allows owners from affluent nations such as the United States, Great Britain, or Japan to build their merchant ships in the cheapest ship yard they are able to find on the world market, if desired, and to hire crews from nations with the lowest wage expectations. Inspection requirements for such ships rarely exceed minimal standards of the ship's own classification society and international standards of the International Maritime Organization, a maritime organization affiliated with the UN. 

 The words "United States Merchant Marine" have a legal definition. Legally the"United States Merchant Marine" is a collection of fleets and individual commercial vessels privately owned and operated by American citizens real or corporate, and manned by American citizens. The United States Merchant Marine" also is composed of the crews of such vessels and whether employed at any particular moment aboard ship or not, all of the personnel credentialed by the U.S. Coast Guard for service on board the vessels of the U.S. Merchant Marine. So a commercial tug, ferry, supply vessel, excursion boat, barge, or the more traditional ocean going cargo ship or tanker are all vessels of the U.S. Merchant Marine. By contrast a state or municipal ferry would not be a merchant marine vessel but a "public vessel." The same is true for the "merchant marine manned" Military Sealift Command transport fleet of the U.S. Navy. While the vessels are very similar to commercial ocean going freighters they are legally public vessels. The crews of most public vessels are credential holders of the U.S. Merchant Marine and their numbers count in the estimates of personnel strength of the "U.S. Merchant Marine, but while in government employ they are referred to as "civilian mariners." By law the entire "U.S. Merchant Marine" is a "naval auxiliary" in time of war and under "naval control of shipping" "merchant ships" and "merchant mariners" of the United States and most English speaking nations may come under the close control or coordination of the Chief of Naval Operations in war time or similar national emergencies, or whenever "naval control of shipping" is declared by civilian executive authority or legislative act. (click on this hyperlink for song and story of the war time English speaking merchant marines

There are many issues that affect the many different merchant marine operations of the world. To the extent that English language literature addresses these concerns we will attempt to review and evaluate the books and report to you our opinions, and our occasional recommendations and suggested readings. Books of interest to working merchant mariners are not limited to this section. For example in our treatment of the "Classics" of the Nautical Arts and Sciences which has its own page within the blog we have already covered such "classics" as Chapman's  "Piloting Seamanship and Small Boat Handling", Dutton's recently updated tract on marine navigation, and Bowditch's famed "American Practical Navigator". In describing these books under the "classics" section we explained their continuing roles in the preparation of Coast Guard occupational credential examinations. In that section we described the on going project of the Coast Guard in redeveloping their examination question base. In a related blog we described a labor organization complaint about this project and provided a hyper link to 17 pages of the National Mariner's Association's complaint documents sent to various Coast Guard officials and the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security. In this section we will take pains to describe for you the Coast Guard examination preparation guides and texts that are on the market. But our Merchant Marine Interests section is not just a technical book section aimed at professional examination preparation.

In these pages we will review works on merchant marine history, technology, and labor management issues, and law. We will also review works on marine economics, marine economic history, historically important cargos, international trade organization, and many other areas of interest to merchant mariners, naval and Coast Guard professionals who interact with them, marine terminal and port authorities, marine insurance interests, and others. Merchant marine related interests are so broad that it will be impossible to confine all of them to this section, but where our other sections contain works of particular merchant marine interest we will try to draw your attention to them here as we did above with the "classics."

 Our first book recommendation in this section deals with our domestic fleets known as the "Cabotage trade or "Jones Act Fleets". The largest number of ship like vessels in this fleet are the offshore Service vessels (OSVs).For those of you who have never seen this little known maritime activity we link you to a music video  depicting the typical vessels and scenes of this fleet.  Click on the hyperlink and when you have viewed the video click on the YouTube return arrow at the top left of the tool bar to return here.   Another Jone's Act segment with ship like vessels of considerable size are the Great lakes bulk carriers. This next hyperlink will show you photos set to music of the 2010-2011 shipping season on the Great lakes The major rivers of the United States are the transcontinental artery of maritime commerce. The towboat and barge industry today carries more cargo in a single day than all of the cargo carried by all of the steamboats in the 19th century.  Here is a video on harbor tugs:


This is a very broad interest area and it is under construction and will be for some time, please check back with us often. 
Link To An Interesting On Line Maritime Variety Magazine MARITIME JUNKIE   or

Image result for Images of Coast Guard medical evacuations
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Tara Molle

American Merchant Mariners, if injured over seas by law your ship's owners are supposed to cover your repatriation. The U.S Consulates have some back up responsibilities. In our experience these responsibilities are ignored as often as honored. More over the repatriation responsibilities don't include medical evacuation to US . There is reasonably priced medical evacuation insurance available.  

 Here is a link to one of the least expensive services we have found. This company is not a paid advertiser. We don't endorse this service and our investigation has been very limited, but this site seems like a good place to start research into medical evacuation insurance. For a mariner to insure him self or herself the annual cost appears to be under $100 per year. We have also seen such coverage through various self employment groups. This particular company started out insuring recreational divers who often travel to foreign dive resorts and will now cover yachtsmen and other mariners. Check out  

 We visited some other sites advertising this type of coverage and prices for annual membership ranged upwards from $270. Some firms sell "travel insurance" that includes repatriation expenses including medical evacuation on a per trip basis. As professional mariners and former maritime personal injury investigators we highly recommend this TYPE of coverage but necessarily any one product. If you're going to sailing about the globe professionally we urge you to check out this type of coverage. This is especially true if you are sailing on "flag of convenience" registries, but even on American flag ships all too often owners don't even live up to their minimal obligations under the law which do not include medical evacuation. The duties of the US Consulates are even less. After you have regained ambulatory status they are supposed to get you aboard a home bound US flag ship where you are expected to work for your passage. Such ships these days are few and far between and no one says what they are supposed to do for you if you are not physically able to work for your passage. 

 Avoid getting stranded as well as injured look into medical evacuation insurance and perhaps even combined with foreign health coverage insurance. Try googling "medical evacuation and repatriation insurance providers". Especially if you work on ships under a flag of convenience cover your self. There is no shortage of companies out there that will leave a mariner stranded in a foreign nation. 




UNDER CONSTRUCTION: Check Back frequently

 PD New Merchant Mariner Pass Port Style Credential

 If you are preparing for an upgrade from "ordinary seaman" to "able seaman" or from "Able Seaman" to any of the various mates, limited masters, or motorboat operator "licenses" you will probably take a "license prep course". There are many excellent sources for such courses public, private, and union. Nearly all such courses designed for working American commercial mariners attempting to advance through the ranks of the American Merchant Marine are designed to be between one and two weeks in length. There is no way anyone can expect to pass these lengthy and comprehensive professional competency exams if  such a course is the only preparation that you have.  

 Typically these courses are designed around the specific examination that the course is titled after and the instructional program assumes that the student has fulfilled the minimal service and experience requirements for the examination and has been preparings by studying appropriate materials for quite some time before signing up for the course. The focus of such course is on passing the exam. "How to instruction" is minimal and focused on the finer points of the portions of the exam requiring a minimum 90% ratio of correct answers. Such courses also focus on general strategies for multiple choice test taking and lots of practice exam exercises.

 Most licenses and AB documents are valid for multiple vessel types and a range of sizes and services so candidates approaching the upgrade exams after completing minimum service requirements may see many items of the test that they have never seen or operated, on the one or two vessels of the pertinent class they served on. While the "license prep" courses are very good at tracking the Coast Guard's typical exam questions no two tests are alike. There is a large pool of questions for each subject area of the exam and the Coast Guard pulls from this pool at random for each individual test. All applicants take the same number of questions in the same categories of questions, subject to the same minimal test score requirements but in fact no two applicants take the same test.   The best assurance of a passing score is a broad and deep knowledge of the required subjects. Such a broad and deep familiarity with a subject comes from a combination of experience and formal study.

 Most upgrade exam applicants usually obtain any number of commercially available study guides and classic books such as Chapman's, Bowditch, Dutton, The AB and Deck Officer's "Guides", etc. And, these are good and necessary. The Coast Guard in fact publishes a "reading list" and most of the exam questions are drawn from these books. So a familiarity with these books is helpful when preparing for the exam. However, Professional vocational educators know that humans tend to retain only about 10% of what they read over protracted time, 50% of what we see and hear, and about 90% of what we say and do ourselves. What we try to do in this section is to provide in one convenient location links to such free video sources of instruction in the various examination subjects as we are able to locate so that the student preparing for attendance at a "license prep" course will be able to add at no additional expense some of that "see and hear" type material that tends to increase retention to about 50%. Moreover, we suggest to those who make use of this free resource that you view each video you select several times and take notes after the first run through. By putting things in your own words and writing them out you introduce the "Say and do " function in learning and rise that 50% comprehension/retention rate to closer to 90%.

 Make early contact with the Coast Guard regional exam center or school for a more precise feel of which subjects are pertinent to your targeted exam. For example if you are applying for an inland towing vessel mate or pilot license you will be tested on navigation, but not on celestial navigation.  Inland route exams will generally not have as much "ships business and law" as blue water officer exams. The section that we are building up will have videos covering the broadest possible range of subjects. You need not pay a great deal of time looking at videos on subjects that you won't be tested on. For the time being it is up to the visitor to this section to research through the targeted school or Coast Guard regional exam center ,which subjects or which levels within the subjects are applicable for your individual needs.

 The Deck Department Credential Exam Preparation Section is under construction and like the license system and exams themselves even after "completion" will have to be periodically revised. So check back frequently. However despite still being "under construction" we now feel that the collection of videos is sufficient to be a significant help to those preparing for the exams, and so we now link you to the section. 




The training cutter Eagle anchored near Coast Guard Headquarters
  Have you ever been in a situation like like this. You have been trying to get management to update your fire extinguishers for months and they refuse. Its' time for the annual Coast Guard inspection. One day, Joe's Cut Rate Fire Extinguisher Service comes to the dock, weighs each extinguisher and fills them with an unknown white powder and seals them with a tamper indicator, tags and dates them. You strongly suspect the white powder was selected with absolutely no knowledge of the particle size relative to the venturi fitting size of the extinguishers ( one hint was that the same power was used on all the dry chemical extinguishers regardless of make or size). What do you tell the Coast Guard Inspector? If you mention your concern do you have any protection? If you fail to mention your concern do you have any liability. Well here is the law on that:

46 U.S.C. 
United States Code, 2011 Edition
Title 46 - SHIPPING
Subtitle II - Vessels and Seamen
Part B - Inspection and Regulation of Vessels
Sec. 3315 - Disclosure of defects and protection of informants
From the U.S. Government Printing Office,

§3315. Disclosure of defects and protection of informants

(a) Each individual licensed under part E of this subtitle shall assist in the inspection or examination under this part of the vessel on which the individual is serving, and shall point out defects and imperfections known to the individual in matters subject to regulations and inspection. The individual also shall make known to officials designated to enforce this part, at the earliest opportunity, any marine casualty producing serious injury to the vessel, its equipment, or individuals on the vessel.
(b) An official may not disclose the name of an individual providing information under this section, or the source of the information, to a person except a person authorized by the Secretary. An official violating this subsection is liable to disciplinary action under applicable law.
(Pub. L. 98–89, Aug. 26, 1983, 97 Stat. 516.)
Historical and Revision Notes
Revised sectionSource section (U.S. Code)
Section 3315 requires an individual holding a license issued by the Coast Guard to assist inspection authorities and to make defects and imperfections known to those authorities. Anyone licensed also has a duty to report any marine casualty producing serious injury to the vessel, its equipment, or individuals on board the vessel. These licensed individuals who have this statutorily imposed duty to disclose are also protected by prohibiting any government official from disclosing the identity or source of the information except as authorized by the Secretary.

Here is our point. Yes if you fail to inform the inspector you may well have some liability or in some cases even criminal culpability. But you better be able to quote the law about the protection of informants to him or her because our experience is that far too few Coast Guard personnel are aware of their obligation to protect you. By all means do disclose any safety concerns you have at inspections but cite your protected status early in the conversation. You might even want to have a print out handy to give the inspector. In my career I have actually had quite a number of arguments with Coast Guard personnel who believed that they were obligated to inform owners and management of disclosures by employees. Its quite the opposite but we fear this isn't a particularly stressed concept in training boarding officers, inspectors, and investigators. 

Good Luck,



Profile photo By Editor in Chief Johnas Presbyter

 We've had quite a bit of chatter on Twitter and some E mails concerning how one goes about obtaining medals and awards for American Merchant Mariners who have operated in close combat support of U.S. naval or Military Forces, especially those who served during WWII. Not long ago the Federal Government passed legislation making certain Merchant Mariners from the WWII era military veterans eligible for certain VA benefits. This has brought up the issue of military decorations and awards for such service. Many of the eligible veterans who applied for the Veteran's status received honorable discharges upon acceptance of their applications from the military authority that chartered their vessels such as the Navy or Army Transportation Corps. Many whose vesels were not on long term charter from the military but were engaged in military logistics were issued discharges from the U.S. Coast Guard. This has brought up the issue of eligibility of wounded or heroic Merchant Mariners being eligible for military decorations from the service issuing their discharge.


 We have no definitive answer to that question due to the variance in criteria for the many awards given in WWII. But we do know that throughout the war and even to this day the MAritime Administration and War Shiping organizations of the era provided a number of mariner specific awards. The most confusion seems to be surrounding the Purple Heart. Merchant Mariners wounded in WWII were, and if not yet awarded are eligible for the  Mariners Medal the criteria of which reads "The Mariners Medal is awarded to a mariner who, while serving from December 7, 1941 and July 25, 1947, was wounded or suffered physical injures as result of an act of an enemy of the United States." This is the equivalent of the better known "Purple Heart ". Any WWII mariner injured in combat is eligible. Some who actually received this medal do not know what it was for and have been applying for the Purple Heart through t he service that recently provided their discharge for Veterans Benefits purposes.  Merchant Mariners are always eligible for the decorations and awards provided by the Maritime Administration for remarkable service but are clearly not eligible for awards redundant with the equivalent Maritime Administration award. Some awards such as the Silver and Gold Life Saving Medals are awarded directly by the Coast Guard and with a bit more timeliness than similar or related Maritime Administration awards. In such cases the mariner may be denied the Maritime Administration award if it is considered redundant with the Coast Guard issued medal. In other cases where a Merchant Mariner has been issued a military discharge, and has performed actions for which a military award is appropriate and no similar award is offered by the Maritime Administration the relevant military service may make the relevant decision. Ther are no hard and fast rules for such situations that we re aware of. 


Below the greater part of the information from this Federal Register Notice is reprinted and highlighted:

A. The Merchant Marine Awards and Flags Committee Responsibilities

1. Receive nominations, through the Director, Office of Ship Operations, from any individual or entity, including individual members of the Committee, that properly addresses award evaluation criteria; and
2. Review nominations and make recommendations to the Maritime Administrator with respect to giving or loaning Merchant Marine flags to any qualifying organization and the award of any awards, medals, decorations, etc., authorized to be issued by the Maritime Administration (MARAD) by Public Law 84-759, and 46 CFR part 350.

B. Awards—The Issuance of Medals, Decorations and Citations


1. Gallant Ship Unit Citation Award may be awarded to any United States vessel or to any foreign vessel (merchant, Coast Guard, Navy, or other), crew of that ship or other individuals or organizations participating in outstanding or gallant action in marine disasters or other emergencies for the purpose of saving life or property when the following circumstances are present:
(a) The vessel itself should move to the rescue and not be simply the platform from which crew members perform a rescue operation;
(b) The operation should encompass the maneuvers of the vessel and a substantial part of the personnel;
(c) The operation should involve either the use of the lifeboats by the crew taking to the water to effect a rescue with the vessel in some danger; or the vessel itself, by reason of perilous circumstances, should be in considerable danger;
(d) The conditions should be such that danger to the vessel or the lifeboat or the crew members is present; and
(e) The operation of the ship, its equipment, and personnel should favorably reflect efficiency, discipline and expertness.
2. Merchant Marine Meritorious Service Medal may be awarded to any person serving in the U.S. Merchant Marine for meritorious act, conduct or service in line of duty when the following circumstances are present:
(a) A Master of a U.S. merchant ship (without separate action) when that vessel is granted the Gallant Ship Award;
(b) An act of heroism, bravery, devotion to duty involving extreme danger (actual or perceived);
(c) The act, if it involves lifesaving, should be generally one performed while the vessel is at sea and not in a harbor, at the dock, or otherwise idle;
(d) The act may be at sea or in port if it involves an effort directed toward saving the vessel or the cargo; and
(e) The act should be one not directly entitling the individual to other medals such as the Carnegie Medal, the Coast Guard Medal for Lifesaving, etc. Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal may be awarded to any person serving in the U.S. Merchant Marine who distinguished himself or herself by outstanding act, conduct, or valor beyond the line of duty when the following circumstances are present:
(f) Extreme peril to the life or safety of the individual attempting the rescue action;
(g) It must be considered as going beyond the call of duty;
(h) It must involve the activity of the Merchant Marine so that it is distinguished from a saving of life or property where the vessel is solely a platform from which the individual moved or upon which the individual acted; and
(i) The accomplishment or the attempt must involve human lives or something of considerable worth either actual or considered so in the mind of the individual performing the action.
3. The Mariners Medal is awarded to a mariner who, while serving from December 7, 1941 and July 25, 1947, was wounded or suffered physical injures as result of an act of an enemy of the United States.  Editor's note : This is the MErchant MArine Equivalent of the Purple Heart. 
4. For World War II mariners who sailed in various war zones: Editor's Note: These are the equivalent of the naval campaign and threater ribbons
(a) The Atlantic War Zone Medal and bar are awarded for service in the Atlantic war zone, including the North Atlantic, South Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, Barents Sea and the Greenland Sea, during the period from December 7, 1941 to November 8, 1945;
(b) The Mediterranean-Middle East War Zone Medal and bar are awarded for service in the zone including the Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea, Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean west of 80 degrees east longitude, during the period from December 7, 1941 to November 8, 1945;
(c) The Pacific War Zone Medal and bar are awarded for service in the Pacific War Zone, including the North Pacific, South Pacific and the Indian Ocean east of 80 degrees east longitude during the period from December 7, 1941 to March 2, 1946;
(d) The Merchant Marine Combat Bar is awarded to Merchant Mariners who served on a vessel which at the time of such service was attacked or damaged by an instrumentality of war from December 7, 1941 to July 25, 1947. A star is attached if the mariner was forced to abandon ship. For each additional abandonment, a star is added;
(e) The Victory Medal with bar are awarded to members of the crew of vessels who served for 30 days or more during the period from December 7, 1941 to September 3, 1945; Editor's Note: THis is the exact equivalent of the various Victory Medals issued by all of the Armed Services in WWII
(f) The Honorable Service Button is awarded to members of crews of vessels who served for 30 days during the period from December 7, 1941 to September 3, 1945; 
(g) The Merchant Marine Emblem is an identifying insignia that was issued to active Merchant Mariners for service from December 7, 1941 to July 25, 1947;
(h) The Presidential Testimonial Letter signed by President Harry S. Truman was awarded to all active Merchant Mariners of World War II; Editors note: This is not considered the equivalent of a "Presidential Unit Citation" which when issued to military units carries a ribbon bar. This is unique to the Merchanat Marine. If a merchant Mariner served on a ship that was part of a convoy , squadron, or flotilla that was awarded a "presidential Unit Citation" he or she may possibly be due the associated ribbon bar. 
(i) The Government of the Philippines authorized the Philippine Defense Medal/Ribbon and Philippine Liberation Medal to members of crews of vessels who served in Philippine Start Printed Page 29386waters. The Philippine Defense Medal is awarded to members of crews who served in Philippine waters for not less than 30 days from December 8, 1941 to June 15, 1942. The Philippine Liberation Medal is awarded to members of crews who served in Philippine waters for not less than 30 days from October 17, 1944 to September 3, 1945; and
(j) The Soviet Commemorative Medal was awarded to Merchant Mariners who participated in convoys to Murmansk during World War II  EDITOR's Note: We have no information on the current status of posthumos or delayed awards from foreign governments. 
5. Korea Service Medal and bar: For Merchant Mariners who sailed during the Korean War, the Maritime Administration has authorized the Korean Service Medal and bar to be awarded to mariners who served in the Merchant Marine in waters adjacent to Korea between June 30, 1950 and September 30, 1953.
6. Vietnam Service Medal and bar: For Merchant Mariners who sailed during the Vietnam conflict who served in the Merchant Marine at any time from July 4, 1965 to August 15, 1973 in waters adjacent to Vietnam.
7. Merchant Marine Expeditionary Medal: Established in 1990 to recognize U.S. Merchant Mariners who served on U.S.-flag ships in support of U.S. military and allied forces. This medal was first for service in Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM. The medal is also authorized for mariners who served in Operations ENDURING FREEDOM and IRAQI FREEDOM.
8. Merchant Marine Medal for Outstanding Achievement: The Merchant Marine Medal for Outstanding Achievement is an award given to mariners or other individuals making a significant contribution to the U.S. Merchant Marine or the maritime industry of the United States. The medal may be awarded by the Maritime Administrator for any activities that he/she finds to be an outstanding maritime achievement. For example, the medal may be awarded to recognize mariners or other individuals for maritime activities of a humanitarian nature. The medal also may be awarded to recognize those individuals in the maritime industry and educational community for their outstanding achievements and contributions to the U.S. Merchant Marine or the maritime industry of the United States. Individuals making significant contributions to fostering, developing and promoting the U.S. Merchant Marine or the maritime industries of the United States also are eligible for the award.
9. The Administrator's Professional Ship Award is intended to recognize National Defense Reserve Fleet (“NDRF”) vessels, crews, ship managers, general agents and related contractors and other related personnel that achieve the highest degree of readiness, performance, efficiency, reliability, productivity and safety, or that have distinguished themselves through outstanding accomplishment or significant mission contribution in connection with NDRF missions;
(a) Each vessel, individual, or other entity approved for this award will receive a commendation letter from the Maritime Administrator and a certificate. The certificate will be inscribed with the name of the ship and the operation or other activity for which the award was earned and signed by the Administrator;
(b) With respect to an award given to an NDRF vessel, the certificate will be framed and forwarded to the appropriate Ship Manager/General Agent to be mounted in the master's office or other appropriate area on the vessel; and
(c) Awards will be based on demonstrated and sustained superior performance in fulfilling the vessel's assigned mission. Information will be considered from all sources (e.g., reports from program sponsors, Gateway Offices, operational commanders, MARAD surveyors' observations, etc.).
10. Additional awards:
(a) The Maritime Administrator may determine to create award categories in addition to the awards set forth above.
(b) The Awards Committee may recommend to the Maritime Administrator such additional award categories as it deems appropriate.
(c) Any recommendation and establishment of a new award category shall contain the following:
i. A specific title for the award;
ii. A description of what would be awarded; (i.e. medal, plaque, certificate)
iii. Detailed criteria as to what is necessary to qualify for such award; and
iv. A determination by the Office of Chief Counsel that such an award category is within the authority under Public Law 84-759 and 46 CFR part 350 or this MAO.
(d) All such new award categories shall be published in the Code of Federal Regulations and on MARAD's Web site.
(e) In any case of a proposed award or citation to a foreign vessel or to a master or person serving aboard such vessel, such award or citation shall be subject to the concurrence of the Secretary of State.

C. Other Recognition—The Donation or Loan of Merchant Marine Flags

In times of war and national emergency, the Merchant Mariners of the United States have played a critical role in the transportation system that supports and serves with the armed forces of the United States. Termed the “fourth arm” of defense by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the mariners of the United States provide vital transportation of critical personnel and materials to the appropriate locations in support of the national defense and emergency response efforts of the United States.
MARAD receives requests for Merchant Marine flags and logos from organizations that wish to honor the historic and continuing contributions of Merchant Mariners to the United States. MARAD also has received requests for Merchant Marine flags and logos from various educational organizations that perform maritime training.
Honoring the historic and continuing contributions of Merchant Mariners supports MARAD's mission. Providing these flags, and displaying them with the flags of the U.S. Armed Forces, recognizes the role Merchant Mariners have played and continue to play in the national defense of the United States. In recognizing the achievements and importance of the service of U.S. Merchant Mariners, the displays will enhance public awareness of the United States Merchant Marine as a career path for citizens of the U.S. and focus individuals considering such careers on the importance and value of the work they would do as Merchant Mariners. This recognition will serve to underscore the dignity and significance of the U.S. Merchant Marine as a whole. In addition, such flags will remind those training to be Merchant Mariners that they are part of a long tradition and profession whose mission goes beyond individual gain in support of the highest principles of public service.
Merchant Marine flags are neither gifts nor awards for individuals. Their purpose is to recognize and memorialize the past and continuing role and contribution of the Merchant Mariners of the United States.
The Merchant Marine Awards and Flag Committee will make recommendations to the Maritime Administrator regarding which groups satisfy the criteria set forth below and whether it should receive either the donation or a loan of the Merchant Marine flag and under what terms and conditions.Start Printed Page 29387


Merchant Marine flags may only be donated or loaned to the following groups:
1. Public entities, or civic organizations in the United States qualified under United States Code, Title 26, section 501(c)(3), which at the location in which the Merchant Marine flag would be displayed have, at the time of application, at least 100 members and host visits by at least 2,500 other members of the public annually in that location; and, at the time of application, publicly display the United States flag and the flag of at least one United States military service.
2. Educational institutions providing maritime training that would lead to a career in the United States Merchant Marine.
3. Institutions qualified to receive donated property under 46 U.S.C. 51103.
4. Non-profit organizations as defined by Section 501(c) of the United States Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S.C. 501(c)), memorial/museum ships, and public bodies that:
(a) Are registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a non-profit organization;
(b) Are open to the public, or have and will display the flags in publicly accessible areas; and
(c) Possess an educational, maritime, or civic mission.
5. Federal, State or local government entities that will display the flags in publicly accessible areas.
6. Cemeteries or other locations at which U.S. Merchant Mariners are buried and where the Merchant Marine flag will be displayed with the flags of at least one other of the Armed Forces of the United States.

Policy Analysis and Notices

Consistent with the Administrative Procedures Act and Department of Transportation rulemaking policy, MARAD is publishing this policy in the Federal Register to indicate how it plans to exercise the discretionary authority provided by Public Law 84-759, 46 CFR part 350. Nothing in this notice or in the policy itself requires MARAD to exercise its discretionary authority under the law. This policy updates the existing program in which successful applicants may obtain official MARAD recognition of their service or contributions to the U.S. Merchant Marine.


12/21/2014: Editor' note: First published s a post on 12/20/2014 this series of instructional resources has been shifted to the MERCHANT MARINE INTEREST SECTION as a permanent and constantly updated feature.

Workers splicing 20″ hemp cable at HMC Dockyard in 1941 image courtesy Library and Archives Canada

 Marlinespike seamanship includes but is not limited to knot tying and splicing, it covers the entire subject of the use of "line" (fiber rope) and wire rope in the realm of seamanship. This is not a subject that one can truly master by reading a book but to become a true master some study of certain books and rigging manuals is necessary. That level of skill is rarely needed by the recreational boater. At the professional level the subject includes some important mathematical computations like the computation of breaking strain and safe working load and safety factors. Certainly when hoisting anything of value or human beings using "running rigging" a mariner wants to know that the rigging will safely hold the load. Another computation that especially the professional must master is the computation of mechanical advantage in rigging blocks and tackles. This computation will tell you how much force will be needed to hoist or pull a load rigged for block and tackle. 

 We have scoured the internet and will continue to do so find the free instructional videos that will help anyone to learn basic marlinespike seamanship as it applies to the ordinary or able seaman or the recreational boater. We have also tried to assemble the videos available to help the basically competent gain skills in the more professional levels of splicing, rigging and decorative "fancy work". This video  library is designed to be used as a course of self paced self instruction and as a ready reference work when attempting something unfamiliar. It is meant as a resource for professional mariners including Navy and Coast Guard rated boatswain's mates and recreational boaters alike. Use whatever you need or like. We have divided the videos into various topics and we indicate their approximate lengths. This is a perennial work in progress we post new works when we find them , expand on subjects as new free videos are posted and occasionally may have to pull and replace videos. Check back often and good luck with your mastery of marlinespike seamanship: 

 PD, sailors learning knotting & splicing in a rigging loft


LINE STORAGE: On board commercial and naval vessels fiber rope, be it made of natural or artificial fibers is most often referred to as "line" while wire is most often referred to as "wire rope". There is a lot of it about generally an done of the first duties of apprentice seamen is assuring that the lines and "ropes" are properly stowed. Generally about ship lines are either coiled, flaked or flemished. 
Learning proper stowage and deployment of line is one of the first tasks that must be mastered by apprentice seamen. 

COILING: (about 2 minutes)

"TAMING YOUR ROPES" (5 Minutes, more on coiling and stowing) _

HOW TO FLEMISH A LINE: (about 1 minute)

The Figure 8 Flake: (38 seconds)



7 Basic Knots: 7 minutes

Quick Release Knots: 8 minutes

9 most useful sailing knots; 9 minutes

Tying A Mooring Line To A Cleat 2 Minutes


Old Training Film covering numerous knots, rigging boatswain's chairs, etc., 24 minutes


 Image USN


Mooring Eye with Thimble: 14 minutes:


Computing Mechanical advantage and understanding pulley systems: 19 minutes

The Crosby Group Basic Principles of Block and Tackle Training Video  35 Minutes


Some examples : 2 minutes

How to make the "monkey's fist: 1minute

How to Tie the Spinal Sinnet by TIAT


Many more links to videos on "Fancy Work" with any of the above selections. coxcombing and the Monkey's fist are the most commonly known and useful aspects of "Fancy Work " for sailors.


Of Interest To Professional Mariners, Admiralty Expert Witnesses, and Lawyers

The Great Namazu, 3,000 years of nautical experience in one analyst

Back in the day when the Great Namazu was a pup mariners talked of "tow lines". Today with the advances in cordage technology and innovations in chafe protection, and winch technology several different types and sizes of line or wire might be utilized in a "towing system". Back in the day, Tow Masters, Mates, Boatswains often considered the "safety factor" when arranging for a tow. There was usually only one line, the "tow line" or hawser to consider, now "towing systems" rarely lend themselves to one size fits all "safety factors". Each system component line must be considered separately such as pendant, mainline, and backer"

 The towing systems we used to simply call the tow line or towing hawser or wire is perhaps the single most critical component in a towing operation. Once connected, the towing vessel, her officers and owners usually have responsibility for the towed vessel or vessels. Tows can result in disaster for a variety of reasons. Miscalculated stability resulting in the capsize of either the towing vessel or the towed vessel and failure of the "tow line" (towing system) are two of the most common causes of casualties in the marine towing industry. In this post we will deal with avoiding the broken towing line(s) (system). Such avoidance is tougher than it used to be and fixing liability in the wake of such a failure is more difficult than ever. The expert witness in admiralty who cites to the "custom of the Industry" is probably skating on thin ice today and may often be impeached by an expert who understands codes, standards, standards of instruction, and the ongoing evolution in standards in the towing game today. 

Image Courtesy French Ministry Of Defense / Marine Nationale

Back in the day we learned certain concepts like "breaking strain" and "safe working load". The key to safety in most marine operations involving "rigging" (line, wire, blocks and tackle , etc.) from mooring to towing, and working men aloft was insuring that you used the right strength of line for the job at hand. Most cordage and wire came with a labeled "breaking strength or strain" and a frequent rule of thumb in simpler applications such as mooring was to select cordage with a breaking strain half again the weight of the load,  For towing often twice the weight or "strain" of the load", for working with men aloft we never went up without a boatswains chair supported by a line that could bear seven times our weight and tools. Things have changed faster than the authoritative literature.

 When an American Merchant Marine Officer takes takes the various Coast Guard administered professional license exams the questions are based on certain publications considered classic and reliable such as KNIGHTS MODERN SEAMANSHIP,  and such works are also considered in determining the standards of instruction for nautical training institutions. But often such classics are twenty years or more behind the times in certain areas. Not all aspects of the nautical arts and sciences are classic and few are static. Applying an obsolete "rule of thumb" to a particular rigging problem and then losing your tow is not a legally acceptable excuse. When you suspect that the classic textbook computations and recommended safety factors may not apply we suggest that you look to the towing system's manufacturer's literature. If you are applying and operating a towing system within the designer's and manufacturer's safety parameters it will be difficult for a board of inquiry, or admiralty court to find liability or negligence in your action. Unfortunately an all too common "custom of the Industry" is to lose or never have delivered to the tug the manufacturers manuals. Fortunately it is becoming more common to have access to a computer or smart phone on board. Some of the best cordage manufacturers and distributors have their rigging manuals available on line. One Such is SAMSON ROPE USERS MANUAL: 

 Over the years as I have observed sailor biped behavior I've noted that many responsible bipeds such as Masters, Mates, and Boatswains have attempted to explain away accident causation with the equivalent of "there wasn't time to do it right", yet some how there always seems to be time to clean up the resulting mess and do it over. Maybe we should suggest a couple of twenty first century "Rules Of Thumb" while many of the standards of the nineteenth and twentieth century still around and all too uncritically followed. 

FIRST : If your "towing system" does not consist of some type of right laid three strand line of a single type from towing winch or deck fitting to towed vessel, suspect that the old rules of thumb are not going to work for you. Now think twice before you act. 

SECOND: If you do not know the manufacturer's breaking strain and safe working load, try to obtain it before proceeding. If the manuals are not on board and you have access to the internet, see if the information is posted on the manufacturers web site such as : SAMSON ROPE USERS MANUAL: 

THIRD: If you feel you must operate and you can't find the pertinent data to accurately calculate safe working load remember two all important things. (1) Required safe working loads as a ratio of load to breaking strain for the latest types of cordage are much higher than in the past. If in similar but older applications you were safe with a multiple of 1.7 times over bollard pull or weight to be moved consider that 2.2 to 2.5 is probably the recommended safety factor today. In the past prudent tug operators purchased their new towing hawsers with safety factors of at least 5:1 over their continuous ahead bollard pull rating. With some line today a 7:1 rating may be recommended. (2) In the past we always reduced safe working load by age and condition of the line based on known criteria of visual inspection. Some news cordage gives no reliable and predictable visual indication of wear. In the old days when safe working load was reduced based on visual inspection to 50% of original (which was often 5 times the breaking strain of the new line) we replaced the towing line and the old one became fenders . Today some hawsers must be replaced based on service times, and a 30% reduction in hawser strength is grounds for replacement. In short ,service times are becoming shorter and required retained line strength as a percentage of original breaking strain is becoming higher. It is probably asking for an accident and the subsequent liability to operate a towline assembly at less than 70% of original strength ratings.

 So in an industry where suits ashore buy the cordage and don't know what to ask for at delivery to assure that crews have the information to properly calculate towline assembly strength what do you do? First ask for the manufacturer's manuals and contact information. Second start your own note book on your rigging, I mean you Captain, Mate, or Boatswain. Don't assume that any notebook you create won't grow legs and walk away after the next crew change. Dig for the information and learn to do the calculations, get the help you need and write everything down. Be sure to write the authoritative source of your information. When the day comes to ask the suits to replace that towing system after only 30% of strength loss which comes much faster than budgets typically anticipate you will have to defend your position. Learn how to use and inspect and compute safe working loads of modern cordage. Remember if the tow system cordage components you are looking at aren't right laid three strand, it is more probable than not that anything you had to regurgitate on the seamanship or marlin spike seamanship portion of your Coast Guard license or rating exam actually applies. 

 When ordering new line ask for:
* The exact cordage composition, lay, manufacturer,usage requirements, breaking strain. safety factors, any inspection hints.

* Copies of certifications of approval by Classification societies, any test certificates, and manufacturer's handling, storage and maintenance requirements.

* Material Safety Data sheets, these should accompany the spools of line when they are delivered aboard and contain inspection tips to aid you in knowing when you should refuse delivery of aged, discolored, or damaged line. 

 Start educating the suits. High tech cordage has fewer indicators of wear and has to be replaced more often. It also will require more crew training and time to handle safely. 



License All rights reserved by baasiilb15 Creative Commons License

Interestingly, in admiralty law the words "maritime business", "commerce". etc. are rarely used. Most voyages and maritime endeavors are described as "maritime adventures". Given the element of risk in any ocean enterprise this is hardly surprising. Maritime commerce never would have expanded into the global endeavor it is today if a way to manage the enormous risks involved had not been found. The British crown led the way in the mid 1500s by spreading the risk among contributors organized by Queen Elizabeth into syndicates. If the assured ship made it back intact the syndicate members made a profit from the premium paid for the assurance that the enumerated losses if they occurred would be covered by the syndicate and the ship owner would not be thrown into debtor's prison. By the 1700's  an enterprising Brit started a coffee house called "Lloyd's" in London specially designed to attract the syndicate members and ship owners seeking assurance of some maritime adventure. This marked the beginning of the competitive "sale of risk" and the maritime insurance trade as we know it.  Today every marine professional, not just those in the admiralty law or insurance professions must have some knowledge of marine insurance. Below are a number of links to specially selected video resources that can give you the basics and the link to the Amazon Marine insurance book shelf for resources for deeper study.  

HOW DOES MARINE INSURANCE WORK : 1.5 minute general explanation

THE BASICS OF CARGO INSURANCE ("Make Sure You Get "Door To Door Coverage)

THE MARINE INSURANCE CONTRACT: 30 minute general discussion of the key elements in the typical marine contract for insurance

The Marine Insurance Contract:



File:USCG Eagle.jpg  Coast Guard participates in Junior Safety at Sea Seminar
CGC EAGLE: USCG PHOTO                                                                   Photo : USCG

Canadian Coast Guard Icebreaker (PD)            PHOTO USCG

 Personnel of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (PD) 

 We have been publishing  a lot of of news and opinion posts on the U.S. and various international coast guards and small navies conducting coast guard like operations of late. A lot of the information that we have been publishing is not readily available in the general electronic or print news media and often not widely covered in the larger maritime trade journals. However as we have so often noted we are not a news agency, we are a general maritime reference, a starting point for research into any maritime subject. Even our "NEWS SERVICE" is really more of a reading room where our visitors can link into the E-versions of the various maritime trade journals and news reporters. We regard it as part of our mission to call your attention to and link you to reliable and authoritative sites on areas of special interest. Due to space limitations we don't have a "Coast Guard" special interest page. Presently our information on coast guards is spread out between our NAVAL INTERESTS section and because the activities of coast guards around the world heavily impact merchant marine operations we carry some information in our MERCHANT MARINE INTERESTS section. Finally most but not all VESSEL TRAFFIC SERVICES are operated by coast guards so we carry significant coast guard information in that section. 

 Of late, the aggressive use of their new coast guard by China has drawn a lot of attention. We have never before seen a coast guard used as the forefront force in an aggressive territorial acquisition campaign. This "mailed fist in a velvet glove approach" to stealing other people's island territories and with them their exclusive economic zones is unprecedented. Clearly interests in coast guards is rising globally. Until we resolve our space available difficulties, which have to stand in line with a number of other serious technical issues, and create a COAST GUARDS SECTION we are going to have to make our collection of data on Coast Guards redundant in a number of places throughout the site. We will start today with a blog post full of links and descriptions to official and unofficial reliable and authoritative sites. We will then post this same information to our "BIG LINKS LOCKER" and all of the special interest sections where now carry information relevant to coast guards.




THE COAST GUARD COMPASS: Official U.S. Coast Guard Blog:



This site is about the global positioning system (GPS) , the Automatic Information System (AIS), Long Range Identification and Tracking, Notice to Mariners and other navigational systems and services operated by the U.S. Coast Guard

This site is about the uniformed civilian volunteer corps of the U.S. Coast Guard that operates civilian boats, aircraft, and radio stations supporting Coast Guard missions, conducts public boating safety courses and courtesy motor boat inspections and augments and supports many Coast Guard missions in unique and varied ways

Journalist following Coast Guard news stories will find this site extremely handy.



This is a reliable and authoritative site operated independently of government sponsorship, we quote below their mission statement:

"This blog will generally not discuss day to day operations that the Coast Guard does so well. Other sources such as Coast Guard Compass are much better positioned to do this than I.
The objective of this blog is to look over the longer term, at budgets, policies, tactics, roles and missions, and their physical expression, the platforms that allow the Coast Guard to do its job. My own interest and experience is primarily with the larger patrol vessels, so they will perhaps receive a disproportionate amount of attention. If so, it is not for lack of respect for the other elements of the Coast Guard, and I hope comments will to some extent make up for my lack of familiarity with these areas.
There will also be some reflection on the history of the service that I hope will be both entertaining and illuminating.
Comments are not only welcome, they are essential to maintaining balance and working toward a better understanding of the needs of the service. Recognizing that readers come from different levels of experience and understanding, please keep comments respectful and on topic and avoid personal attacks.
Additionally this blog is not about partisan politics. There are lots of other blogs that provide a venue for that. Comments which include comments on contemporary politics will be deleted in whole or in part.
I’d like to keep the discussion professional, so personal attacks will also be deleted."




Australian Coast Guards- A Wikipedia article that explains how the many services provided by comprehensive style services such as the U.S. and canadian Coast guards are provided in Australia by a variety of agencies and volunteer organizations.


 The British Coast Guard is an executive branch agency concerned with search and rescue and certain elements of maritime safety. The British Board of trade deals with Merchant Marine issues, and the Royal Navy has responsibility of coastal defense. The Customs Service handles many aspects of maritime law enforcement. So the British Coast Guard proper is basically a national maritime search and rescue agency. For a good over view of how Great Britain organizes their coast guard services again there is an excellent Wikipedia article:'s_Coastguard

British Maritime and Coastguard Agency home page:


This is the uniformed volunteer corps of the Canadian Coast Guard that provides Search and Rescue Services from private and non standard boats and air craft .

MARINFO: Canadian Coast Guard official postings of navigational information such as seasonal station closures, ice breaking operations, marine weather, nautical charts, etc., an official site operated by the Canadian Coast Guard.

THE FLEET OF THE CANADIAN COAST GUARD An official site maintained Fisheries and Oceans Canada describing the fleet of the Canadian Coast Guard complete with vessel particulars and photos.


 Until 2013 the Chinese coast guard functions were spread across a variety of agencies. Certain Ships, boats, air craft and certain personnel of all of these different agencies were transferred into the new military / law enforcement/ search and rescue service now known as the Chinese Coast Guard in 2013. Again Wikipedia has an excellent description of this rapidly changing organizations evolution and present status:

FRENCH COAST GUARD: Is called the Gendarmes Maritime and consist of about 1,100 military personnel assigned to maritime police duties and operating as part of the French gendarmerie, a unique branch of the French military having law enforcement authority. The Gendarmes Maritime operate about 42 small patrol craft ranging from open outboard "runabouts" to enclosed patrol vessels that appear to rang up to the 65 to 80 foot range. They patrol the territorial and EEZ waters of France and her overseas departments. They perform provost duties for the French navy, have a naval station physical security role and provide some maritime search and rescue services. The many other traditional coast guard functions as performed by the U.S., Indian, Italian, Japanese, Malaysian and other "comprehensive" coast Guard services remain divided up among a variety of French maritime departments and services. Wikipedia has a comprehensive description in English:

GREEK: "HELLENIC COAST GUARD": The Hellenic Coast Guard is a paramilitary maritime police organization and military auxiliary capable of supporting the Hellenic Navy when called on. Its personnel are organized in a naval manner under a naval style rank structure. The service formed in 1919 and operates ships, boats, and a small air service. Wikipedia has an excellent over view at : 

The Hellenic Coast Guard Website (may be translated when viewed in Google plus, other systems ability to translate unknown)


 The Indian Coast Guard like the American Coast Guard is both a military branch of the nation's armed forces and a law enforcement organization as well as a search and rescue organization. Interestingly , like the U.S. Coast Guard the Indian Coast Guard is also a maritime intelligence agency. The Indian Coast Guard is one of the larger , more full service coast guard organizations in the world very comparable to the American Coast Guard, Canadian ,and  Italian versions. A good site for building an over view of this large Coast is this Wikipedia article"




 The Italian Coast Guard is called the Corps of Port Captaincies and is a branch of the Italian Navy but administered under the Ministry of Infrastructures and Transport. The Italian Coast Guard is both a military and law enforcement agency with several other civil missions very similar to many of the civil missions of the U.S., Canadian, or Indian Coast Guards, it is a traditional "full service" coast guard. The Official government sites will probably require a translation program but again Wikipedia has an excellent comprehensive introduction in English: . .

Italian Coast Guard official web site:

Japan's Coast Guard was originally called the "Maritime Safety Agency" when it was formed in 1948 and its name was changed to "Coast Guard" in 2000. The organization parallels the U.S. Coast Guard in terms of organization and mission mix. The service is capable of augmenting the Japanese Maritime Defense Force (navy) and operates a mix of ships, boats, stations, and an air service. Its mission mix combines regulatory, law enforcement, marine safety , search and rescue and naval readiness. wikipedia has a good general introduction at: 


KENYA was just starting to form a coast guard when we published this in January of 2014

THE MALAYSIAN COAST GUARD doesn't use the title Coast Guard but is officially titled "The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) Despite the small size of the nation which also operates an impressive small navy the MMEA is impressively sized at over 7,000 uniformed para naval personnel. The service operates ships, boats, rotary wind and fixed aircraft including sea planes. The uniformed members are organized in a system of traditional naval ranks but their duties are more of a maritime police nature plus search and rescue. Wikipedia has an excellent general introduction:

We also carried a post on this coast guard service:


 Like Australia New Zealand also does not have a single organization that provides all coast guard services. But New Zealand does have a single organization that coordinates a variety of locally evolved maritime search and rescue organizations under a single banner known as the Royal New Zealand Coast Guard, inc- 


Professional Mariners Licensing Hub. Information on Merchant Marine licensing:



JANE'S IS CONSIDERED THE DE FACTO  PUBLIC INFORMATION  SOURCE ON  DEFENSE , SECURITY, TRANSPORT, AND LAW ENFORCEMENT. Only a relatively few of their publications are available through non Jane's organization sources like the historic volume pictured above from Amazon. We are providing you with information on Jane's organization and the authoritative nature of their publications here and vital hyper links here and permanently posted in our NAVAL INTEREST, MERCHANT MARINE, and AUTHORITATIVE LITERATURE "Special Interest Pages.
  WHAT IS "JANE'S?     
 Jane's was founded in 1898 by Fred T. Jane. The organization is based in London and is presently owned by IHS, Inc. During the World Wars Jane's published aircraft and ship recognition manuals for the British Admiralty. Before WWI Fred T. Jane was publishing guides to the war ships of the various major power navies. Over the years the line of reference works has expanded to include all manner of defense, transport, security and law enforcement subjects and timely specialty area news and analysis services. Jane's is considered an "Open intelligence source" by most of the World's intelligence services but most especially naval intelligence services. The link below will take you to a Wikipedia article providing a more complete history of Jane's Information Group with links to articles on Fred T. Jane and other aspects of the Jane's story.


 Jane's keeps such tight control of their intellectual property that it is extremely difficult to find even an image of their founder Fred T.Jane that is in the public domain. When the U.S.Naval Intelligence Professionals Organization carried an article about Fred T.Jane some years ago, Jane's would not release a free image of Fred T.Jane for use in their publication THE QUARTERLY.  Jane's would not provide a free founder's photo even though the article amounted to free advertising to an audience Jane's would very much like to market to. If there is any good news for the researcher who is short on research funds it was that at least the organization apparently sold such photographs with the price adjusted based on the circulation of the purchasing publication.  In the end the the intelligence association publication used a composite sketch similar to a police artist drawing done by a talented volunteer in lieu of an actual photo. Jane's does have some competition such as Defense News, Flight International, and Aviation Week and Space Technology . However as the titles indicate their competition isn't as comprehensive across the full spectrum of defense, security, transport, and law enforcement.

 No one matches Jane's reputation for accuracy. Indeed founder Fred T.Jane was quite willing to go broke before compromising on quality and nearly did so on at least two occasions. In the areas that Jane's covers it is almost impossible to ignore Jane's, but utilizing Jane's publications at Jane's prices is not always possible for the unfunded academic  and most any research project of limited means.  However there are some Jane's publications of historical interest that can be purchased from Non Jane sources at reasonable prices such as the WWII reference work pictured at the top of the article available through Amazon. So at least historical researchers may be able to obtain personal copies of relevant Jane's references at ordinary book store prices. Here is some of what Amazon has available.
We don't usually show prices since they are so subject to change and a click on the icon link will usually bring you the latest prices  but we let the price show through on Jane's Armour and Artillery year books. The "best price" shown is for used books, new condition non current year Jane's references typically run in excess of $120. Amazon is actually vending the current year on Armour and Artillery, current year prices run  in excess of $2,000. This is why current year books are rarely found outside of intelligence organization reference libraries, and perhaps the Library of Congress and comparable national libraries. As you can see however, once a reference is no longer current the price falls dramatically so historical researchers can usually find what they need at more reasonable prices and some of the out dated volumes sometimes find their way into public libraries. 

Click on any of the JANE'S FIGHTING SHIPS icons above and you will be able to find your way to all of the extensive offerings of Amazon for the JANE'S FIGHTING SHIPS Series. It appears you can even order a current volume here if you have about $3,000 but the non current year works and the historical summaries such as  Jane's War At SEA 1897- 1997 are very reasonable, especially as used volumes through Amazon.



(annual) If you click on most of the title below you will link to a Wikipedia description of the publication 



TO MAKE DIRECT CONTACT WITH THE JANE'S ORGANIZATION:                                                            


THE WAY OF THE SHIP: AMERICA'S MARITIME HISTORY REINVISIONED 1600 -2000  by W. Jeffery Bolster and Alexander Keyssay (published 2007)
 American Admiralty Books gives this history a rare "recommended" rating meaning that we think every marine professional should have this volume in his or her personal professional library. Published in 2007 it is too new to rate the designation "classic", but the word "seminal" definitely comes to mind for this departure from the usual historic view point of American history. We read it when it first came on the market in early 2008. The good news is that the present day price appears to have dropped about ten dollars from what we paid when it first came on the market. The bad news is that the price drop probably signals a slowing of sales and possibly a future scarcity of new copies. If you are a maritime transportation professional and interested in the future of the American marine transportation industry you must understand the history of the industry from this new and unique perspective. Don't just read this book acquire it now, and review it, and refer to it often, especially if you or the professional organizations you are involved with lobby for Jones Act and other protections of our "cabotage" trades.

 The "cabotage trades" refer to the coastwise and interior waterborne commerce that serves trade between ports of the same nation, the domestic waterborne trades. No one has more domestic waterborne trade than the United States. The Ohio, Mississippi, Missouri or "Western Rivers" towboat and barge trade carries more commerce in a day today than all of the steamboats of the nineteenth century did in the entire era. The "Western River" towboat and barge fleets carry the bulk of Mid America's export grain to tide water for transshipment by ship. These towing vessels also haul much of the heating oil and gasoline used in the Mid West up river from Louisiana refineries. Jet fuels and countless other cargos move from South Texas to all points along the U.S. Gulf Coast via the Gulf Intracoastal waterway. There is also an Intracoastal waterway supporting mixed barge cargo traffic connecting Florida to New York. New York State still maintains a cross state canal linking barge traffic from the Atlantic coast to the Great Lakes. On the Great Lakes, giant bulk carriers which look like seagoing ships carry ore and grain cargos between the United States and Canada and between processing points on the U.S. side of the Great Lakes.

 Since the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway, the ports of the Great Lakes also receive shipments from sea directly. This has helped fuel an expansion of the Great Lakes tug fleets, both in ship assistance, and in transfer by barge of seaborne cargos either to smaller Great Lakes ports or via transit of the Chicago Sanitary Canal. From that canal barges can reach the Ohio River and transit to any of the inland ports of the Ohio, or Mississippi Valleys. Puget Sound on the West Coast constitutes a virtual inland sea with a cargo and traffic mix somewhat like the Great Lakes but with less grain, and quite a bit more large passenger ferry traffic. On the Snake and Columbia Rivers of the Far West barges are moving  Idaho potatoes to the Pacific Coast for export, the Sacramento River has long provided barge transport and excursion passenger traffic from San Francisco Bay to Sacramento. Coastal tankers and tank barges still move oil products from New Orleans and Houston to Baltimore on a regular basis. Other U.S. flag oil tankers carry product from Alaska to U.S. West Coast ports. While all this commerce is moving under the American flag between and among the American States and Canadian Providence's, the ocean going foreign commerce of the United states is 99% carried by foreign vessels. This 99% foreign carriage is occuring at a time when 66 of 77 strategic materials that we need to sustain our economy have to be imported across the oceans. Our traditional "Blue Water Merchant Marine" has shrunk to probably less than 200 traditional ocean going ships and that counts ships of the National Defense Reserve which are subsidized and mostly carry military and foreign aid cargos.  

 The traditional histories of the American "Merchant Marine" have traced the history of American flag ocean trade with overseas customers. These prior histories have correctly recounted the ups and downs of the American merchant fleet on the world's oceans. We are in a down period right now, and have been since a high point in World War II when our Merchant Fleet numbered something more than 5,000 ships.  What no one has ever really explained is how we have been able to float these giant ocean fleets when the need or opportunity arises after we let our seagoing merchant fleets dwindle to remnant status.
What makes the "Way of the Ship" so unique is that it answers that fundamental question with a unique insight into the history of the emergence of the first United States Merchant Marine and its subsequent ups and downs against a back drop of our seemingly always expanding "cabotage" or domestic waterborne trades.

  According to the authors the first challenge to the United States to create an American flag merchant fleet came during the Revolution when America lost the support of the British "Merchant Navy" and had to carry its own ocean commerce. Since 1600 America had been developing a large coastwise trade between and among the colonies. This domestic fleet trained and provided employment for seamen and supported ship yards and the ship building and repair trades. It was to this source that we were able to turn for both much of our naval needs and the need for our own Merchant Marine. As the reader follows the ups and downs of America's traditional or international merchant marine through our history the authors reveal how the strong domestic or cabotage merchant marine was always able to sustain a sufficiently large ship building and operating industrial base to support ocean expansion when it came.
 It wouldn't be until the1930s that Congress would codify real legal protection for this domestic or cabotage industry in a series of legislation that is popularly referred to as the Jones Act. 

 Today we think of this domestic shipping in a fragmented way as a collection of different activities such as "the Great Lakes Fleet," the "Towboat and Barge Industry," or the "Offshore Service Vessel Fleet." We have lost sight of these "work boat trades" of what they are, our domestic merchant marine, and the heart of our potential sea power. Now when our ocean transport fleet has shrunk to a point near invisibility on the world's oceans, this "Jones Act Fleet", our traditional hope of rebuilding capability is under attack. Few young American's want to be Jones Act Seamen. The Customs Service and Coast Guard have granted too many waivers for foreign flag vessels to serve in our domestic trades as was demonstrated in the recent British Petroleum Company giant oil spill off of Louisiana and duly noted in resultant Congressional hearings. None the less pressure continues to be exerted to allow more inroads against our cabotage trades. No one seems to realize that relatively low wages measured against the dangers and hardships of being a seaman account for the shortage of young American Jones Act sailors. By allowing easy exceptions to Jones Act exclusions we allow maritime industrial interests to make up the short fall with cheap foreign labor and vessels. If we enforced the laws and keep the domestic playing field level wages would rise and so would the much needed population of American seamen.

  This book makes the case for the Jones Act and the place of the work boat trades as not the underbelly of the American Merchant Marine, but as the beating heart of the system. It demonstrates how this has always been so and the consequences of ignoring that fact. Despite some issues on the quality of the editing and production values of this book we cannot help but note that it is the first, and so far, only history of the American Merchant Marine to clearly articulate this truth.

  If any readers would like to get a real visceral feel for what happens to a country that ignores its cabotage trade we suggest viewing a DVD of the old Steve McQueen epic "The Sand Pebbles."Put yourself in the position of the pre- Boxer Rebellion Chinese with foreign gunboats traveling unopposed a thousand miles up their rivers. We have people in our own Congress who advocate abandonment of cabotage laws every day. Knowledge derived in this book can go a long way in disarming their false logic and propaganda.
Buy this book! Share it with others! American Admiralty Books Recommended.

WORKBOAT: A Great Periodical and Internet Resource and Both are Free.
American Admiralty Books "Recommended"
 The hyperlink associated with this literature description will take you to WORKBOAT's free on line version. Anyone with a business or occupational connection to the domestic maritime trades such as the tug industry, offshore service vessel industry, ferry services, excursion boat industry, commercial fishing, or the domestic ship, boat, and barge building industry may also may be eligible to receive at home or office a monthly full color glossy magazine free of charge. WORKBOAT makes its living on advertising sales and those sales are driven by the size and relevancy of their audience of maritime professionals. They don't advertise whiskey or cologne, only goods and services of use to the industry. Both the online service and magazine get read because the articles are informative, topical, and current and their coverage of the industry is expansive, comprehensive, and insightful. Serious work boat industry professionals would cheerfully pay for the content but don't have to because the advertisers do. Moreover, the advertisements are sometimes as interesting as the articles many a cutting edge product has been advertised first in the pages of WORKBOAT.
 Many years ago WORKBOAT decided to not let a subscription cost get in the way of building their carefully targeted readership. It has paid off. The costs to advertisers to support this free subscription policy is actually quite reasonable. Advertisers aren't being charged for a larger group of subscribers who have no interest in their products. They are being charged for a very targeted publication that wastes no exposure to an uninterested audience. A review of the magazine in any given month shows a large number of repeat advertisers and a very large number of periodic repeat advertisers. These advertisers are getting their money's worth out of a readership that takes the publication very seriously despite being free of subscription costs. We highly recommend a free subscription to the monthly WORKBOAT for all maritime professionals including those in the deep sea international trades. Such international "deep water" trades are affected by developments in the ship assisting tug and general harbor tug trades trades. They are also affected by salvage industry and dredging industry developments. There is simply no better, less time consuming, and inexpensive way than reading WORKBOAT magazine monthly and checking the WORKBOAT web site daily.

  American Admiralty Books never accepts direct remuneration for a "suggested"or "recommended" evaluation in these pages. WORKBOAT, both the magazine and the web site are highlyrecommended. Additionally, as a free publication, American Admiralty Books cannot receive commissions from WORKBOAT subscriptions initiated from this site. Its "scarce as hen's teeth" but WORKBOAT is that rare example of something really great for free. If you have read "The Way of the Ship" and believe as we do that the domestic "workboat" trades are actually the "heart" of the American Merchant Marine, you need WORKBOAT to keep you up to date on the health of this industry so vital to our economy, national defense, and homeland security. Click on th elink and subscribe today.

Note: The on line version of WORKBOAT and most other maritime trade journals are also hyper-linked in our "News Service" pages



      A History of Cargoes and Commerce over Land and Sea

           By Philip Parker
                 ISBN 978-1-59114-335-2  

Christian Radich | Christian Radich Sail Training Foundation
 S/V Christian Radich  PD

 ""The ancient world saw the expansion of Western Asian, Mediterranean and Polynesian civilizations as transport networks for trade were established. Later, imperial expansion reached far flung corners of the world. The Great Trade Routes examines the principal trade networks throughout history, encompassing coastal and trans-oceanic maritime trade, inland waterway traffic, and overland trade. Filled with fascinating historical detail, exotic locales, and a wealth of illustrations, the book analyzes the importance of trade to commercial and cultural exchange, focusing on great routes such as the Silk Road, the Grand Trunk, Via Maris, Hanseatic and Mediterranean sea-routes, tea and grain races and passages to the New World." Amazon's Book Description.

OUR OPINION: This is an enjoyable and informative book for anyone especially history buffs, but a bit pricey for general audiences. We'd recommend it as a library loan for anyone but at the present price we can only recommend it as a must have for the maritime and logistic professionals. It is a perfectly complimentary volume to previous recommendations we have made about certain ancient and continuing basic trade commodities such as Spices, Clay, and Salt. 

  Consider also:            


The Last American Sailors:

A Wild Ride in The Modern Merchant Marine, by Michael R. Rawlins
ISBN-10- 0595301177   ISBN- 13-978-0595301171
American Admiralty Books "Recommended"
We have taken pains to introduce our readers to the world of America's Jones Act or domestic fleets. Now here is a work of non fiction that will take the reader on a tour of our deep sea Merchant Marine as it exists today. As previously noted this is a disappearing world. Our deep draft fleet has shrunk from a post WW II fleet of over 5,000 ships to a highly government dependent remnant of about 200 vessels. This real life adventure chronicles the rise of Michael R. Rawlins from ordinary seaman to licensed officer over a decade of service on nearly twenty American flag merchant ships taking him to over three dozen nations during contemporary times. Real life, even in today's traditional American Merchant Marine can produce adventures and events stranger than fiction.

To provide just a peak at some of those described by Rawlins we might note the following from the book:

Life under a sadistic captain (and you thought that ended in the nineteenth century?)

A Near Collision and resulting mental breakdown of a young officer.
Man Overboard  

Here is some marketing hype from marketing sites, which for a radical change we actually agree with:

On the Road met The Perfect Storm, we would have The Last American Sailors, the definitive travelogue of a merchant seaman and an encompassing look into the mysterious world of merchant shipping."

If you haven't served aboard a large American ocean going merchant ship in the last decade, read this. Read this especially if you are a high school counselor before the next spring applications are due for the Federal service academies to understand  
what type of jobs the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy prepares young people for. Get your school to buy a couple copies of this book and lend them to students interested in any of the federal sea service academies. If after reading, they still want to pursue a maritime career, we have a winner. There is a lot of movement of officers in the early career stages between the Navy, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine. It is a lot easier to get contemporary information about the Navy and Coast Guard.

IN PEACE AND WAR: A History of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point by Jeffery L. Cruikshank and Chloe G. Kline:

ISBN-10-0470136014   ISBN-13-978-0470136010
American Admiralty Books "Suggested" reading

 The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point New York was founded in 1937 and is one of the five federal military academies. All cadets who successfully graduate from the school are licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard as Officers of the United States Merchant Marine and unless they accept a commission in another military service of the United States, all receive a reserve officer's commission in the U.S. Naval Reserve. Graduates incur a five year service obligation after graduation to either serve shipboard in the U.S. Merchant Marine, or on active duty with the Navy, or other military branch, or in a service project approved by the Maritime Administration. The last history of the institution written before this one, ended with developments into the 1950s. This update is long over due.

The work is balanced and comprehensive. The book details the vision and contributions of determined leaders, both of the Academy and the Congress who shaped the school. The book also provides a history, of sorts, of the U.S. Merchant Marine. One of the most interesting highlights of the history, is a description of a tragic fire aboard the passenger ship SS Morro Castle off the coast of New Jersey. In this 1930s incident the incompetent and negligent behavior of the ship's crew contributed to the unnecessary deaths of many passengers. This event led to the passage of the Merchant Marine Act of 1936, which paved the way for the founding of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.

 The book also details how the USMMA has adjusted its training and priorities over the years to meet the changing maritime needs of the nation. One historical example offered of this institutional flexibility was the addition of visual signaling training added to the curriculum in response to the threat from German subs just prior to World War II. In June 1940, months before Pearl Harbor, the SS Washington, a vessel carrying over 1,700 refugees averted being sunk by a German U boat by the visual signaling of embarked Cadet William O'Reilly from the SS Washington.

The USMMA has always required its students to ship out for a full year on commercial vessels to receive a thorough grounding in practical seamanship. This practice continues in peace and war. As a result USMMA cadets often have found themselves in zones of armed conflict. Some have suffered injury and death while on these "sea projects." This was especially true in WW II when 142 USMMA cadets were lost in action, and many others survived attacks in every theater of combat operations. Most recently USMMA personnel and boats worked around the clock ferrying fire fighters and rescue personnel to and from Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. 

 It is often said in our profession that "if you can do your job at sea you can do it anywhere." Many Merchant Marine Academy graduates eventually turn to other pursuits after performing their service obligation. They are frequently found in admiralty law, naval architecture, steamship agencies and long shoring organizations, and maritime insurance. In growing numbers today they are finding their way into the Jones Act fleets and support industries. Some find their way into endeavors far removed from the maritime world but they enter these new endeavors with a broad understanding of the world, much of which they have seen as a result of the USMMA experience. They enter with the confidence that being tried at sea brings and a real gut felt understanding of global commerce and how it really works, not to mention the benefits of experiencing hard physical labor.

 We suggest this book for all USMMA alumni, high school students contemplating attending a maritime academy, and high school guidance counselors.

American Admiralty Books: Recommended
 This free internet news service is sort of an electronic version of WORKBOAT but aimed more at the global deep sea industries vice the American work boat industry. Like WORKBOAT which we described earlier this excellent news source is supported by advertisers. The site has amassed a daily readership in the hundreds of thousands of serious maritime professionals many with corporate purchasing power. Advertisers have included employers of professional seamen such as the Military Sea Lift Command, and products of interest in daily maritime operations and usually purchase by corporate agents. Both appear to be reaching thier target audiences in the site. Readers ("Visitors" in blog speak)  not only may enter the site free, but the site provides a number of free informational services to readers such as news alerts. We highly recommend this site as a contemporary maritime news source. When we say" news" we mean not only unfolding dramatic events like ship wrecks but also the more mundane such as the start of important industry expositions and seminars. Its all there in  Note gCaptain and most other on line maritime news services are also hyper-linked in  our"News Service" page which also features our own headline service.


Celestial Navigation in a Nutshell, by Hewitt Schlereth published by Seafarer Books
ISBN-10: 1574090585
ISBN-13: 9781574090581
 Now here is a real primer on celestial navigation complete in a "nutshell" of 128 pages, easy and entertaining to read. This little book comes complete with exercises and the necessary tables to complete them. Its instructions for how to do some of the common tasks of navigating by the sun and stars are "spot on" but unfortunately the explanations for why the mathematics work are at best fanciful. The good news is that you don't have to understand the deep mathematical theory behind celestial navigation for it to work and the Coast Guard doesn't examine occupational credential applicants on such understanding, only on the ability to actually do the navigational computations. Many a sailor has learned celestial navigation who had no formal training in geometry or trigonometry. We don't wish to date our evaluation of this book by quoting an exact price on this page but when we last checked, Amazon had this real "primer" priced below serious "impulse purchase resistance levels" for most folks in the market for serious and useful professional books.

 Here is an American Admiralty Books recommendation for the first time student of navigationCelestial navigation doesn't make much sense if you don't first have a basic understanding of coastal piloting, and basic chart use. As a starter in both self study and professional personal library acquisition try purchasing Chapman's: Piloting Seamanship and Smallboat Handling and Celestial Navigation in a Nutshell. Begin your study of navigation by mastering the navigation skills in Chapman's which do not include any real work inCelestial. Then work on the "Nutshell." You should then be well "primed" for serious self study or formal instruction in navigation through and beyond celestial. As either a professional or recreational sailor you will have endless use for Chapman's. Hopefully if you are a professional you will advance beyond the "Nutshell" in celestial; but once on the navigation bridge daily, you may go years without using it especially in some of the inland and coastwise trades. Your copy of the "nutshell" will be a welcome volume in your professional library for periodic comprehensive review of this difficult to obtain but easy to lose navigational skill, the need for which these days comes and goes over the space of a career in naval or merchant marine operations.

 Celestial Navigation in a Nutshell can't meet the crietria of American Admiralty Books for designation as a "Classic" and will never make it as "Authoritative Literature" or a "Standard of Instruction" but it definitely makes our list of recommended books for navigational beginners and the professional personal libraries of those who may be in concerned with growing rusty in once acquired celestial navigation skills.

ISBN 10:111241088

ISBN 13: 978-1112414084

American Admiralty Books: Suggested for serious collectors, maritime historians, screen writers, and very serious students of maritime law.

 Maritime Salvage cases are the Merchant Marine equivalent of the old prize court cases, but salvage is still practiced today. A salvage award litigation is always a tale of two sea stories. The first tale is told by the salvor, the crew claiming compensation for saving life and or property at sea. The second story is told by the owners and the saved, the beneficiaries of the salvage or rescue effort.
 The salvors story seems to always begin on a dark and stormy night amid high seas and howling wind. At great risk of life and loss of their vessel the intrepid salvage crew approaches the endangered vessel at the critical moment when it is about to be lost to the forces of nature. However, after speeding through dark and dangerous waters all night the salvor arrives on scene and through the Herculean and death defying efforts of the salvage crew and at great risk to the vessel (remember the almost never present ship owner gets part of the final salvage award) the endangered vessel is saved from total loss.
 Oddly set on the same date, at the same time, aboard vessels with the identical names in the first sea story a second sea story unfolds. This is the tale of the salvaged vessel. According to the legal defenders of the saved vessel it had merely had a minor engine problem in clear daylight on a calm sea. The Captain and Chief Officer were enjoying a little break on some deck chairs while the Chief Engineer and his trusty fireman were fixing the main propulsion engines. Suddenly, and without warning, a piratical group of motley seamen on a powerful tug pulled along side and boarded stepping lightly across the gunwales in that near calm sea. With out so much as a "by your leave, sir" they affixed a towing hawser on the bow and ran it out to their tug through the bullnose, swinging back aboard their vessel by grappling lines. The tug then took the ship into tow and brought into the nearest port which was a convenient fifteen minutes away where upon the Captain was served with an unsolicited bill for salvage services which he was never in need of and did not solicit. Mind you, these are just the opening statements.
 But with the opening statements the die is cast and the court is off on a merry chase of the truth which only rarely resembles strongly either one of the competing sea stories. At stake is a salvage award worth whatever percentage of the fair market value of the ship and cargo that the judge ultimately assigns. American law follows British precedent to such a degree that there seems to be a conscious effort by the courts to not deviate from a mutually agreed set of precedents. This book is another reprinted old court reporter that might actually make a Proctor at Admiralty seem more professional, or at least give him a storehouse of ancient precedent in the salvage arena that few others may be very aware of. This is an important primary source for the maritime historian and a treasure chest of wild sea stories for the screen writer who is perfectly free to adapt the salvors tale of extraordinary daring do scans the sobering language of the cross examination. "Based on a True Story recorded in the High Court of British Admiralty." This could be a fun volume to own and at under $30 it's affordable. 
The Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and The Right of "Innocent Passage"
 The United States and other English speaking nations have fought hard over the centuries to preserve "freedom of the seas" while simultaneously working with all nations to try to establish a responsible and responsive regime for managing the world's ocean resources.
Based on the presently configured International Convention on the Law of the SEA, the world has rejected the concept of 200 mile wide territorial seas where the adjacent coastal state is as sovereign as it is on the main street of their capitol. In stead the world has adopted a regime of graduated soverignity with the territorial sea limited to 12 miles from a base line ashore on the adjacent coastal state. Beyond this 12 mile territorial sea there are various zones where certail types of law enforcement activity by the adjacent coastal state are allowed. For example ther eis usually a 12 mile "contigious zone" or :Customs enforcement zone that starts wher ethe territorial sea ends. Withinh this zone the adjacent coastal state may enforce certain specific customs laws, most especially the exercise of jurisdiction over any vessel "constructively present" in their territorial sea by virtue of communicating with vessels from the shore for other than collision avoidance purposes.  
 Continental powers are generally now legally entitled to exclusive rights to the benthic (bottonm dwelling) fisheries and minerals of the sea floor from their continental margins to the geographic limits of the continental shelves. Regardless of the submarine geography and geology most continental states are accorded an exclusive economic zone where , subject to every other nation's right to "innocent passage", only the EEZ holder may establish off shore platforms and other forms of semi permanent resource extraction or use installations. Here and there in the world, nations are claiming larger shares of the Outer Continental Shelves (OCS)  under the OCS treaties. Russia, for example claims their Arctic OCS waters extend from their continental margin to the North Pole because the Pole, according to their research, actually sits on their continental shelf. However the international community points to the exceptions in the EEZ distribution / recognition where adjacent states share a shelf or are simply closer than the norm of 200 miles. An example would be the width of the U.S. EEZ between Florida and the Bahamas. The United States can't claim a 200 mile EEZ with the Bahamas being only 60 miles from shore, at this point the boundaries between respective EEZs is a negociated one.
For years the "right of innocent passage" allowed vessels to travel to the edge of the territorial sea unmolested by the maritime authorities of the adjacent coastal state and innocent passage included complete freedom of "oceanographic research". The EEZ concept now modifies the traditional freedom of oceanographic research. A ship with benthic or seismic sensing capabilities is capable of gathering data of immediate economic value. Many adjacent coastal states regard this as an intolerable infringement of their EEZ. Many such ships look for guidance on the established boundaries and disputed areas of the World's EEZs so that they can turn such sensors off and log the time and location of securing these transceivers in legally sensitive waters. Unfortunately EEZ limits are not found marked on most nautical charts. Off shore oil drillers and explration organizations are concerned with such boundaries and disputed zones on a daily basis. The above hyper link will take the voyage planner, project planned, navigator, or quartermaster to a Google Earth web site where one may prepare an overlay of EEZ recognized boundaries and disputed areas  for overlay on more typical geographic maps and charts. From these the trained navigator should be able to extract longitude and lattitude coordinates allowing him or her to pencil in lines  on a standard navigation chart.


Under review:

Sailing Into The Abyss     

by Bill Bennetetto

< />Tells the story of the loss of the U.S.Merchant Vessel BADGER STATE with the loss of 26 crew men, the largest single U.S.Merchant Marine casualty of the Vietnam War.

AAB: RECOMMENDED for all who enjoy gripping true stories of adventure on the high seas and a must for marine safety professionals.

 254 pages (some photos)
 ISBN -13- 978-0806526491

 There are only two ways to get bullets, bombs, or beans to U.S. troops in war zones they either have to be carried by the tiny number of transport ships out right owned and operated by the U.S. Navy or they have to be carried on U.S. Merchant Marine ships chartered by the Navy. The usual carriers of U.S. commerce today, ships registered in Panama, Liberia, Singapore, Cypress, the Marshal Islands and other "open registries" generally are of little use to America when war supplies have to be transported to "hot" theaters of military operations. Foreign crews generally are reluctant to put their lives on the line for what they perceive as "American interests". Foreign ship owners and even American owners operating under these open registry flags are reluctant to put their ships at risk. Every cargo carrier the Navy builds, eats "blue dollars" that are desperately needed in these tight budget times to built combatant ships. It has always been this way. When the bullets, bombs and beans have to go in harms way we call on the U..S. Merchant Marine, by law a "naval auxiliary" to do the heavy lifting. They have never failed us, but that is not to say they never lost a ship or a man in trying to get the supplies through to the troops.

 This is the gripping story of the disaster that over took the SS BADGER STATE, a WW II era freighter still sailing under the American flag in 1969 while attempting to deliver a ship load of bombs to South Vietnam. Five thousand bombs were loaded at the Bangor Munitions Depot into the hold of the BADGER STATE and undetected by the ship's officers some were inadequately secured. This book is a gripping account of the chain of events that over took the ship in the Pacific when she encountered a storm that caused at first a single bomb to break loose then in chain reaction a major portion of the bomb cargo was soon rolling about unrestrained. Captain Charles Wilson and a crew inspired by his leadership heroically but unsuccessfully fought the weather and the loose bombs. When the situation became hopeless Captain Wilson successfully abandoned ship ahead of the explosion that sank the BADGER STATE, but unfortunately the story doesn't end there. In an incredible example of how Murphy's Law sometimes exacts a death penalty on the brave and innocent only 14 of the 40 crewmen would live to tell the tale. You'll have to read the book to see how it all ends or the news accounts from 1969. The book is easier to come by and more comprehensive. Winner of the 2006 Maritime Book Award for non fiction. Click on the book cover icon above to order or learn more.


Product Details
by Steven Ujifusa, 448 pages published by Aimon & Schuster, New York.

As I write this in my office I am literally sitting under a shelf holding a two and a half foot long model of the SS UNITED STATES the ship that is the subject of this book. I often used this model in the past as a training aid in teaching nautical terminology to lawyers in continuing legal education classes, if you are a certin age you might remember training aids like scale models, mock ups, transparencies,or even movies. Then someone invented Power Point and real instruction was displaced, but I digress that is another subject. My purpose here is to recommend to you this new book by Steven Ujifusa. This is the story of the last Blue Riband winner in the transatlantic passenger liner service , one of th egreatest merchant ships to ever fly the American flag, and her designer.

 TITANIC,MAURETANIA, BREMEN and the last of the great liners the UNITED STATES. Their era came to an end with the advent of transoceanic jet service. In their heyday they hauled the rich and famous back and forth across the Atlantic in style. They were sometimes near 1,000 feet long and the United States launched on June 23, 1951 averaged 35.9 knots on her first outbound trip from the United States. Depending on the time of year and departure time with the ability to often  put over 821 ocean miles in her wake Fredrick he formed Gibbs Brothers Company which made a name for itself converting the captured German  ocean liner VATERLAND into the famous  LEVIATHAN. Around 1929 the brothers merged with yacht designer Daniel Cox,s organization to form Gibbs and Cox as we know the organization today. This is the story of the ship, the design, and the designer. It should be of interest to maritime historians, model builders and lots of the general public.   

 Click on the small book cover to read more or order



U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Water Front, Photo:U.S. Dept. of Transportation

ANATOMY OF A COLLISION    by Capt. Robert J. Meurn class of 1958

  ONLY $7.99 on Kindle!

AMAZON DESCRIPTION: "The sinking of the Andrea Doria on July 25, 1956, was devastating as the ship embodied the vibrant heart and soul of Italian heritage and its people. The sinking marked the twilight of the ocean liner as a significant means of passage across the oceans. Within a year of this tragedy, transoceanic flights were routinely scheduled. 
The Stockholm’s destruction of Italy’s beautiful maritime crown jewel had ramifications throughout the world. 
What really caused the collision between the Andrea Doria and Stockholm off Nantucket on that foggy night of July 25th? 
Years of controversy followed. Was it foggy or clear? How could two vessels equipped with radar collide? Was the approach of the vessels right to right (starboard to starboard) end on or left to left (port to port)? Why did a New York inquiry end so quickly with an out of court settlement? How did false accusations, prejudices and books such as “Collision Course” obscure the facts? Why did Captain Calamai of the Andrea Doria become the scapegoat for the collision? 
Anatomy of a Collision is a factual accounting of this disaster that will not only answer these questions but also demonstrate the fatal error made by the Stockholm. Unlike the Titanic, it became the greatest sea rescue in history."

AAB NOTES: Captain Meurn taught Bridge Watchstanding at the USMAA's CAORF facility where many of us went for post license training programs. His course was well known for his simulator demonstration of the ANDREA DORIA / STOCKHOLM collision. Capt. Meurn's book is based on over 30 years of personal research including 20 years with computerized bridge simulator access, a tool unknown to the original investigators. RECOMMENDED for serious students of maritime history and Accident reconstruction.
FOR THOSE DEDICATED TO POLITICAL INCORRECTNESS:Click on the smallest book cover icon to read more or to order

 Our regular visitors know that here at the American Admiralty Book shop we tend towards political incorrectness. Its not that we seek to offend or dislike any one, or any group, its just that we are old and cranky and its simply too much trouble to keep up with what's politically correct at any given moment. We also know that our modern federal government and even armed services require political correctness. That's why we don't use our real names when writing and publishing posts for this blog. John Jacobsen, USMAA class of 1985 has affixed his real name to A COMMODORE OF ERRORS a comedic novel about a fictitious set of Commandants and Commandants wanna be characters and even one of them's mother.

 In this novel about the political wrangling  of fictitious second in command of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Commodore Robert S. Dickey who wants the top dog Commandant's job political incorrectness reaches a new comic high. The pompous Dickey desperately wants the job of Academy Commandant, the skirt chasing Admiral Johnson. Dickey hatches a plot to to expose Johnson's next peccadillo. To assist him in undoing Johnson Dickey conspires with Mogie Mogelefsky, the imperious, bullying, mayor of Great Neck. When the dynamic duo finally succeed in exposing Johnson in a compromising position, Mogie  suddenly reneges on his deal, Mogie is tired of dealing with the WASPS at the Academy and declares he wants a Jew instead. Dickey isn't too worried at first since a requirement for the Commandant's job is that the candidate has to have commanded a U.S. flag ship. The population of American Jewish ship masters is extremely low.

 Then Mogie's constituent Mrs Tannenbaume enters the picture. Her son is a ship captain and she'd really like to have him near home. Unfortunately Mrs Tannenbaume has spent her entire life proclaiming that her last name having an e on the end, is not Jewish. She didn't raise her kid as a Jew but she is determined to pass him for Jewish to get him the job. Dickey plans to expose him as a Gentile and Mrs. T knows it. Off she flies to join her son's ship in Singapore to instruct him and his new bride a 19 year old Thai bar girl , to be the perfect Jewish couple. The crew of her son's ship the M.V. GOD has never seen anyone like Mrs. T before and marvels as she "takes the conn" from her son and everyone else who gets in her way. We won't tell you how it ends.

 The book is a laugh riot for the politically incorrect, the insensitive, or the more thick skinned non WASPS among us, and thick skinned WASPS for that matter since that cultural group are the butt of a lot of humor in the book. Indeed the if there is an element of political correctness in the book it is that everyone but the handicapped are depicted in an unflattering light. Why the author decided to leave the physically handicapped unscathed we are not sure. Maybe next book Jacobsen will attack all of the one legged people. Warning, if you are offended by stereotypes, or if you are yourself actually politically correct this book is not for you. But for us regular "Joe Smuckatellies" who could care less its a laugh riot. This is Saturday Night Live humor for Academy insiders. Highly RECOMMENDED for the insensitive reader.

BLOOD ON BROWN WATER-Temporary File for Serial Installments:


First part of a serialization of Blood on Brown WaterNMA Report No.R- 213 by Capt. Richard Block which is now making the rounds of the Halls of Congress.


 As you read this book, many of America's 126,000 merchant seamen who serve on vessels of less than 1,600 gross tons (I.e., about 60% of the entire 210,000 U.S. merchant mariners) are laboring , and some are even dying under third -world working conditions on the rivers and inland waters of the United States, on the American Outer Continental Shelf waters, and off the coast of Alaska. The United States Coast Guard, OSHA, the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security, and relevant Congressional Committees are well aware of this situation.

 Of more immediate concern to you, the reader, is the fact that these conditions all too often result in mariners so impaired on the navigation bridge that their cognitive performance is no better than that of a driver under the influence of alcohol. In the last few decades these fatigue impaired mariners, victims themselves of under manning and overwork in the service of greedy corporations, have struck many bridges over navigable waters and have sent dozens of automobiles, one passenger train, and one bus hurtling into the waters below with tragic and fatal results.

 These mariners serving mostly in the Jones Act domestic trades on our near coastal and inland waters aboard vessels of limited size but still able to inflict real damage on our maritime infrastructure are rarely served by labor unions that provide responsible training for their members. These mariners have no voice in the work place and are routinely abused and forced into fatigue induced states where no person should ever be operating machinery of any sort much less navigating vessels capable of taking down bridges, power lines, and damaging other structures. These same fatigued mariners are attempting to unload people and cargoes in high seas from supply vessels to offshore oil rigs and often being killed and maimed in the process. Our mariners, unlike their employers, belong to no powerful lobbying organizations able to offer cushy retirement jobs to senior Coast Guard officers; and, above all, our mariners have been easy to ignore.

 Much of this happens to our mariners out of sight of land or in remote locations wherever the industry functions. It happens to mariners scattered across many Congressional districts. It happens during or at the end of their weeks to months' long tours of duty. Our mariners make up a majority in no Congressional District.

 While losing a tugboat or an OSV or one or two deckhands may be front-page news in Texas, Louisiana, or other local media outlets, it probably won't make the national news, and the crew members' homes will be widely scattered mostly rural counties in the South. The boat company is free to recruit more hands to replace the dead and the entire process is reduced to a mere inconvenience. 

 When complaints are lodged with government regulators and departmental Inspectors General, they are dismissed as "labor disputes". When the occasional ordinary citizen is killed crossing a bridge at the wrong moment it draws little notice nationally. Such "civilian deaths" while all too common are nonetheless spread apart by time and distance and nobody seems to see the pattern except a tiny voice in the wilderness known as the National Mariner's Association whose accurate, alarming, but relatively dry and and technical reports are routinely shelved by all responsible branches of government. 

 In this book we will tell you, as members of the American Public, some of the true horror stories of what is going on offshore or even "inside the levee" in the hopes that an aroused public will be able to move Congress to act, where the rattle of dry facts and figures have been unable to do so. Seafaring American merchant seamen once faced similar conditions. Reform began with the publication of a single book-Richard Henry Dana's "TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST". Today's blue-water American merchant seamen are protected by statute from excessive work hours and improper provisioning, and by strong unions that insure decent working conditions. By contrast, too many of our Jones Act seamen do not even receive the woefully inadequate protections of the minimal regulations that apply to them. The result is death, dismemberment, and debilitating injury for both seamen and occasionally the innocent bystander in the thirty six American States served by inland and coastal navigation.

 We can't wait for another Richard Henry Dana to appear so we have brought some of the on-going horror stories straight from the pages of the National Mariners Association's documents. We urge you to read, and then to react by contacting Congress and demanding reform. (To be continued)

The following reports from the NMA illustrate some of the accidents mentioned in passing in the Prologue.To order reports click on the hyper link provided below.

Maritime Accidents – Bridge Allisions.
£R-293-A.  Rev.3.  June 1, 2008.  Towboats and Bridges, A Dangerous Mix.,  28p.  $6.60.
£R-293-B.  Rev. 6. Dec. 7, 2008.  We Urge Congress to Look Into Overhead Clearance Accidents.  13p. $3.60[Previously numbered #R-411, Rev. 4, June 1, 2008]
£R-293-C.  Apr. 25, 2005.  Allision Involving the M/V Brownwater V and the Queen Isabella Causeway Bridge, Port Isabel, Texas Sept. 15, 2001.  37p.  $8.40  [USCG Report Reprint.] [Also see Report #R-399.]

£R-300.  Jan. 9, 2002.  Chao, Secretary of Labor vs. Mallard Bay Drilling, Inc.  [Reprint of U.S. Supreme Court Decision]  10p.  $3.00.
£R-301.  Uninspected Towing Vessel Workplace Safety Considerations. 42p.  $9.40.
£R-302.  Guide for Investigating for Fatigue.  [Reprint of Transportation Safety Board of Canada report]. 26p.  $6.20.

Merchant Marine Interest:


To follow the related videos without interruption:
1.Click on the hyperlinks as they occur in the text.
2. When the video stops playing go the top left hand corner of the tool bar in YouTube and click on the "return arrow" (an arrow symbol, point towards your left as you face the screen). This will bring you back to the text of this posting at the point where you exited to watch the video.

 We have been trying to introduce our readers to the importance of the "Jones Act Fleets" since we first started constructing this blog. If you visit our Merchant Marine Interest section you'll notice that our first recommended book is "THE WAY OF THE SHIPwhich describes how America's commercial vessels and ship yards servicing our trade between the states coast wise, along our vast river and canal systems, on the Great Lakes, and servicing our offshore oil industry are not a back water of the United States Merchant Marine but the root, the heart, and core from which our fleets of larger ocean transports have been reestablished in times of national emergency. On June 12, 2012 we introduced you to the combined efforts of a fleet of Jones Act vessels under Coast Guard direction which performed an evacuation "bigger than Dunkirk" when the World Trade Towers fell. Click here for the related video:

Earlier, in our blog entry titled ANOTHER TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST we introduced you to the National Mariner's Association (NMA)  and its Second Request to Congress to improve the working conditions of many in the Jone's Act Fleets, most particularly the crews of the offshore service vessel fleets servicing our offshore oil rigs, and the crews of inland towing vessels. In that blog we introduced you to the documentation behind the request, NMA Report No. 370 Rev.4 and its specially edited for the general public version "BLOOD ON BROWN WATER" For those of you who have never actually worked an offshore service vessel (OSV) and especially those of you who have never seen one, here is a hyperlink to a collection of pictures of such vessels and the sights they see as they ply their trade set to some new original music. (Just click on the "return arrow" on the upper left corner of the YouTube tool bar to return here.)

 Also below please find a video set to music that will help you envision what America's great river fleet, both passenger, and towboat cargo trades are like. (again, just click on the "return arrow in the upper left hand corner of the YouTube tool bar to come right back here)

 The NMA's "Second Request to Congress", which is still under consideration, asks the Congress of the United States to change certain laws and regulations that are involved with the regulation of working hours and certain living conditions aboard the vessels in our domestic fleets that are allowed to work crews on a "two watch system". This system was supposed to provide such crews with a maximum 12 hour work day, but the way the system is worked by management and under regulated by the Coast Guard the system has degenerated into a 12 hour minimum work day with some deadly results. Capt. Richard Block of the NMA described these needed changes and the reasons for them in the NMA report No. 370 Rev.4. This document has been in the hands of the relevant Congressional subcommittee's staffs since at least May of 2012. Later that report was condensed into a 79 page book for the general public titled "BLOOD on BROWN WATER"

We have urged the general public to read this work which we feel is the most important publication on Merchant Marine safety and health since Richard Henry Dana's classic TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST. But few have read it and time is running out before the 112 Congress is finished. If there is no action in this session, the entire political process has to start over. Those of you who read BLOOD ON BROWN WATER will realize how such inaction will cost not only merchant mariner lives, but possibly some lives of the general public. So to encourage the reading of "BLOOD ON BROWN WATER" we are going to serialize it right here in American Admiralty Books in small digestible portions. Where we can, we will illustrate the concepts as we have done in this posting. So watch for it, read it, then act. BLOOD ON BROWN WATER coming right here real soon.

Chapter 1 Blood on Brown Water Serial

Merchant Marine Interest:

A Serial Presentation of "BLOOD ON BROWN WATER"
Chapter 1

 "Most Americans perceive the United States as a continental power stretching from sea to sea, containing vast natural resources, and virtually self sufficient in raw materials. In fact, in terms of modern industrial requirements, we are a "have not nation". The vast bulk of these imports come to us by sea with more than 90% carried by foreign-flag commercial shipping. So we are not only a "have-not" nation in terms of strategic materials, we are also a nation dependent on foreign merchant marines for the delivery of our needs." (paragraph 1, chapter 1  of BLOOD ON BROWN WATER "America's Invisible Merchant Marine Fleet")

Lets take a moment for those of you who are not naval or merchant marine professionals to link to some photos of these foreign flag ships that deliver our strategic materials and the vast majority of our foreign trade. Click on the link below to view an informative YouTube presentation, then click on the "return arrow" ( an arrow symbol pointing to your left) in the upper left hand corner of the YouTube tool bar. The return arrow will bring you right back here.

 They say one picture is worth a thousand words. Exclusive of the yachts and ferries illustrated, the ships depicted in the above video   are the types required to carry our national commerce, and support  sea lift for our supply of our armed forces deployed overseas. The United States has only about ten such ships operating at a profit in commerce around the world. We have a fleet of government subsidized transports and tankers dedicated to military support of about 200 ships. You may notice that the foreign narrator actually defined a merchant ship as a vessel carrying cargoes in "peace time".

  By law the U.S. Merchant Marine is a "Naval Auxiliary" legally and honor bound to carry whatever we need wherever it is needed even when having to run gauntlets of submarines and surface raiders, and air craft attack, as they did in both World Wars. This is one of the main points in chapter 1. Our need for transoceanic transport is presently provided by foreign ships which we can be assured will desert us if a shooting war ever again breaks out on the ocean. As we had to in both World Wars, we will have to rapidly expand our ocean transport fleet and find Merchant Mariners to man these new vessels. 


Naval /Merchant Marine Interests:

BLOOD ON BROWN WATER, Chapter 1 continued

"During World War II the United States Merchant Marine was the largest in the World numbering at times over 5,000 ships even while sustaining heavy losses. Today we have about 10 commercial transoceanic transports in the international trades and possibly as many as 200 civilian-manned navy-owned and operated transoceanic major transports dedicated to the service of military logistics. We still possess the world's most powerful navy and there are no navies seeking to destroy our commerce. Piracy, while still with us, is confined to several regional problem areas. With such relatively safe seas, foreign carriers don't mind carrying our trade. Both foreign carriers and American -owned but foreign-registered "flag of convenience" shipping can carry our international trade at an attractive profit, and at the expense of American jobs, as long as the seas remain free to transit. The freedom of transit is largely paid for by the American taxpayers through the maintenance of the American Navy.

 Unfortunately the history in two World wars taught us that willing foreign foreign carriers disappear when the risks to shipping begin to interfere with their profits. When forced to do so, the United States has on several occasions demonstrated an uncanny ability to vastly expand its national merchant marine, its international transport fleet, and properly crew it in a very short time frame.

 To understand how we have been able to do these things in the past, you must reverse a very common image of America's Merchant Marine. According to the popular image, big deep-sea transports, freighters, container ships, tankers, and bulk carriers are our "real" Merchant Marine while our tugs and barges, offshore supply and service vessels, ferries, and excursion boats are auxiliary to, or only a minor branch of the American Merchant Marine. Actually the reverse is true. Since the dawn of the Republic, America has conducted more trade by water between and among our own states than with foreign economies despite our shortage of strategic materials and the recent downturn in manufacturing.

 Of course some of this domestic waterway trade is a continuation of imports in foreign trade or part of the beginning of export voyages. Some typical examples would include the movement of gasoline and heating oil on the Mississippi River for eventual distribution by tank barge to 18 interior states.The refined product was delivered in part from imported crude oil, which reached New Orleans and Baton Rouge, by tank ship. However the foreign crude stocks are not the reason this interior waterborne trade exists. The trade started when Louisiana refineries were fed only crude stocks pumped from Louisiana and Texas, back when our country was an oil exporting nation as we were before World War II (1941-1945). Jet fuel moves from Houston refineries to the Florida panhandle's military air stations by tank barge propelled by American-manned and American documented towboats."

Let's take a few moments and take a look at what our interior towboat and barge system looks like. The hyperlink below will not only show you some of our larger towboats and barges on the Mississippi, but also some of our inland passenger craft. While the barges move vast quantities of vital cargo in peace and war, the big excursion and cruise vessels educate the public to the importance of inland navigation. In emergencies these large passenger carriers can transport evacuees and response forces and some of the cruise vessels can double as hospital vessels and barracks vessels as illustrated in the Hurricane Katrina response. Click on the hyperlink below to view the video.
(to be continued)

Naval/ Merchant Marine Interest:

BLOOD ON BROWN WATER, Chapter 1 continued:

 Coastwise American tankers and tug / tank barge unit tows carry chemical stocks between Houston , the New Orleans -Baton Rouge "Chemical Corridor", and East Coast Ports like Baltimore. 

 Grain for export from the Mid West heartland is transported down to New Orleans by towboat and barge; but along with the export grain a great deal of the grain slated for domestic consumption is also distributed by barge. Giant bulk carriers called "Lakers" ply the Great Lakes shifting the area's grain and iron cargoes both between and among the regional users and export points. There are even barge movements carrying potatoes out of parts of Idaho to the West Coast via the Snake and Columbia rivers for domestic consumption and export. 

 Off of the Gulf Coast, the coasts of Southern California, and Alaska small nimble ships called Offshore Supply Vessels (OSVs) deliver supplies and personnel to America's offshore oil and gas rigs on our Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) and elsewhere in our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).  In more than 33 American States with navigable waters, large and small ferries shuttle people to work and to resorts. Day excursion vessels of all sizes crewed by "limited tonnage" mariners carry day-trippers and sightseeing tours. Around all four coasts and in our "inland seas"like Chesapeake Bay, Long Island and Puget Sounds powerful harbor tugs see to the general towage needs of the marine transportation and construction industries. In all navigable waters and even in places not normally navigable, available tugs and towboats provide services to America's bridge builders, pier builders, bulkhead builders, and the maritime civil engineering industry generally. The officers and most of the seamen aboard this vast domestic fleet of sturdy "work boats" are licensed and certified members of the United States Merchant Marine and serve under the general superintendence of the U.S.Coast Guard.The various domestic fleets they serve feature vessels ranging from 26 feet in length to in excess of 400 feet. These vessels in turn are serviced by dozens of "second tier"shipyards.

 It is from this vast domestic shipping industry that we have drawn the seamen and ship builders in the past to rapidly expand our international fleet when the "beans and bullets"had to reach foreign countries and to deploy american troops while the usual foreign -flag marine transport suppliers were nowhere to be found.

 Make no mistake about it, this domestic fleet only survived competition from Third World and "flag-of convenience" vessels built at a fraction of the cost of American -built vessels, and third world seamen willing to work for a bowl of rice because it was protected. Most successful commercial nations provide legal protection for their "cabotage trades" (From the French term meaning between the capes or "coast wise'). Allowing foreign flag vessels to carry domestic waterborne trade is both a security risk and commercial suicide. To get a really visceral feel for what it is like to allow foreign mariners to carry your domestic commerce, rent the old Steve McQueen movie "THE SAND PEBBLES". "

 You can order a copy of the movie by clicking on the icon below which will also lead you to several lower cost rental opportunities. We didn't write this suggestion, but we are familiar with the movie. It depicts China on the eve of the Boxer Rebellion, perhaps the worse blood letting in history sparked by failure by China to enforce its cabotage laws. BLOOD ON BROWN WATER WILL CONTINUE and in our next installment the author explains why he wants you to view the movie.




BLOOD ON BROWN WATER: Chapter 1 part 3.

 In our last installment the author urged you to view the old Steve McQueen Movie THE SAND PEBBLES. We provided you with a link to obtain a copy or rental of the movie. We pick up chapter 1 where the author explains why he recommends the viewing of this movie by any serious student of cabotage law. Below is a hyperlink to a YouTube movie preview of THE SAND PEBBLES

 Try to consider the events depicted during the Boxer Rebellion in China in 1900 from the Chinese perspective. What were American and British gunboats doing patrolling a thousand miles up their Yangtze River?  The answer is simple, American and British merchant vessels went in before them and took jobs from Chinese water-men and generated poverty that eventually degenerated into banditry and river piracy. Since navies traditionally protected their merchant shipping, it was only logical that foreign navies would soon ascend the rivers of China sparking a chain of events that we have not finished witnessing even today. Except for a series of statutes collectively known as the "Jones Act", America today would be in the same boat that China was in on the eve of Boxer Rebellion over a century ago. (If you have been following our series called "HOW FAR WILL THE DRAGON SWIM?" you have no doubt observed the present day over zealous approach to cabotage enforcement by the modern Chinese Navy. The Peoples Liberation Army's Navy, the PLAN tries to enforce watery territorial claims right up to the beach of their neighbors and cheerfully shoots even unarmed defenders of counter territorial claims. This is a direct consequence of attitudes instilled at the time of the Boxer Rebellion. The Chinese, from bitter experience have learned the lesson of never letting a foreign power carry their domestic shipping, even if it means usurping the rights of your weaker neighbors.)

 Today, we are slowly relinquishing to corporate greed the domestic trades that are the backbone of our merchant marine that no foreign power ever was able to take from us by force. The Jones act fleet is under constant political attack in Congress, while Jones act crews in many trades often are reduced to third world working conditions. Because of these working conditions, which some observers believe have reduced the life expectancy of Jones
Act seamen to an average of of approximately 57 years, the aging crews of America's work boats are not being replaced by members of a new generation. Each year more and more waivers are granted allowing foreign crews into our domestic waterborne trade. Japanese, French, and Italian interests own some of the export grain elevators (along the Mississippi) and lobby Congress for ever cheaper water transport unconcerned by the thought of what a foreign crew on a Mississippi River towboat would mean in the way of American port and waterway safety and security. Unfortunately , the reality of today's Jones act crews doesn't provide much contrast with what we might expect out of some third- world crews. It is not the fault of our superbly trained, tested, and experienced Jones Act seamen. Our domestic crews are worked such impossibly long and irregular hours that Coast Guard studies indicate that many non- union crews, and they are in the majority, are so fatigue impaired after only a couple of days aboard that their cognitive functions are on a par with an alcohol impaired driver in the .05 to .08 blood alcohol range-with .08 BAC being "Intoxicated" in most states!

 In the pages of this book, we will make our case that domestic American waters are being served by fatigue impaired navigators and their undermanned deck and engine crews. This is a work force of 126,000 hard working Americans performing a vital national service at very serious detriment to their safety and health. 

 In the process ordinary Americans are being killed in surprising numbers while trying to do such mundane things as motor across a bridge over a navigable waterway.
 There have been numerous towboat / barge accidents that have damaged bridges in recent years. Here is a link to an amazing video. Sometimes the bridge wins and amazingly the crew survives:



BLOOD ON BROWN WATER:Chapter 1 final installment

 The horrors we will document in this book have been going on for over thirty years in the full view of the United States Coast Guard. In more recent years, Congress has been informed and attempted some well-meaning reform only to have the Coast Guard ignore their instructions or to have vessel owner lobbies water down the legislation. The Inspector Generals of the Transportation Department and the Department of Homeland Security were informed and have done nothing to remedy the situation. Now, to protect our mariners as well as the public at large, we (The National Mariners Association) are taking our case to the American people.

 We are not the first to describe our cabotage trade fleets as the root, the heart, and the core of the American Merchant Marine. Alex Roland, W. Jeffery Bolster, and Alexander Keyssar did an earlier and far more extensive job of it in "THE WAY OF THE SHIP" for the American History Project. We urge our readers to read this work. If you do that, you will be struck by two paradoxes. The first is the incredible contrast between the volume of U.S. trade and the minuscule size of the American international merchant marine.  In the second you will be amazed by the contrast between the importance shipping, particularly coast wise and inland waterway shipping, our domestic merchant marine ; have exerted on American history and life and its relative invisibility to historians and citizens.

 "THE WAY OF THE SHIP" is perhaps the first maritime history to tell in detail the important story of the commercial transport of cargo and passengers between American ports and the ways in which it fueled the material and economic expansion of our country. In our attempt to describe the present day plight of the crews of our domestic fleets we have neither the time nor the space to fully educate the reader to the long history and vital importance of these fleets and shipyards to our national survival. we can only refer you to "THE WAY OF THE SHIP" and proceed with our narrative.

 We intend in these pages to describe the working conditions aboard America's working domestic commercial vessels and the effects those conditions have upon the crew members, their families, and occasionally the general public. This is a twice told tale, told in a hurry against gathering darkness. Would that we had a Richard Henry Dana and a "TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST" but all we have is the truth and very little time to tell it.

To be continued

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 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.



  On December 4, 2000, Rita Billiot called to tell us that her brother in law Antoine Collins Verret, master of the anchor-handling tug M/V MOHAWK EAGLE owned at the time by Double Eagle Marine, was found unconscious in his cabin after suffering a stroke on the vessel while returning to an anchor -handling job for the pipe-laying barge MIDNIGHT BRAVE 60 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. She reported that Collins was evacuated by helicopter to Lake Charles Memorial Hospital. The company called Rita's sister Catherine, Collin's wife, at about 6:00 a.m. and told her that her husband was "rather sick". She would later learn that this understatement clouded the reality that Collins was close to death.

  A company representative, in trying to minimize the seriousness of the illness, provided additional details to Rita over the phone indicating that Collins' condition was extremely grave. Somehow, Rita in a near panic, managed to drive her sister, Catherine, at speeds approaching 80 mph, more than 150 miles to Lake Charles, Louisiana, where Collins now lay in intensive care partially paralyzed, incoherent, and just barely conscious.

 After several days as his condition stabilized, Collins was transferred to Terrebonne General Medical Center several miles from his home in Houma, LA, where he would spend several weeks in the rehabilitation unit. It was at this point where friends , family, and eventually our Association's (NMA) officers first viewed the devastation caused by the stroke that left him paralyzed on his left side. He is wheelchair-bound, unable to walk without direct supervision, and cannot write or use his left hand Much water has passed under the bridge in the years after his stroke. Collins Verret's story should provide food for thought for any mariner who chooses or is forced to do the work of two men, work excessive hours often under harrowing conditions and to the point of exhaustion on the job.

 According to testimony taken under oath, Collins was an exemplary mariner. During his 45 years of service in the marine industry, he had a clear Coast Guard record, a clean driving record, had never been involved in a serious accident. He was well liked by his company personnel manager who considered him a "friend" and was respected by both his crew as well as the customer he was working for. One crew member went so far as to say that both of the barge captains on the MIDNIGHT BRAVE "loved'him.

  It was clear that when Barge Captain Nini heard of Collins stroke he moved heaven and earth to get an evacuation helicopter into the air and en route to the scene - with no delay and without any inane questions as to who would pay the bill. Collins is friendly and soft -spoken and dedicated to perforning whatever job he is given to the very best of his ability... as he proved by sacrificing his health in this case that should provide several very important lessons to our mariners. One of those lessons involves the stress and fatigue that working on commercial and largely unregulated towing vessels can cause (1)[ Refer to NMA Report # R-403].

 In the mid-1990s, Captain John  R. Sutton , President of the American Inland Mariners Asociation (AIM), made inquiries of many knowledgeable masters and river towboat pilots, searched obituaries of friends and other mariners who passed away and found that their average lifespan was only slightly over 57 years. His study was as through as possible under the circumstances although admittedly not "scientific".

 For "science" in Captain Verret's case, we rely on the sworn testimony of Dr. John Stirling Meyer, a researcher on stroke at the Veterans administration Medical Center and Professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX. Dr. Meyer presented an expert opinion that stated in part: The fatigue, sleep deprivation, and stress experienced by Captain Verret, more probably than not, aggravated or contributed to his stroke. This testimony given in a 115 page deposition is so convincing that we forwarded a copy to the National Transportation Safety Board to consider as supporting evidence in their ongoing "scientific hours of work" project. (NTSB Recommendation M-99-1)

 Captain Verret was 59 years of age at the time of the stroke that left him permanently and completely disabled. "Disabled" has meant that Collins spent the next twelve years in a wheelchair dependent upon his wife, Catherine, and other members of his immediate family as caregivers. His future is bleak.  

  Our association hears of many mariners who worked on boats all of their lives with the intention of retiring  from the industry someday-as Captain Verret planned to do in several years. Regrettably , many mariners develop health problems that force them out of the industry before they can reach an age covered by Social Security and / or Medicare. This is a result of the aging process accompanied by stressors unique to this industry including:

  • unreasonably harsh working conditions that become unrelenting when applied to older mariners;
  • long term vessel undermanning
  • working with untrained crewmembers including "green deckhands prone to accidents, and inexperienced Mates not capable of standing their watch alone;
  • working excessively long hours to make up for shortcomings of other crewmembers;
  • running the boat in the stress of rough weather,during hours of darkness and in fog with limited visibility;
  • enduring years of poor diets;
  • drinking unsanitary and impure drinking water from rusty and decaying water tanks;
  • frequent interruptions of sleep by noise, vibration, and vessel motion;
  • years of smoking or being forced to live with exposure to second -hand tobacco smoke in close quarters.
  • high accident rates caused by dangerous and largely unregulated working conditions on towing vessels that still do not undergo Coast Guard inspections (refer to NMA Report # R-276,Rev.10).
 These conditions help explain why the "average" life span of a towing vessel officer may be shortened by years.

Chapter 2 c
  Finally, in February 2003, our Association pulled the problem from the Coast Guard and brought it directly to the attention of the media and two Congressional oversight committees and have kept our focus on the problem ever since.(Refer to NMA Report R-350, Rev.6].

 Here are some problems a seriously injured mariner faces to obtain the care and attention he rightfully deserves following a serious job-related accident.

 Collins' sister in law , Rita Billiot called us on behalf of her family for advice. Our Association recommended that her family seek legal counsel from Mark L. Ross, Esq. who is well known by our mariners. Mr.Ross visited with the family at the hospital in Lake Charles, LA on the day after the accident and took charge of the situation to ensure that Collins' immediate and long term medical needs were attended to. In doing so, he sought to work with the company, R&B Falcon, and its insurer. The vessel itself was in the process of being transferred from one owner to another.

 When the attorneys for the new owners, Delta Towing, made things difficult in a number of ways, Attorney Mark Ross filed a lawsuit and brought the matter to a head. In the meanwhile, Delta Towing procrastinated and failed to come forward with the Mate, a key witness to this tragic event, for almost two years. During this time, Collins and Catherine and their family were left to their own limited means to do their best to try to cope with their shattered lives. This part of the story was absolutely unforgivable on the part of Delta Towing (as successor to R&B Falcon) but is not uncommon in the maritime industry. Our Association condemns the type of unnecessary hardship that this company and its attorneys perpetuated.

 In acknowledging the referral of this case, Attorney Ross reminded our Association's officers that he owed his undivided allegiance to his client, Collins Verret and his family, and that he would do his best to secure a fair and full monetary settlement for them so that they could try to pick up the pieces of their lives.

 Since this was the most horrendous example of a violation of the 12-hour statute we had witnessed to date, we hoped that a victory in court based on violations of the 12-hour rule would prove once and for all that all licensed mariners were clearly entitled to protection under the law. This did not happen in this case, like so many others finally was settled quietly "out of court". Consequently, in its final settlement, the towing company could assert that it had broken no laws, is guilty of nothing, ans settled amicably with their former employee. It's the truth, but certainly not the whole truth. This is why we examined this case so carefully so that we could share its findings with our mariners.

 Nevertheless, the final settlement did ensure that Captain Verret and his family would receive compensation for damages-following 2 1/2 years of intense privation, anxiety over medical bills and their future, additional stress, and suffering. sadly, the damage done to Collins and his family can never be repaired or restored. In viewing Collins after his accident, the cold hard cash from the settlement is both cold and hard. 

  If a judge had arrived at a decision after court proceedings, his decision might have set a clear precedent all injured mariners could look to. But, at this point, we believe it would be best to replace the existing 12 hour statute by "scientifically based hours -of -work regulations" not only for officers but also for other crew members as well. A twelve-hour workday limit takes into consideration certain "human factors" that can not be denied. But  Congress rather than the Coast Guard, will have to order a 12-hour workday for unlicensed crew members because the Coast Guard lacks the authority to do so. Our Association formally requested that Congress take this action because unlicensed crew members need the same consideration as their officers (Refer to NMA Report #R-350 Rev. 6, Issues "H" and "K").

 Our Association asserts that any new work -hour statutes should be based on suitable scientific studies. Congress ordered and received a Coast Guard Crew Endurance Management Study (CEMS) in 2005. While the science was excellent, the results did not justify using CEMS procedures as a substitute for adequate vessel manning. In public meetings , in October 2011, industry leaders continue to show no willingness to find a way to provide for a proven human need for 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep for their mariners in any 24-hour period. For the present, the NTSB recommendation for scientifically based hours of service regulations are just that-recommendations. They will remain a pipe dream unless Congress takes action and the Coast Guard enforces it. Limited- tonnage mariners who take a stand on this issue and refuse to be a party to existing work-boat hour laws and regulations will fight a losing battle until the law is changed and the Coast Guard enforces it. The existing 84-hour workweek that employers violate with impunity and the Coast Guard refuses to enforce must change. Unfortunately, it often takes a disaster to bring about changes. Even then, the last clear work-hour disaster that took out the I-40 Bridge at Webbers Falls, OK along with 14 lives and $30,000,000 in damages apparently was not enough.

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  A letter From Rita (To the NMA)

  Ungrateful Company Owners and Officials
The Letter of Rita Billiot to the NMA

 I am prompted to write this letter after what happened to my brother-in-law, Collins Verret. Collins has been a mariner all his life. He's in his late 50s. He was working on the boat when he had a stroke. Crewmembers found him on the deck in his room, where he had gone to try to get some rest after working far beyond his normal shift. He is left-handed; now he is paralyzed on his left side and confined to bed and a wheelchair.[Editorial notes (1) See "Lies, Ignorance, or Incompetence? below(2) The "truth"is that he had worked for almost 48 hours without meaningful relief. This was revealed in depositions taken two years after his stroke

 He was being overworked on the job. Nobody cared that he could not get the rest he needed, and he did not eat right. He is now a man that is not able to to do anything for himself anymore. He is depressed all the time, feels useless because he can not support his family anymore. His son had to drop out of school to help his mother take care of his dad. She is not well herself.

 What gets to me the most is that not one of the company owners or officials from the company office ever went to the hospital to see about him. They have not as much as called. They even tried to get out of paying his benefits by saying that it was not an "at fault"incident (AAB Editorial note: Admiralty law requires vessel owners to pay "maintenance, cure and lost wages" for any seaman who is injured or takes sick "while in the service of the ship", no fault is required.) Might I say though, that members of our Association did go see about him and have kept up with his progress.

 With all I have seen with my husband being a mariner (and my brother and brother in law are also mariners), these company "higher ups" are the most unappreciative, ungrateful unconcerned bunch of employers I have ever seen. They could care less about what happens to these men when they get hurt while working for them or get fired for a stupid reason, as once happened to my husband. As long as they have their bills paid, drive their nice vehicles, go home to their fancy houses in the best neighborhoods, eat at the finest restaurants, they simply don't care. They need to remember one thing though. It's our husbands, the men who sweat and risk their lives and licenses that make possible the owner's big fat paycheck. [R&B Falcon fired her husband for refusing to leave port on an international voyage until his tug's navigation equipment was repaired. He finally sued and recovered for wrongful termination.]  

 Who am I? I am a concerned wife of a seaman who is fed up with the abuse and the neglect from these companies. I am staying in contact with our Association to try to put a stop to these companies that are abusing and neglecting their employees. Since there "rules and regulations"for the mariners to follow and there should be "rules and regulations" for these companies to be held accountable for as well. They need to be held accountable for breaking the rules just like the seamen are when something happens on a boat.

Rita Billiot

Next installment "Lies, Ignorance, or Just Plain Incompetence"



BLOOD ON BROWN WATER: Chapter 3 Begins

 "The Industry Abandons Its Sick and Injured Seamen"Contact the instructor if you have difficulty viewing this image

 AAB NOTE: This is the start of the third chapter in our edited serial presentation of BLOOD ON BROWN WATER, an expose of working conditions on many of America's work boats. The book was written in support of an occupational safety and health legislative request proposed by the National Mariner's Association. If you are just joining us the easiest way to catch up is to just scroll down to the first blog entry under the title "BLOOD ON BROWN WATER"

 Marine towing as well as logistical support of offshore construction, drilling, construction, production and salvage activities is an inherently dangerous job. Even in the best-run companies, accidents that kill, cripple and maim seamen do happen. What sets the domestic fleets engaged in these activities apart from other American work places is what happens all too often in the wake of such accidents to the good seamen who simply did their duty and mistakenly expected better treatment from their employers who profited from their labor.

 The following two stories are of Cook Preston P. Joseph of the M/V WAR ADMIRAL and of Deckhand Herman Newton on the inland towboat EAST WIND as recorded by the National Mariner's Association and substantiated in the court records.

 Mariner seriously Injured at Work and Abandoned by His Employer

(Sources:Mark L. Ross, Esq, Lafayette, LA 70501. Eastern District Court LA Civil Action #01-3594) 

 In too many cases when mariners are injured on the job, they are left to their own devices to fend for themselves. Eventually, most angry and betrayed mariners thumb through the yellow pages in the phone book and let their fingers do the walking to find an attorney. 
Somehow, the rest of the story often appears blurred after it turns into a legal battle between the seaman and his employer for a legendary "pot of gold", money appears to become the prize and the seaman's suffering becomes incidental. The gold at the end of the rainbow is truly "fool's gold". 

  In our account of this case, the "prize" in no way compensates the injured seaman, Preston Joseph, for the pain and agony that he had to endure because of the callous neglect demonstrated by his employer, Tidewater Marine, LLC. the largest offshore boat operator in the world-in finally being forced to compensate him for his painful injury. In a field with so many workplace injuries, our mariners increasingly must depend upon the work of astute trial lawyers to remind some employers of the need to develop a conscience beneath their corporate veil.

 In case you didn't catch it earlier below is a hyper link to some slides and a song about Tidewater Marine to help you visualize the world of Preston Joseph, courtesy YouTube:

  Click Here for Video:

Contact the instructor if you have difficulty viewing this image


The Accident and Injury of Of Preston P. Joseph

 On December 16, 1998, plaintiff Preston P. Joseph was a crew member of  the M/V WAR ADMIRAL working in the Gulf of Mexico, Block 62, South West Pass. Preston worked as the vessel's cook. While so employed, he slipped and fell in water collected on the deck of the vessel's walk-in cooler while moving leaking bottles of water from the cooler floor to the top shelf so that he could gain better access to the walk-in cooler.

 "Preston alleged that other crew members of the M/V WAR ADMIRAL placed the water bottles that obstructed his access to the walk in cooler and that the placement of the water bottles that were leaking caused the floor to become slippery. He asserted, without any malice implied in his legal statement, that this was negligence and led to his injury thereby rendering the vessel unseaworthy. 

 Tidewater's Personal Injury or Illness Report dated Dec. 17, 1998 records that: "He was moving 2 cases of water from deck (to) the walk in cooler to the top shelf and felt sharp pain in the groin on right side".  The report relates that his injury was in the form of a "right testicle swollen and lower back pain."

 This was a "slip,trip, and fall" type of accident that is common in the workplace. The fact that this type of injury is common does not mean that it is not serious. The accident was both serious and painful.

 When we next take up the story we'll see how the reaction of his employer imposed a whole new world of pain on Preston and his family   


BLOOD ON BROWN WATER  Chapter 3 part 4
Tug Boats At Deck

Photo Courtesy Eddie Fouse:

What is Maintenance and Cure?

Note: This next section of Chapter 3 explains what "maintenance, cure, and lost wages" are under maritime law. Part of the mission of the National Mariners Association is to keep professional mariners informed concerning their rights. We will avoid over taxing our serial reader by going over all of the chapter and verse of the law contained in the book. When we post our free down load you can always look up additional details.

  In our last installment we described how our main character, Preston was injured in the service of his vessel and a year later was still under going surgery and unable to work. Mariners don't get workman's compensation, they are supposed to receive, automatically and without question of "fault" a much lesser recovery called "maintenance, cure and lost wages."At first hearing "maintenance, cure and lost wages" sounds good, its not.

 First by operation of maritime law "lost wages"has nothing to do with wages lost over the period of an injured or sick sailor's incapacity, it refers to wages lost to the end of the voyage he was serving on. That means if a mariner is working two weeks on and two weeks off, as is the typical custom of the industry he might receive two weeks pay, tops, if he is lucky enough to be injured at the start of a "tour". "Cure"means  maximum medical cure. When the doctors can't do anything more for the mariner it's over, there is no rehab, or retraining allowance. If maximum cure leaves you unable to work as a mariner, crawling the rest of the way out of the hole is up to the mariner on his own. While undergoing "cure" the mariner is entitled to an allowance based on the value of a mariner's room and board aboard ship, often in the $15 to $20 a day range. With a lawyer's help a seaman may be able to get more under certain circumstances, this is what they mean by maintenance. 

 The most important thing to keep in mind about maintenance , cure, and lost wages is that this minuscule recovery is automatic and is supposed to be paid promptly regardless of "fault". Preston's employer allegedly withheld this relief nearly a year after the accident. If a seaman needs any more than maintenance , cure,and lost wages he must demonstrate that his employer was negligent. A seaman may also sue for recovery of punitive damages for unpaid maintenance, cure , and lost wages if the withholding was particularly "egregious". A boat owner may avoid this recovery if he can demonstrate the seaman's injury was the result of "misconduct". After a year of reports and documentation Tidewater Marine attempted to withhold the support from Preston based on the "need to investigate". This is where the story line picks up. 

  Tidewater's One Time Payment

 On March 21, 2000, after Preston and his wife made repeated efforts to contact Tidewater to obtain maintenance and cure, Tidewater's claims manager, Sandy Duplantier, agreed to investigate Preston's well-documented accident and injuries but apparently was in no rush to do so. On November 20,2000, six months after promising to investigate and almost two years after the accident, Tidewater made a one time maintenance payment of $3,870 covering the period from the date of the accident but only through August 31, 1999 at a rate of $15 per day!

 We believe each mariner should ask himself or herself this question. If I am out of work could I survive on $15 a day which is equivalent to $5,475 a year. Do you know the amount that your company pays for maintenance of mariners injured at work? Is it even $15 per day?
For example , one major towing company offered  an American seaman seriously injured in Africa only $8 per day. Could you survive for two years waiting to receive even a partial payment as Preston did? Keep in mind that Tide Water is the largest operator of offshore supply vessels in the world. Now, consider the proposition of having to wait two years to be paid this pittance and then only after hiring a lawyer to even get this far. Shame on Tidewater, shame on the perpetuation of this entire system of accident and injury compensation. 

 After Preston Joseph hired a lawyer,Tidewater agreed that, after examining the medical records ...."it appears that Tidewater is obligated to pay maintenance and cure related to the hernia." Yet, Tidewater claimed that it had no knowledge whether Preston received any medical treatment after their arbitrary cut off date of August 31, 1999 even though they had in their possession a report from Preston's physician dated October 22, 1999 that he was scheduled to see a urologist to determine whether he might return to work. Tidewater unilaterally decided to stop making any further maintenance and cure payments even though no doctor ever found that Preston had reached "maximum cure"    to be continued

Continued Chapter 3 installment 5

BLOOD ON BROWN WATER   File:Aerialvkbs.jpg

Down to the Wire                           Photo: U.S.Army Corps of Engineers  

Because of the impending statute of limitations, Preston filed a lawsuit against Tidewater on Nov. 30, 2001…almost three years after the accident. Had he not done this in a timely manner, Tidewater would have been able to get by scot-free without shouldering any of its obligations for this injured seaman. All a corporation has to do is be callous enough to ignore the problem until it simply goes away. Of course, this can be a recipe for a four or five-digit medical problem to result in a six- or seven-digit financial solution. Statutes of limitations exist for different laws and regulations are of different length. For a mariner wrongly
prosecuted by the Coast Guard, for example, the limitation can be as short as one month. In Preston’s case, the statute of limitations would have kicked in three years after his accident. To determine when the time limit “tolls”
for any given law, mariners should contact a maritime attorney immediately following any serious accident or injury. Our Association recommends those attorneys who practice maritime law and support our efforts to keep our
mariners informed. We list them on our Internet website.
On Jan. 28, 2002, Preston’s lawyer informed Tidewater that his doctor recommended that he undergo further surgery but that he was financially unable to do so. The attorney demanded that Tidewater resume its maintenance
and cure payments and requested that Tidewater disclose any medical records that would support a finding that he might have reached “maximum medical cure.” Tidewater never produced any such evidence.

Preston’s attorney provided Tidewater with medical records from July 2000 showing that Preston continued to complain of scrotal pain among related complaints and that he would “tentatively schedule surgery for Friday” that was never done. As of March 2001 another doctor found Preston complaining of “…severe testicle pain – unable to tolerate” and referred him to another physician to discuss removal of a testicle. Although we will spare our readers the graphic details, we want to point out that this is a particularly painful injury. The fact that the pain was constant and unbearable was just as clearly presented to Tidewater officials as it was to us. This case clearly shows that caring for injured employees did not rank as a high priority for Tidewater and serves as a clear warning to other mariners who rely heavily on corporate compassion to care for them if they are injured.

On Mar. 12, 2002, Preston’s lawyer asked Tidewater to guarantee payment of Preston’s treatment by a Lafayette urologist. However, Tidewater procrastinated and replied that it needed more time to investigate and evaluate his request for maintenance and cure. 


Chapter 3 Continued:Towing Company Must Pay for Endangering its Mariners’ Health

[Editorial note:. NMA followed this remarkable case from the outset through the court’s rendering the summary judgment requested by Plaintiff Herman Newton. This article is an edited version of the motion for summary judgment, Civil Action #36199, filed in Division A of the 18th. Judicial District of Louisiana subsequently granted on maintenance and cure” and “unseaworthiness” issues. The motion was filed by NMA Attorney Mark L. Ross, Esq. we edited out (for readability) cites of case law and use of depositions obtained in this case. For further information, contact Attorney Mark L. Ross, 600 Jefferson St., Suite 501, Lafayette, La. 70501. Tel.(337) 266-2345.] Herman Newton vs. Versatility Marine, LLC The plaintiff, Herman Newton, brought the Motion for Summary Judgment under La C.C.P, 966, the Jones Act. (This is an "editorial note "that appears in the actual NMA manuscript, not part of our serialization editing)

 Herman Newton vs. Versatility Marine, LLC

 The plaintiff, Herman Newton, brought the Motion for Summary Judgment under La C.C.P, 966, the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. 688, et seq. and the general maritime law. The Plaintiff moves the Court to find as an uncontested matter of fact or law that the defendant, Versatility Marine, LLC, owes the plaintiff, a former member of defendant’s crew aboard defendant’s towboat East Wind, maintenance and cure following his development of an MRSA staph infection on or about Mar. 2, 2007.

 The evidence shows that plaintiff became ill while in the service of his vessel. The evidence also shows that despite actual, repeated notice of plaintiff’s staph infection and eleven day hospitalization, Versatility Marine, LLC arbitrarily and capriciously denied plaintiff maintenance and cure. The Plaintiff further moves the Court to find as an uncontested matter of fact and law that defendant, Versatility Marine, LLC, is liable to plaintiff since plaintiff’s staph infection resulted from the unseaworthiness of the M/V East Wind.

Towboat East Wind Judged to be “Unseaworthy”

The M/V East Wind’s crew was rendered unseaworthy in that a fellow deckhand, Adam Hanshew, carried the MRSA staph and infected the plaintiff, Herman Newton. The vessel was further rendered unseaworthy by Versatility’s failure to properly decontaminate the vessel after notification of the staph contagion, as well as provide plaintiff with medical care under Versatility’s maintenance and cure obligations.

 Herman Newton is a former crewmember of the M/V East Wind, a vessel chartered and/or operated by defendant, Versatility Marine, a towboat company doing business within the State of Louisiana from its office in Port Allen, Louisiana. 

 Another Crewmember Infected Herman Newton 

 In mid-February 2007, Herman Newton, was a crewmember of the M/V East Wind and working out of Galveston, Texas. On or about Feb. 11, 2007, Versatility brought aboard a new deckhand, Adam Hanshew. Unbeknownst to Newton, Adam Hanshew previously contracted and continued to suffer from a staph infection known as Methecillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (hereinafter "MRSA"). MRSA is infectious, resistant to antibiotics and can lead to toxic shock syndrome, pneumonia, blood poisoning, organ failure, the loss of limbs and death.   Once contracted, MRSA remains in the victim’s blood system for life and can manifest again at any time.

 One eyewitness to the events at issue was former Versatility Captain Gary Hensley, a towboat pilot with 20 years experience who began working with Versatility on Sept. 7, 2006 and who provided a deposition in this case. Versatility appointed Captain Hensley to pilot their towboat M/V East Wind and gave him the option to choose
his own crew. Captain Hensley chose as deckhand plaintiff Herman Newton with whom he had worked previously and considered an "outstanding deckhand." Captain Hensley recalled that the carrier of the staph infection, Adam Hanshew, came aboard the M/V East Wind as a new deckhand in early Feb. 2007. After a day or day and a half, Captain Hensley noticed that Hanshew’s nose was swollen and was "real red." Hanshew’s nose continued to get "really big and really sore and it started draining". At that point, Hanshew told Captain Hensley and Herman Newton that the swelling stemmed from a staph infection from which he had suffered three previous outbreaks and showed them surgical scars to his stomach, chest and arm required to cut out the infected tissue. As deckhand Hanshew’s infection continued to
worsen it began to drain a "pussy mucus type drain."

 Captain Hensley arranged for Hanshew to receive medical treatment in Port Arthur, Texas, because Hanshew told him he could not sleep due to the "pussy mucus type" draining. Furthermore, Captain Hensley and his crew feared being infected since Hanshew cooked the crew’s meals.

 Captain Hensley felt compelled to get Hanshew medical attention less than a week after Hanshew came on board the M/V East Wind. The examining physician found that Hanshew suffered from a staph infection and refused to release him to return to work and further directed that Hanshew receive immediate medical attention at his home in Mississippi.

 From the time Adam Hanshew came on board the M/V East Wind until he had to leave due to his staph infection, he bunked with the plaintiff, fellow deckhand Herman Newton, in an 8’ by 10’ bunkroom. Hanshew and Newton used the same shower and toilet. Captain Hensley recalled that Hanshew was "draining" and bunking with Herman Newton for three or four days. 

 Versatility Marine’s management recognized the highly contagious nature of Hanshew’s staph infection from the outset. When Versatility refused to provide transportation for Adam Hanshew to return home to Mississippi from Port Arthur, Texas, Versatility Marine general manager Rhonda Watson and port captain Doug Faust told Captain Hensley they were concerned about the contagious nature of Hanshew’s staph infection and Versatility’spotential liability if some else became infected.

 Captain Hensley and his relief pilot, Captain David Whitehurst, concerned about their own exposure to Hanshew’s staph infection, went on the internet to learn about staph infections, "and the more we read, the more scared we got about it..." Captains Hensley and Whitehurst thereupon contacted the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, among other agencies, and were advised to have a professional cleaning crew fumigate and clean the boat. The CDC also advised Captain Hensley to throw away the mattresses on which Adam Henshaw and his roommate, Herman Newton, had slept. Captain Hensley told Versatility’s port captain, Doug Faust, its general
manager, Rhonda Watson and the company’s owner, Bud Watson, about the CDC’s recommendations that Versatility shut down the M/V East Wind so a professional service could fumigate the vessel and that Hanshew’s and Newton’s mattresses be thrown away, "… to kill whatever viruses may be on that boat to protect us."

 Versatility Refused to Take CDC Recommended Steps to Remove Staph Infection From Their Towboat 

 Doug Faust was the marine superintendent for Versatility and was in charge of regulatory compliance and safety for Versatility’s vessels. Faust admitted he learned of the staph infections aboard the M/V East Wind when the vessel’s captain, Gary Hensley, called and told him of deckhand Hanshew’s infection. When the subject of maintenance and cure for deckhand Hanshew was discussed, however, Versatility refused to provide Hanshew medical treatment on the pretext that Hanshew’s affliction was a so-called "pre-existing condition." Incredibly, about two months after ejecting Hanshew from the M/V East Wind in Port Arthur, Texas and refusing to provide him medical treatment, Versatility rehired Adam Hanshew. Versatility rehired Hanshew despite its knowledge that he could expose yet other Versatility employees to the highly infectious and dangerous MRSA staph. Hanshew did not finish his 28 day hitch after Versatility hired him a second time since Hanshew had yet -another outbreak and had to leave the vessel again.

 Captain Hensley subsequently discovered in speaking with the captain of Hanshew’s second Versatility boat that Hanshew came down with an outbreak of "something" and that Versatility never advised that vessel’s crew that Hanshew had recently suffered an MRSA staph outbreak.
After deckhand Hanshew left the M/V East Wind to obtain medical treatment on his own, Versatility refused to hire a professional decontamination service to clean the M/V East Wind. Versatility told Captain Hensley, "they could not afford to shut the boat down for a professional cleaning crew...." Instead, Versatility’s port captain Faust
told Captain Hensley to have the crew clean the boat with Lysol and bleach.

 Versatility also refused to throw away the mattresses on which Hanshew and Newton slept despite the CDC’s strong recommendation that the mattresses be discarded since once the staph, "gets into the mattress, there is no killing that virus in the mattress." Versatility’s Doug Faust responded that Versatility would not discard the mattresses as they were supposedly brand new and Versatility did not want to buy new ones. 

Herman Newton Contracts MRSAStaph Infection

Captain Hensley recalled that Newton came to him a few days after Hanshew left the boat complaining of painful red spot on his right leg above his knee with a black spot in the middle. Captain Hensley told Doug Faust, Versatility’s port captain, about Newton’s staph infection, which was the second infection aboard his vessel in the space of a week. Herman Newton went to San Jacinto Methodist Hospital in Baytown, Texas where he had his right leg aspirated, was prescribed antibiotics, given a "do not return for work" slip and directed to seek medical attention.

Captain Gary Hensley e-mailed Versatility port captain Doug Faust and general manager Rhoda Watson a "First Report of Injury or Illness" dated Mar. 2, 2007, which reported that Newton suffered, "Possible spider bite or outbreak of Staph infection." Captain Hensley recalled that Versatility’s port captain Doug Faust, general manager
Rhonda Watson and owner Bud Watson seemed "very nonchalant" about a second case of staph infection aboard the M/V East Wind. Doug Faust and Versatility refused even after a second staph infection within a week to retain a professional cleaning crew to fumigate and decontaminate the vessel. 

 Captain Hensley recalled that Versatility would not arrange transportation for Herman Newton to return home to Florida because Versatility was concerned, "about the contagious level of it" and, "that they could be held liable and responsible for Mr. Joe Blow or Mr. Julio Inglesias coming down with this stuff...." Plaintiff Herman Newton, like Hanshew, therefore had to find his own way home.

Versatility’s Doug Faust spoke to plaintiff Herman Newton after Newton left the M/V East Wind in Texas and returned home to Crestview, Florida to seek medical care. Newton informed Faust that a Florida doctor sent him straight to a hospital emergency room, "Because he was in urgent need," due to the infection in his right leg.

 Newton informed Faust in a series of telephone calls that he had been placed in isolation, diagnosed with a staph infection and repeated asked if Versatility would cover plaintiff’s medical expenses. Faust filed an,
"Incident Investigation Report" dated Mar. 12, 2007 with Versatility, reporting that Herman Newton had suffered an, "Infection of right leg", and that, "At his home in Florida he was diagnosed with CAMRSA." No form CG- 2692 ever was filed nor was the Coast guard notified by the company of Newton’s illness. In short, Versatility
received a constant stream of information concerning the source of Newton’s infection, its diagnosis and pleas from Newton for maintenance and cure, all of which Versatility ignored.

 Herman Newton entered North Okaloosa Medical Center on March 6 and was discharged from hospital on March 16, 2007. A treating physician diagnosed that Newton suffered from MRSA staph infection. Newton’s physician stated that: “(he was)…a previously healthy 28-year-old gentlemen whom I have seen in the postoperative period after he had had an incision and drainage of his right knee. I agree with Dr. Herf’s antibiotic choices in the form of Vancomycin and Zosyn, as the patient is a perfect setup for community acquired methicillinresistant
staphylococcus aureus. I question whether or not he ever actually had a spider bite. He denies any trauma to the right knee. He states that it popped up spontaneously, but given the history that there are other folks on the boat that he was working on in close quarters with this infection, I feel that this may be methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus...”

 Newton presented a full set of the voluminous North Okaloosa Medical Center records for to Versatility Marine, LLC, but received no response to his request for payment of maintenance and cure. Versatility’s port captain, Doug Faust, "felt quite sure" that Versatility would cover plaintiff’s maintenance and cure expenses "because of the situation at hand. He was aboard our vessel, had an infection, and sought medical treatment, and I felt it was our responsibility.".Faust could not think of any reason why Herman Newton should not receive maintenance and cure. Captain Hensley agreed that he could not think of any reason why Newton should
not receive maintenance and cure. Captain Hensley concurs that by all rights, "he should have been paid maintenance and cure and transportation home by the law."
Versatility “ be continued.


BLOOD ON BROWN WATER: Chapter 3 Cont. Conclusion


Versatility has neither paid, nor offered to pay, nor been willing to discuss whether it will pay Herman Newton maintenance and cure despite repeated requests from Newton and his attorney. The amount of maintenance and cure owed by Versatility to Herman Newton is considerable. Herman Newton is indebted to the North Okaloosa Medical Center for his eleven day stay in isolation and surgery in the amount of $42,739.75. Mr. Newton is also indebted to a treating physician for post-discharge out-patient care, Dr. David
Herf, in the amount of $630.00. Herman Newton was out of work due to his staph infection from Mar. 2, 2007 until May 2007. Versatility’s
former port captain, Doug Faust, testified that Versatility’s general manager, Rhonda Watson, had agreed to pay Newton maintenance of $15.00 per day, although no payment had ever actually been made.
The leading maintenance and cure case of Hall v. Noble Drilling, 242 F.3d 582, 591-2 (5th Cir. 2001), contains an excellent discussion how the marine industry’s selection of $15.00 a day maintenance in the 1970’s now translates into $38.35 per day in current dollars. Plaintiff notes that even $38.35 per day is a small fraction of the two-thirds payment of worker’s compensation assured injured land based workers. Mr. Newton is entitled to unpaid maintenance in the amount of $1,342.25, representing the period between Mar. 2, 2007 and his release from this particular bout of MRSA staph infection on April.16, 2007 at a rate of $38.35 a day. Newton also is entitled to an award of attorney’s fees incurred in the prosecution of plaintiff’s maintenance and cure claim.

Maintenance and Cure

The law required Versatility, as Herman Newton’s Jones Act employer, to provide Newton medical care for any injury or illness incurred in the service of his vessel. Jones Act employers specifically owe maintenance and cure to a seaman who suffers illnesses while in the service of their vessels. The Plaintiff need not show his illness is job related. Similarly, a "seaman’s entitlement to maintenance and cure is entirely unrelated to any fault or  negligence on the part of the shipowner.” A seaman need not "absolutely" prove his entitlement to maintenance and cure: "Any doubts or ambiguities in the application of the law of maintenance and cure are resolved in favor of
the seaman." The employer's duty to pay maintenance and cure "is of ancient vintage...". [Editorial note: Attorney Mark Ross fully documented each of these statements in case law in his motion.]
Doug Faust, Versatility’s former port captain and Captain Gary Hensley, former captain of the M/V East Wind, have both testified no issue existed in their minds that Versatility owed Herman Newton maintenance and cure. Given Versatility’s denial of maintenance and cure to Herman Newton constitutes by any measure the "egregious
fault," the plaintiff is also entitled to an award of attorney’s fees. Therefore, Attorney Mark L. Ross moved the Court to award attorney’s fees on a contingency fee basis based on the amount the Court may chose to award in maintenance and cure citing a Supreme Court case that observed that a lower court had assessed attorney’s fees at 50% of the maintenance and cure award.

The Vessel Was Unseaworthy as a Matter of Law –A Substantial Cause of Newton’s Infection.

"The case law holds that an owner is responsible to the captain or any seaman thereof for injuries received because of the unseaworthiness of the vessel." A vessel is unseaworthy when its crew is inadequate or incompetent. The duty of a vessel owner to provide a seaworthy vessel, including a competent crew, is absolute and non-delegable. Liability is imposed for unseaworthiness regardless of the vessel owner's negligence or failure to exercise reasonable care. Versatility was obligated under its duty to provide plaintiff with a seaworthy vessel and an adequate crew. It is an uncontested matter of fact and law that burdening the M/V East Wind with an MRSA staph infected crewman such as Adam Hanshew rendered the vessel unseaworthy. Newton, in order to prevail on its unseaworthiness claim against Versatility, need not show that Versatility knew or should have known of Adam Hanshew’s MRSA staph infection when it hired him since, "Liability is imposed  for unseaworthiness regardless of fault, negligence or the failure to exercise reasonable care on the part of the vessel owner." However, given that Versatility rehired Hanshew after the outbreak of his Feb. 2007 staph infection and despite the infection of fellow crewman Herman Newton, the Court concluded that Versatility was indifferent to the health risks that an MRSA staph carrier presented to its employees.

Refusal to Professionally Decontaminate the Vessel Also Rendered M/V East Wind Unseaworthy. 

 Versatility’s refusal to have a professional cleaning service decontaminate the M/V East Wind and at a bare minimum dispose of the mattress on which Adam Hanshew had been draining a "pussy mucus type drain" rendered the vessel unseaworthy and led to plaintiff’s MRSA staph infection. Professional cleaning services with special expertise in addressing MRSA staph infections exist and are readily available. Attorney Mark Ross attached a brochure of one such service with special expertise in addressing MRSA staph infections. Versatility’s refusal to dispose of Hanshew’s obviously staph infected mattress, which may still be in use to this day, likewise renders the vessel unseaworthy. 

Versatility’s Failure to Provide Medical Care Rendered the Vessel Unseaworthy

 Versatility’s uncontradicted refusal to provide Herman Newton with medical care rendered the M/V East Wind unseaworthy. Failure to evaluate and provide proper medical care rendered vessel unseaworthy. The vessel was "rendered unseaworthy by the failure of the ship owner to render prompt and adequate medical treatment."Unseaworthiness was the Proximate Cause of Newton’s MRSA Staph Infection. For Herman Newton to prevail on a claim of unseaworthiness, he had to show that the unseaworthy condition,the presence of MRSA staph infected Adam Hanshew and Versatility’s refusal to provide him with prompt medical care, was a proximate cause of his staph infection (i.e. that Newton’s staph infection was, "a reasonably probable consequence of the unseaworthy condition). The evidence on causation exceeds that of being "reasonably probable" and was more in the realm of beyond a reasonable doubt. 


On Nov. 26, 2007 Judge James Best, Division A, 18th Judicial District, New Roads, LA, granted Herman Newton’s motion for summary judgment for the reasons stated in the plaintiff’s motion (above) that were adopted by the court as its own. The Plaintiff, Herman Newton, moved the Court to find as an uncontested matter of fact or law that the
defendant, Versatility Marine, LLC, owes plaintiff maintenance and cure following his development of an MRSA staph infection while working in the course and scope of his employment as deckhand aboard defendant’s towboat, the M/V East Wind. Newton showed that despite Versatility Marine having actual and repeated notice of plaintiff’s
staph infection, they arbitrarily and capriciously refused to pay plaintiff maintenance and cure. Plaintiff further moved the Court to find as an uncontested matter of fact and law that Versatility Marine was
liable to the plaintiff since the plaintiff’s MRSA staph infection resulted from the unseaworthiness of the towboat M/V East Wind. The crew was rendered unseaworthy in that a fellow deckhand, Adam Hanshew, carried the MRSA staph and infected Herman Newton. The vessel was further rendered unseaworthy by Versatility’s failure to properly decontaminate the vessel after discovery of the staph contagion, as well as Versatility’s refusal to provide plaintiff with medical care under Versatility’s maintenance and cure obligations. We were informed by reliable sources that Versatility Marine is no longer in business. Companies operated in this manner give the industry a bad name.
To be continued with Chapter 4, the real horror stories starts


Photo not the actual boat

An Industry That Eats Its Young
Because of the unbelievably harsh working conditions on so many work boats that operate uninhibited by collective bargaining that could soften these working conditions, new recruits for the industry such as “green deckhands” or mechanically inclined “wipers” and other manpower to fill positions in the engine room are becoming hard to find and even harder to retain.

 Young men sometimes are enticed by offers of good pay, good food, and a place to stay and often give the tugs and towboats a try but leave the industry after a single two-week to one month stint. There is a demand by industry management, the same short-sighted management that has created the harsh conditions in a non-union vacuum, to reduce apprenticeship training time in order to speed the 

development of licensed officers without which the companies can not legally operate. Generally, this is 
not a very good idea in an area that requires a high order of skills and where life and death can hang in the balance as a consequence of a moment’s slack job performance. 

 Here is the story of a motivated young 

deckhand who was attracted by the job, followed in the footsteps of his father, and was prepared to make 

almost any sacrifice to a career in the industry. Unfortunately, his apprenticeship ended before he lived to see the inside of the wheelhouse. Meet the late Joe Hulen.

Deckhand Crushed to Death in Fall From his Towboat

[Source: This case was reported by Nelson G. Wolff, Esq., Schlicter, Bogard & Denton, 100 South 4th Street, Suite900, St. Louis, MO 63102. Tel: 314.621.6115; Fax: 314.621.7151; e-mail:]

[Editorial Note: We redacted the names of individuals directly involved in this terrible tragedy since responsibility for the death of deckhand Joseph Hulen was that of company management and not the crewmembers. The lessons the crew members learned from this tragedy were learned “first hand.” If mistakes were made, their burden will be to live with them for the rest of their lives. However, our mariners and others can learn from the attorneys and forensic experts who commented on this accident and to whom we are indebted. We are indebted as well as to Joseph’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. William Hulen, who contacted our Association and supported us as we brought this matter to the attention of the Towing Safety Advisory Committee (TSAC) in Washington in March 2006 – at which time an executive from the
company accepted responsibility for the accident and the shortcomings it revealed.]
At a Towing Safety Advisory Committee (TSAC) licensing work group meeting in Houston, employers suggested that new regulations requiring new deckhands to “waste” a year and a half serving on deck before they became eligible to train for duty in the pilothouse were “excessive” and that some time period considerably shorter should be considered.
Captain David Whitehurst, representing our Association, firmly rejected any thought that time spent learning to be the best deckhand possible was a “waste of time.” He rejected any thought of reducing time in service based on
his more than 30-years experience on inland towing vessels.

Joe Hulen’s Hopes and Dreams

The case under review presents the needless and preventable death of a young man seeking a maritime career. The immediate and obvious cause of death was a fall overboard between two vessels during an equipment transfer. The Coast Guard investigated the accident and prepared its report, a copy of which we received under the Freedom of Information Act. This case arises from the death of Joseph Hulen, who was working as a deckhand for American Commercial Barge Lines (ACBL) on its towboat the M/V Wally Roller when he died in an accident on Nov. 2, 2002. Joe was only eighteen years old at the time of his death and is survived by his mother Lisa and father Bill. 

 The same company, ACBL employed Bill Hulen for a number of years as a Chief Engineer on a different vessel. Joe, who had just graduated from High School, hoped to follow in his father's footsteps as an engineer. His Mom and Dad told our Association how much he loved working on the towboats and that after only a few trips he announced to them that towboating was a career he wanted to excel in. At the time of his death, Joe had worked for ACBL for only a few months as a deckhand trainee. An Outline of the Accident The incident occurred on the Ohio River, between the states of Illinois and Kentucky. The towboat and its crew had "touched up," but did not tie off to a fleet of 15 barges. Just before the accident, Joe was standing on the towboat as it approached a barge on which the other deckhand was standing. As Joe was attempting to pass
a 150-foot coiled lock line from the starboard bow of the boat to the other deckhand on the barge, the towboat slowly drifted away from the barge at the stern allowing a gap to form between the towboat and the barge. After a failed initial attempt to transfer the line to the barge, it got tangled up between the crew members and Joe fell into the river.

 Joe struggled to escape the closing gap between the boat and barge but, because of his body weight and the weight of his equipment, he was not successful. Attempts by the other deckhand to pull him onto the barge also were unsuccessful. In his attempt to help Joe out of the water, the other deckhand failed to alert the Master of the towboat of his plight with his hand held radio. The Master apparently heard the "man overboard" cries and started to maneuver the boat back to the barge because he could not see the deck crew from his position in the pilothouse. In the meanwhile, other crew members were alerted to the emergency. At least one of them saw the scene and went back inside the towboat to alert the Master to the situation and also ordered the cook to awake the sleeping crewmembers for assistance. Before actual
additional rescue assistance was rendered, the Master allowed the boat to swing back toward the barge, slowly pinning and crushing Joe against the barge while the other deckhand was holding him.
Joe did not sink or drown; rather, he struggled to escape before and after the boat trapped his body against the barge.

 Eventually, the operator swung the boat away and Joe was pulled aboard the vessel and first aid started. He was transferred across the river to the Illinois shore where he was given further aid by EMT and transported to the hospital, but was pronounced dead upon arrival. At Joe’s funeral, the company tried to cover up its responsibility
by suggesting to the family that Joe’s death was “just an accident.” The Coast Guard Investigation and Report

The Coast Guard investigation reached three conclusions:

● That a briefing and discussion should have been held between the deckhands and the Captain so they could discuss possibly dangerous situations and ways to avoid tragedy.

● That ACBL failed to provide and ensure adequate communication between deck crew and the boat operator. The operator did not have visual contact with the crew and the hand-held radios were "useless" since the crew's work did not allow them a free hand to physically key the microphone.

● That ACBL failed to have a safety policy requiring that its boat be secured to barges before attempting line transfers. If the boat and barge had been tied off instead of being free-floating. there would not have been a gap in between for Joe Hulen to fall into. Bill Hulen sadly pointed to these three sensible conclusions. He pointed out that they were only advisory in nature and that the Coast Guard showed no further interest in taking steps to require ACBL to change existing practices. Despite these obvious safety violations, the Coast Guard did not fine or otherwise reprimand ACBL.

 Our Association often requests copies of Coast Guard accident reports under the Freedom of Information Act. While these reports may be useful for a number of reasons, our mariners must understand that 46 U.S. Code §6308 states in part that “…no part of a report of a marine casualty investigation … including findings of fact, opinions, recommendations, deliberations, or conclusions, shall be admissible as evidence or subject to discovery in any civil…proceedings. In other words, the Coast Guard can investigate the accident for its own purposes – but  mariners or other parties at interest will have to conduct their own investigations and hire attorneys and take the
case to court if they want to learn facts and causes of injuries and deaths. It is easy to understand why many mariners view the accident investigation process as a sham – especially the required accident report form CG-2692 that mocks the reporting process. Our Association is making a major effort to bring the deficient personal injury reporting process not only to the attention of the Coast Guard and OSHA but also to Congress as well.(1) [(1)Refer to NMA Report #R-350-Y.]

 We often point to a report commissioned by the Coast Guard Research and Development Center in 1994 titled U.S. Coast Guard Marine Casualty Investigation and Reporting: Analysis and Recommendations for Improvement that really gets to the heart of the problem about accident investigation;
(1) although these problems for the most part still remain unresolved. The matter finally came to a head on May 20, 2008 in a hearing before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee as a result of a report by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General (#OIG 08-51).(2) [(1)NMA Report #R-429-A, Rev. 1.

(2)NMA Report #R-429-M.]

 Legal Challenges to Proving the Case

Numerous complex legal hurdles faced the Hulens in their quest for the truth. Shortly after telling the Hulens their son’s death was “just an accident” and then suggesting the barge line was not at fault, ACBL and its lawyers actually filed the first legal suit under an ancient maritime doctrine. It sought to exonerate or excuse the corporation from any liability for compensatory damages it had to the Hulens whatsoever or, alternatively, to limit
any liability it had to the mere value of its towboat.

 The Hulens were served with notice of ACBL’s lawsuit just days after the funeral and were told that if they did not file a legal claim within a short time period, they would be barred from doing so.
The Hulens were referred to St. Louis Maritime Attorney Nelson G. Wolff who had successfully represented the family of another ACBL employee who suffered a work-related death.(1) [(1)Refer to NMA Report #R-412.] Wolff successfully argued that ACBL should not be allowed to be free of liability or to limit the value of human life to the value of the vessel and that the Hulens were entitled to a trial by jury. The court eventually dismissed
ACBL’s case.

 While this case was being contested, ACBL filed for bankruptcy protection and again attempted to have the Hulens’ case dismissed. Only after months of intense legal battles were the Hulens allowed to pursue their claim against ACBL to prove its responsibilities for their son’s death. Under the Jones Act, an employer is liable for compensatory damages caused in whole or in part by its negligence. A single claim inures to the surviving parents of an employee and the employee's estate, if the employee has no spouse or children. In this case, Joe was survived by both parents, Bill and Lisa Hulen, with whom he was living at the time of his death.

 Under the law, Joe's parents, Bill and Lisa Hulen, are entitled to compensation for lost economic support that they reasonably expected to receive, loss of counsel, support, guidance and for the conscious pain, suffering, and emotional distress experienced by Joe before he died. No compensation is allowed for grief and bereavement. Joe had, in the past, and was expected in the future to have, provided some amount of economic support,
emotional counseling and guidance to his parents. The most significant component of damages available under the law in this case, however, was the conscious pain, suffering, and distress he experienced until the time of his death.

         Unimaginable Crushing Pain
One of our most revealing reports is a reprint of a Coast Guard document that provides useful statistics on the dangers inherent in the towing industry as measured by industry fatalities. This document contains statistics that should jolt many “green” deckhands who might consider a career in the towing industry. So, too, should the AWO/USCG Joint Quality Action Team report on deck crew safety in the inland towing industry released on Dec 30, 1996.(2) But, these reports are just statistics. Here is a sample of the pain resulting from the most minor misstep. [(1)NMA Report #R-351, Rev. 1. (2)NMA Report #R-428, Rev. 1.]

 The incident occurred at 10:30 a.m. and Joe was pronounced dead at 12:13. The autopsy report confirms that Joe’s chest and abdomen were crushed with hemorrhages of the forehead, eyes and face, bilateral multiple rib fractures and fracture dislocation of his pelvis, lacerations of the liver, small intestine and transverse colon. His
scrotum was distended and accumulated fluid consistent with acute trauma was noted. He had swelling and congestion in his lungs, consistent with a lost struggle to breathe and damage to the lungs. The cause of death was held to be asphyxiation due to thoraco-abdominal compression due to blunt trauma to the chest, abdomen and pelvis. In layman's terms, his body was crushed such that he was unable to inhale and exhale while pinned between the barge and the towboat. The Coroner concluded that Joe did not suffer any direct trauma to the head or face and that he remained conscious during the crushing process.

 According to the various accounts of the incident, the period of Joe's conscious pain and suffering ranged from a few seconds to a few minutes. Undoubtedly, the fatal injuries were exquisitely painful and Joe experienced psychological distress from the moment he was knocked from his feet until his death, with a conscious awareness, over what must have seemed like an eternity to him, that he was in grave danger and that severe injury or death was  likely. An expert in pre-death terror opined that Joe would have experienced pre-death terror over a period as short as three seconds, including a "life review process," where, literally, his life and family would flash before his eyes. This distress and his pain and suffering represented the most significant element of damages in this case.

                 Anguish of Joe’s Family
Lisa Hulen first heard of our Association almost two years after Joe’s accident. In her call, that best can be described as distraught, she and her husband simply could not understand why nobody appeared interested orconcerned about what happened to their oldest son. It was obvious that she and her husband Bill needed the services of a good admiralty lawyer.
At that point, I determined that they had hired an attorney, Nelson G. Wolff, Esq. of Schlicter, Bogard & Denton of St. Louis, whose success in handling difficult cases was chronicled by our Association on a number of occasions. The concern both Lisa and Bill spoke about was NOT about collecting any money for their son’s death. Their concern from day one was to discover the cause of their son’s death in order to raise awareness of how both the industry and the Coast Guard treated Joe’s death as if it were “business as usual.” Bill had a unique view from his
inside position as an Engineer for the same company that their attitude was that “deckhands are expendable commodities.” How long do you grieve for a lost son? The company answered that question rather bluntly by calling Bill a few weeks later suggesting that it was time he thought about going to work again – because they needed his services.
Instead, Bill chose to quit both the job and the industry and now works ashore at a construction job!

Grieving for Joe Was Only Half of Bill’s Burden

A significant precursor to Joe Hulen’s death occurred on August 28, 2002, just two months before Joe was killed aboard ACBL’s M/V Wally Roller. At the time, Engineer Bill Hulen, then was serving on ACBL’s M/V Charles Ditmar, Jr., when deckhand Charles Hamby drowned after falling from the towboat’s skiff while making crew change near Terrene Landing at Lower Mississippi River Mile 592.1.(1) Chad Hamby was only 26 years old and
had worked on the river just over a year. [(1)NMA accident file #M-550-A.] Bill was very upset about the accident and caustic about the length to which the company went to deny any responsibility for the accident.

 Bill believed that Chad Hamby never was trained properly to operate the towboat’s skiff. After watching the way that the company lawyers handled the investigation following the accident, he
seriously began to question whether his son, Joe, was wise to stick to his plans of making a career in the towing industry. It is this nagging doubt and the thought that he might have been able to change future events that haunts him to this day.

 This accident, that was so up-close and personal, coupled with the loss of their own son is what motivates Bill and Lisa Hulen to work to improve working conditions on towing vessels. Husband and wife  attended the U.S. Coast Guard’s preliminary public meeting on towing vessel inspection held in 2005 and spoke briefly about the accident and to point out that ACBL had, in a short period of time, lost three “green” deckhands to fatal accidents and had not taken responsibility for any of these deaths!

 This, and not the desire to reap a huge posthumous cash award, motivated the Hulens to press forward in a lawsuit against ACBL and set the tone for
ACBL finally to accept responsibility for their actions. As a direct result of our Association’s discussion of the Chad Hamby accident with Bill Hulen, Captains Larry P. Gwin and David C. Whitehurst on our Board of Directors helped to prepare a detailed proposal that seeks to
require “Rescue Boat Training” for all crewmembers who serve on inland towing vessels because knowledge of small boats has been taken for granted in the towing industry for many years. In fact, this was the second fatality involving the capsizing of a skiff that our Association reviewed in detail in the past year.(1)

We furnished this significant recommendation to the Coast Guard for consideration in the Towing Vessel Inspection rulemaking package. Unfortunately, to date, the TSAC Working Group composed mostly of AWO member companies appears to have ignored both the problem and our Association’s proposed solution. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for the Inspection of Towing Vessels issued in Aug. 2011 shows that most of our Association’s recommendations simply were ignored. [(1)Refer to NMA file #M-547.]

Company Blames Joe for His Own Death

Facing a possible lawsuit, the ACBL lawyers closed ranks and asserted that Joe Hulen had negligently caused his own death. Interestingly, they apparently failed to inform their own Director of Safety and Training of this who, stated in a Deposition: “No, I wasn’t aware of that part of it, no.”(1) “Given the facts as – that I have reviewed them, I don’t know
if young Joe really did do anything wrong.” [(1)Andrew Cannava, Deposition, Oct. 27, 2004, p.49, 50.]

 Understanding there are different viewpoints, here is an account of the accident as presented by Mr. Cannava,  ACBL’s Director of Training, in his deposition:(1) [(1)Transcript, pgs. 54-58.]
“Given what I've read, and given what our investigation has shown, we were building a 15-barge coal tow on the Ohio River on the Kentucky shore across the river from a loading facility on the Illinois shore, at approximate location of Shawneetown, Illinois. “It was approximately 10:00 o'clock in the morning and on Eastern Time, and the Wally Roller was just finishing up  the tow, putting the last barges in tow shifting their lines around, preparing to face up to depart the area.

 “We were moving a lock line from one end of a barge in mid tow up to the break coupling in the tow, by the boat, because we – the Captain felt, and the way we train is that if we can move the equipment in the easiest way possible, that is the route we are to take. That is the decision making process that the crew undertakes, and this
time they chose, instead of carrying a line, the one single lock line they were going to move it on the head of the boat up from one end of the barge to the other. “Once they had loaded it onto the boat, the head of the Wally Roller on the starboard head, one deckhand walked up the tow and…Joe Hulen, the Probationary Deckhand, stayed on the boat and up to the next coupling. “By the time the boat got up to the next coupling, the other deckhand that was on the tow, had met the boat right there at the coupling, and they were in the process of offloading a line, one line, a break-coupling line, onto the tow.
“Mr. Hulen had picked up the line, and I think it's a little unclear as to whether it was the whole line or part of it, the head of the Wally Roller gapped out away from the tow, and that was done just at the same time that Joe was giving it a second try to pass the line over to (the other deckhand), and when saw that the boat was gapping  out away from the tow, he had reached over to push Joe back, because he saw his motion – he was in motion to give the line over to him. tried to push him back. At the same time Joe was trying to drop the line, but as he
twisted and tried to drop the line, he tripped on something. The report says he tripped on something, what, we don't know, and the line went on the deck, and he went down between the boat and the tow…
“…as the boat gapped out, just a little bit more, had jumped back a little bit and got down onto the deck,
stepping over a deck fitting, and laid down on the deck and reached over the side of the tow just a few feet back just from where Joe had fallen in; and he reached into the water and grabbed Joe by the collar, by his shirt, or by the life jacket strap on his life jacket, and pulled him back up and tried to swing him up. And all the while he had one hand on Joe, and the other hand on the coaming of the barge behind him as he was lying down, or on something
behind him to try to stabilize him, so he wouldn't go in the river, too.

 “Joe tried, along with , he knew had hold of him, and he was trying to swing his leg up onto thedeck of the barge, and from what I understand, he tried it a couple of times, and he couldn't get … between
and Joe they couldn't get him out of the water, pull him up over the side of the barge, and at the same time was hollering that we had a man overboard. The engineer had heard him. He came out, and he ran back inside, he being the engineer, ran back inside to call up to the pilothouse to say that they had a man in the river, and to try to get him to bring the boat back out, because he saw the boat was coming in on the bow. “And they didn't have him far enough out of the water, or far enough, and the boat came in and landed on Joe, crushing him between the head of the boat and the tow. He still had hold of him, and by that time [the mate] had arrived at the spot at the break coupling, and [the mate] helped get Joe out of the water and back up onto
the tow. They put Joe in a Stokes basket, a litter, put him on the Wally Roller and, at the same time, they had called over to the paramedics over in Illinois, and they had tried to go across the river as fast as they could to get him to some medical help.

             The Other Side of the Story

ACBL was the defendant in the lawsuit titled Estate of Joseph Hulen vs. American Commercial Barge Line. Although Mr. Andrew Cannava, the company Director of Safety and Training, had full access to company records he had not been at the accident scene. Only the boat crew was there and only (the deckhand, the mate), and the Engineer saw the event occur. The Captain from his position in the pilothouse could not see the events taking
place on the deck beneath him and had no posted lookout in place to inform him of the events that were unfolding. Bill and Lisa Hulen’s attorney had to reconstruct the evidence after the fact through “discovery” and, to do so, had to rely on the same evidence the company used, although with an eye toward identifying company fault. In preparing his case for trial, the Hulens’ attorney, Nelson G. Wolff, Esq., sought help from an extremely thorough and well-qualified forensic team affiliated with the American Admiralty Bureau operating in strict conformance with the Code of Professional and Ethical Conduct of the National Forensic Center.

 The forensic team made a number of significant points that we believe are significant for our mariners. Faced with these significant points, which provided substantial evidence of ACBL’s unsafe practices and policies, it had to admit liability and settle out of court on the eve of the trial for a substantial cash settlement. As a part of the
settlement, there are no limitations on disclosure. We believe that each of these points made by the forensic experts, above and beyond the conclusions reached in the Coast Guard accident report, have merit and present them below: [Editorial Note: Our edited, abbreviated, and annotated excerpts appears below.]

● Safe workplace. Section (654) of the OSHA Act states in part that “Each employer…shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees…” The company allowed certain “recognized hazards” (cited below) to exist on their workboats. Control and reduction of these recognized hazards was the duty of the owners and ship’s officers rather than an apprentice
deckhand just learning the trade.

● Trainee or “probationary” deckhand. Joe Hulen, who was only on his third trip, was considered to be and paid as a trainee. He was paired with a “more experienced” deckhand who was only on his fifth trip.

● No USCG certification. Since the Coast Guard does not require certificated and tested “Able Seamen” on western rivers towboats, there is no “third-party” competency certification of “deckhands.” The company alone
determines and assumes responsibility for rating an “experienced” or “supervisory capable” deckhand.

● Placement of barge in tow. The Captain allowed the box barge (i.e., the barge involved in the accident) to be returned to and inserted in the tow “backwards” with its lock line on the wrong end of the tow. As a result, this bulky line, weighing 100 lbs., had to be moved 200 feet to the other end of the barge. It was during this move that
the fatal accident occurred.

● Failed to secure towboat to barge before passing the line. This simple action would have taken less than a minute. Failing to do this allowed the towboat to drift away from the barge as Joe attempted to pass 100 lbs. of line across the
gap. The load was too heavy and the gap shouldn’t have been there. This was an unsafe and unnecessary hazard.

● Alternate methods of line-handling were available but were not used. The entire evolution was not adequately supervised by the mate, , who was in the general area at the time of the accident.

● Deckhands’ errors. Deckhand did not keep a careful lookout for dangerous conditions and failed to notify the Captain by radio that the towboat was slowly drifting away from the barge. Although there was a delay while Joe made a second attempt to pass a smaller length of line across the gap, did not keep a lookout for the gap or tell the captain of this delay.

● Supervisory error. Although testified that Joe may have turned his back to the water while preparing to pass the line across the gap, he did not testify that he ever admonished Joe (his trainee) that this was an “unsafe practice.”

● Violated company “man overboard” procedure. Page 60 of ACBL’s deckhand training guide called for to contact the pilothouse immediately by radio twice to alert the Captain of the situation. Only then should he have attempted rescuing Joe Hulen. As soon as he dropped to the deck with one hand holding the barge coaming and one hand outstretched to Joe, he deprived himself of the ability to use the “push-to-talk” button on his handheld radio. Given his deposition testimony under oath, there would have been ample time for the Captain to control the boat to protect Joe in the water.

● Shouting and yelling was futile. ’s attempts to alert the Captain or others by yelling were inadequate. This may have been a result of inadequate and ineffective training by ACBL and panic that resulted from the situation and
training inadequacy. Common sense and minimal experience on a towboat this size should demonstrate that the pilothouse can be a noisy place with all sounds from radios and other sources competing for attention.

● Inadequate supervision by the mate. failed to conduct any job safety briefing as set forth in ACBL’s “Job Briefing” guide.

● Mate was not present as a lookout for the line transfer task. The line transfer was taking place in a blind spot relative to the pilothouse. Since and Joe Hulen were both fully engaged in passing this bulky line from boat to barge, the mate should have been on the spot to coordinate with the Captain.

● The Captain failed to maintain control of the boat. The Captain did not keep the boat against the barge until the line transfer was safely completed.

● The Captain allowed the transfer to take place in a blind spot where he could not observe the activity. He did not call for the mate to serve as his lookout during the transfer. He failed to question the delay in making a transfer that he later testified should only have taken 1 to 2 seconds.

● The Captain’s response to finally being alerted to an unusual situation was unsafe and improper. He
testified in his deposition that one-minute or so before he received an intercom alert from his Chief Engineer, he
heard yelling that indicated something was wrong. At that point, he should have communicated with the crew to assess the situation before bringing the boat back against the barge. Instead, he reacted by closing the gap, which is an illogical and inexplicable reaction for an experienced operator to make. [Ed. Note: This evaluation is tempered by subsequent comments recited below.]

● ACBL improperly allowed to supervise and train Joe Hulen. only had served as a deckhand for
5 to six trips according to the Safety and Training Director’s testimony. His training should have been left to a more experienced deckhand.

● ACBL is responsible for work practices that likely allowed fatigue to contribute to the incident. The Captain had been allowed to work on the boat for almost 60 consecutive days while (name redacted) had worked over 30 consecutive days. Although licensed officers are limited by law to 12-hour workdays, no such limitations apply to either
deckhands like or non-navigating mates like . In fact, the AWO’s Responsible Carrier Program has
institutionalized the industry’s use of a 15-hour day in spite of years of protest from our Association and other mariner organizations. In fact, in 2000 our Association published the book Mariners Speak Out on Violation of the 12-Hour Work Day containing 57 letters from mariners exposing widespread abuses of work hours. We distributed several hundred copies to the Coast Guard, Congress, and to national and international labor organizations.

● Joe Hulen was assigned to the “call watch” at the time of the accident. This meant that his workday was subject to irregular breaks instead of the standard routine of 6 hours on duty followed by 6 hours off duty around the clock. The call watch, in addition to the 15-hour workday in this industry is a real travesty whose scope our Association revealed to the public in two reports.(1) [(1)NMA Reports #R-370-G, Rev. 1 and #R-401.]

We hope that Congress will respond to these appeals to remedy abuses as pervasive in the 21st century as those revealed by Richard Henry Dana in Two Years Before the Mast in the 19th century.

● The “call watch” abuse is a result of improper manning. If there is a “two-watch” system, there should be a full crew to stand each watch. It is clear that this simple maneuver that turned deadly required three men on deck under all the circumstances of that maneuver. However, the company allowed one man, Deckhand Trainee Joe Hulen to be used on both watches – which really defines the true meaning of the “call watch.” The company thereby saved the wages of one deckhand by using their most junior, most low-paid, and most vulnerable “green” deckhand on both the “front watch” and the “back watch.” While this may provide more and a greater variety of training for a
new man, it also expects more in the way of alertness and stamina. Deckhand trainees, by whatever name they are known, should be supernumeraries and not treated as “cannon fodder” to be awarded a small pay raise if they survive the experience.

● Clearer heads might prevail if everybody involved had not been obviously fatigued. Fatigue appeared to be a contributing factor in this accident and a growing menace to the public as reduced crew size is imposed on an already-stressed two-watch system. Any employer is free to grant crews on towing vessels an 8-hour, three-watch system. Yet, there is only permissive authority in the regulations to impose the two-watch system. The two watch
system maximizes profits by reducing overhead by eliminating about four jobs aboard a typical line-haul towboat. The major savings extracted from the system today are the elimination of a second Pilot, one of the highest-paid crew members. Today, there has been an overall reduction in crew size so that, on average, boats carry about one to four less crewmen than vessels under the two-watch system in the past. Yet, there has been no real change in the technology of this type of towing that would eliminate the tasking previously performed by the
missing crewmembers. To the extent that fatigue contributed to this accident, company management practices imposed it, Joe Hulen died for it, and his mother and father both had the guts to stand up and oppose it.

The Expert’s Summary

Maritime expert, the late Captain Jay Disler (1941-2006), a longtime member of our Association, developed these professional opinions:
The case under examination presents the needless and preventable death of a young man seeking a maritime career. The immediate and obvious cause of death was a fall overboard between two moving vessels. But, as demonstrated in the body of this report this fall was not a simple act of carelessness or inattention. Joe Hulen died because he was overburdened by an awkward load, his superiors were inattentive to the evolving hazard forming next to him as a gap between the vessels widened.
His superiors deviated from standard procedure, and it is highly likely that these deviations and inattentions were at least in part the result of fatigue. Fatigue in this case was induced by work practices imposed by management. The work method chosen that failed to wait for a secured closure of the two vessels responded to
economic pressures on operational tempo that was described in the body of this report and an admitted absence of relevant management policy. On its face, this is a simple fall overboard, one man dead with little relationship to other cases or impact on society. However as demonstrated within the body of this report, this case is a tragic example of a larger safety problem; rampant in the inland towing industry. This problem manifests itself in crew injuries, collisions, and bridge allisions, often with large numbers of deaths Without the introduction of new technologies, it is unsafe to attempt serious reductions in deadhead time while simultaneously reducing crew size, increasing crew working hours, and increasing tow size. All of these cost saving
and profit enhancement measures taken without consideration of this effect on each other have, and continue, to drastically diminish safety margins on the inland navigational system.

The new technologies that have been introduced have not decreased the need for labor. Automatic plotting radar, GPS, and bridge-to-bridge radios have only increased the tasking in the pilothouse, yet the pilothouse is still manned by only one licensed officer at a time. We still build tows with the same tools and rigging as 50 years ago, but now we do it with half the workers while the barges are growing larger. Labor unions, the traditional watchdogs of abusive practices, in this field are virtually extinct. The major regulator, the U.S. Coast Guard is distracted from its Marine Safety mission by a growing list of high priority homeland security missions.

The courts are the only place where this trend can now be documented, described, and brought to the attention of the industry, the last power with any real ability to level the playing field in favor of increased safety that means a retreat from some of the more onerous crew reductions, and operational practices. 

 Fortunately, as a result of the hard-fought litigation against ACBL, Bill Hulen’s attorney and his maritime expert, the complete picture of responsibility could be revealed and corporate accountability be compelled. The death of Joseph Hulen was not an isolated event, but an exemplary event that warrants serious attention, analysis,
and publication of the results.

A Message to Mariners from Nelson G. Wolff, Esq.

As Capt. Disler mentioned in his report, “the courts are the only place where this trend against safety in the industry can be brought to the attention of the industry, the last power with any real ability to level the playing field….”

Unfortunately, meaningful access to the courts and the opportunity to achieve the potential for reform depends on injured workers finding legal counsel who is experienced with the nuances and challenges of the complex law that governs mariners. The only thing more unfortunate than the injury or death of a maritime worker is the failure to obtain
compensation and lost opportunity to send a message to the industry in a language that it can understand – money. I appreciate the opportunity you have afforded me through your media to communicate these results in hopes that other workers will not be deprived of their right to compensation and that industry safety can be improved through lessons learned through hard ball litigation and court judgments. Hopefully, it will result in fewer such deaths/injuries, whether be by increased, effective regulation or through cost management at the company level.
U.S.Merchant Marine Shop Hats, Shirts, Jackets, Watches, Jewelry, Decorations, Etc.
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The Short Leash    File:Two-person arm carry.jpg

ILLUSTRATION:U.S.Navy Hospital Training Manual

One of the arguments that towing vessel management made in the early 1970s when they insisted that the Coast Guard not impose the traditional Master, Mate, and Pilot officer licensing regime on diesel towing vessels after series of horrific accidents that impelled Congress to mandate the examination and licensing of towboat “operators” in 1972. This was called the “short leash argument.” Towing company owners and managers argued that inland, harbor, and coastwise towing vessels were given so much support from their shore side offices and available 

contract service providers that more extensive knowledge of navigation, stability, national shipping laws and 
regulations, and emergency medical practices common for most traditional Merchant Marine licensed officers were 

not really necessary in the towing industry. 

 Much the same argument was put forward by the new offshore mineral 
and oil industry in the Gulf of Mexico at the same time. 

Management would change their tune years later when they realized that their “short leash” left management holding the bag for liability in an accident because the law, as written, left them with a choice; they could either hire a licensed Master and Pilot or one of the newly licensed towing vessel “operators.” Unfortunately for management, they nearly always chose the lower-paid “operator” to maximize their profits.

 Management, in the Congressional Record, described the relative lack of training for these “operators” and their successful management of that risk by using the “short leash” to keep on top of things! When an unfortunate series of major accidents started to happen from the 1993 Sunset Limited accident forward, management found itself unable to take advantage of the “limitation of liability” provision in maritime law that allowed a ship owner to 
avoid liability beyond the salvage value of his ship and its cargo in the wake of an accident caused by factors 

beyond his “privity and knowledge.” By using licensed “operators,” the owners could no longer argue that they 

had hired “licensed professionals” to run their vessels and that, as owners, they had no “privity and knowledge” of 
any navigational or operational professional shortcomings their Captains may have had. 

 Needless to say following several spectacular and expensive accidents, the easy-to-obtain “operator” class of license was regulated out of 
existence and started to disappear between 2001 and 2006. Holders of the old “Operator” licenses were 

“grandfathered” as Masters, Mates, or Pilots of towing vessels with licenses that became increasingly restricted to 

domestic routes. Deckhands hopeful of obtaining a new towing license came up against a one-year apprenticeship 

requirement and seriously enhanced experience, training, and professional examination requirements. 

Yet even today, the vessel owners and their operating companies still argue the “short leash” as if the short leash 

still existed when denying their officers and crew members first class emergency medical response on board 

equipment and training.

Meet Capt. John LoCicero.

He Made His Own Splint with a Rolled Newspaper and Duct Tape; 
Years After His Injury, He Cannot Use His Right Hand

[Source: Reported by Captain John LoCicero in several interviews.]

 When Captain John LoCicero was an active member of our Association, he told us that ten years ago, he never 
would have considered joining a mariner's association like ours, or a labor union. Back then, he believed that his 

employer cared about him as a person and would take care of him if he was hurt on the job. He now admits that his 

trust was misplaced and wants to tell his story to other mariners so they may avoid the same bitter experience. 

A mariner needs to understand that there are two sides to many important health, safety, and welfare issues.

 Although your boss may be a fine and honorable person you respect and enjoy working for, he is your employer 
and his interests and concerns may not always coincide with yours. Although you owe him your loyalty as an 

employee, there are times when you must put your interests and those of your family first and foremost. 

In 1993, John was serving as relief captain on an uninspected towing vessel working on the Gulf Intracoastal 

Waterway pushing tank barges between Louisiana and Texas. He was employed by the Frazier Towing Company, 

a small mom-and-pop towing operation based in southeast Louisiana. On the voyage when he was injured, he was 

working as Pilot under the direction of the son of the company's owner who served as the vessel's captain.

 The tow consisted of one tank barge owned by Hollywood Marine – a customer of Frazier Towing Company. 
While underway during a voyage in 1994, John tripped on the deck and injured his right wrist and arm and was 

in severe pain. The boat's Captain called on Hollywood Marine for assistance. A Hollywood employee drove John 

to a local Houston-area hospital where John's injured arm was examined. He was told his wrist was broken but that 

the hospital's orthopedic specialist was not there to set it. Consequently, John was brought back to the towboat 

even though he asked to be taken to another hospital for immediate emergency treatment. He was told that medical 

treatment was the responsibility of his employer, the Frazier Towing Company, and not up to Hollywood Marine, 

owner of the barge.

On returning to the boat, John was in severe pain and told the Captain that he thought he was going into shock.

 Since the towboat was now tied to the dock at the refinery, the Captain called the refinery's emergency medical 
technician (EMT) who arrived in an ambulance but did not even have a splint to immobilize the fracture. John 

finally immobilized it himself by wrapping a newspaper around it and using duct tape to secure it. Since he could 

not work because of the pain, he asked to be relieved.

Left to Suffer

Twenty-four hours later, John arrived by company carryall at Frazier Towing Company's parking lot on the bayou in 
southeast Louisiana where he was dropped off at his parked car and left to fend for himself. He had received no 

additional medical treatment and was still in severe pain. John put it this way: "I have hurt myself in the past, but I never 
had pain like that in my life. I hurt so damn bad I can't even begin to tell anyone the pain I felt."

 John was left with no alternative but to drive his car with one arm immobilized about 25 miles up the bayou to 
Raceland and then on to his home forty miles further on in Metairie. He mmediately called the company office 

and, being a Saturday, left a message for the Port Captain to call him with further instructions for medical care.

No Immediate Company Concern

On Sunday, the port captain never bothered to return his call. So, bright and early on Monday, John called the 
office and spoke to the secretary. The secretary asked him why he was still walking around-with a broken arm. 

John replied that the hospitals asked embarrassing questions about his medical coverage he could not answer and, 

specifically, who was responsible for paying the bill. Eventually, the office appeared to settle the matter and sent 

him to a doctor later in the day. The doctor gave him pain medicine, properly immobilized the arm, and because 

the doctor was busy, gave him an appointment to come back in a week to get it set.

 When John returned, he learned that his arm had suffered severe nerve damage and that it would require a major 

operation using a nerve taken from his leg. The doctor scheduled the operation for the next day. However, when

John arrived for the operation, he was told that the company did not have the funds to pay for it and that it could not 

be performed. Shortly thereafter, the company stopped paying his maintenance and cure. Four-and-a-half months

later, they were still talking about surgery but had not yet performed it.

No Surgery and Inadequate Settlement

 John then hired an attorney who was only able to extract a small and unsatisfactory settlement from the 

company. John can no longer work as a mariner. Eighteen years later, John has no use of his right hand 

whatsoever and lives on small government disability payments.

Some Thoughts for Fellow Mariners

John's advice to his fellow mariners is this: "Watch your step. Be careful whom you work for. Be sure these 

people can and will take care of you if you are hurt. Don't blindly accept what these companies tell you, because 

they are all born liars. They'll tell you what you want to hear."

John asks our mariners consider these points:

● Are you working for a reputable employer that provides you and your family with adequate medical and disability


● Has your employer ever cheated mariners that you know out of legitimate "maintenance and cure" payments?

● What type of medical coverage do you have today and how would it cover you under the same circumstances that 
he faced in a distant city or even at home?

● Have you read the fine-print of your medical policy or do you need it explained to you?

● Do you carry the necessary credentials that will give you entry to an emergency room?

● Does your health coverage include transportation by ambulance if it is medically necessary?

● How soon will you be covered if you go to work for a new employer? If you have a 60 or 90 day waiting period, 
how do you plan to protect yourself against possible medical bills that could bankrupt you?

● If you must sue your employer, does he carry enough insurance to pay you for your medical care, your time lost 
from work, or for a disabling injury that lasts for the rest of your life? Would your employer fire you if you asked 

these questions? If so, your relationship with your employer is fragile indeed.

In 1994, the Coast Guard determined that working on a towing vessel was nine times more dangerous than 
working at an "average" job – even more dangerous than on a commercial fishing vessel.(1) With that in mind, do 

you have a lawyer in mind that can represent your interests in the maritime environment? [(1)Refer to our Report 

#R-351, Rev.1.]

As a post-script, John left this thought: "I wish I could make our guys understand that it's not the same world 
anymore. Small companies are being swallowed up by big companies. Soon, only two or three big companies will 

be left, and the little guy will not have much of a choice anymore. One mistake and you just won't work on boats 
again – plain and simple. We are looking at a sweat-shop situation if we don't stand up, pitch in, and get noticed." 

 The comment that “…You just won’t work on boats again” refers to the practice of lacklisting” or 
“blackballing” – a unfair labor practice that continues to end many seagoing careers. Our Association urged 

Congress to amend 46 U.S. Code §2114, Protection Against Discrimination which they did in 2010.(1) [(1)Refer to 
NMA Report #R-210 that explains the elaborate details.]


The Black List             

When a crewmember is seriously injured in service to his vessel in this industry, he has little choice but to sue his employer since seamen have none of the workers compensation benefits of land-side employees. Once he does, even if he wins a modest settlement, his career is over. On Sept. 1, 2003 our Association wrote the following letter to Representative Billy Tauzin (R-La), then Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, as well as to each member of the Committee presenting our views on the provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

 We followed up our correspondence with a second letter to the Chairman Tauzin on Dec. 17, 2003 without receiving any response and, consequently, have little to show for our efforts. These practices continue to adversely affect our mariners. Industry Black Listing Practices and the Fair Credit reporting Act  (FCRA).

 Our Letter to Former U.S. Representative Tauzin
“I am writing to you as a member of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection to earnestly ask you to amend a provision in the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). I am writing on behalf of the Gulf Coast Mariners Association (1), an independent Association representing the interests and concerns of approximately [126,000 limited-tonnage] merchant mariners who serve on the nation’s tugs, towboats,small passenger vessels and offshore supply vessels." [(1)GCMA became NMA on Jan. 1, 2008]

Employment purposes. 15 USC §1681b indicates that one of the permissible purposes of a consumer report is for “employment purposes.” The Federal Trade Commission further defines these “permissible purposes” relating to employment to include reports used for evaluating a consumer “for employment, promotion, reassignment or retention as an employee.” Our request concerns abuse of this provision in a significant, non-unionized portion of the maritime industry for employment purposes.
 “We believe that a good employee will try to maintain a good work record. The fact that such a record really exists and may follow him in the workplace provides a positive and sobering influence upon his or her conduct and stability. “Unfortunately, there is one feature that stands out and detracts from the value of this type of "consumer report.” That point deals with the answer to the question, “Would you rehire this employee?” or, restated, “Is this former employee eligible for rehire by your company?”

“We receive widespread reports from our mariners that this single point is used to evaluate and subsequently to “blacklist” many of our mariners. It is a “quick and dirty” test of suitability for employment. Our complaint lies with the law and not with the Consumer Reporting Agency that only appears to be doing what the law and/or the Federal Trade Commission allow. We make the following arguments for change. [Enclosure #1] is a Work Report with the “would rehire” blank circled. An employer may elect a “Yes”, “No” or simply to make no comment. 

● “Would not rehire” is not based upon any uniform set of employment guidelines. It is a subjective opinion of some person working for a former employer who is under no obligation to reveal his/her identity or even position within the company. It could represent the opinion of a President, a Personnel Director, or even a clerk-typist with access to the company’s computer. In the case covered above the employee was never “fired” or even given a “pink slip.”

● A mariner does not know which person “blacklisted” him or when it was done. However, “would not rehire” now can appear on a computer screen at a job seeker’s next job interview. Or, it may appear as part of the “re-investigation” the present law allows. In this case, the job applicant found out about it three years later –much of that time spent unemployed but constantly seeking work. Although he made written inquiry to both his former employer and to the Credit Reporting Agency, he was never told why his former employer would not rehire him. The information the mariner chose to add to his consumer report to counteract the “blacklisting” was nothing more than a shot in the dark since he had no access to solid facts he could refute. Even worse, his statement now stands out like a sore thumb on his work report.

● Most job applications require job seekers to list their previous employers. In the transportation industry, 49 CFR §40.25 even requires prospective employers to verify a job seeker’s drug records for the past two years. If the prospective employer made such a call he would have a greater opportunity to speak with a responsible person in authority and ask legally permissible questions about the job seeker. A “would not rehire” computer entry short circuits the entire process and is manifestly unfair to job seeker.

 Accepting “would not rehire” notations without identifying them by name coupled with the limitation of liability in 15 U.S. Code §1681h make it very extremely difficult for an injured employee to prove in court that he wasdisqualified from employment by “...false information furnished with malice or willful intent to injure such (a) consumer” if this is the case. Our experience shows that most mariners, especially those who are unemployed, do not have the means, the ability, and the knowledge to deal with the administrative procedures of the Credit Reporting Agencies – even when those agencies scrupulously follow the law.
“It is for these reasons and in the interest of fairness to our mariners that I ask you on behalf of our Association to amend the Fair Credit Reporting Act to exclude the solicitation of the information by Credit Reporting Agencies that allows notations such as “would not rehire” or “not eligible for rehire” to appear on a work report furnished by such an agency.”
 s/ Secretary, National Mariners Association.

 Our Association never received the courtesy of a reply from Congressman Tauzin or from any member of his committee. Former Congressman Tauzin is now a paid lobbyist for a pharmaceutical trade association in Washington. Sadly, stonewalling this issue only showed that he was never an advocate for our mariners, only for

 A Mariner is at the Mercy of a Credit Reporting Agency
[Source: NMA Mariner #181. Name redacted for privacy. Letter to Reporting Agency “Pretiem.” Emphasis is ours!]

 ATTN: Ms. Mary E. King, Consumer RelationsPRETIEM, 195 Clarksville Rd.Princeton Junction, NJ 08550

Dear Ms. King,I wish to contest the entry of “would not rehire” ascribed to my former employer, TORCH, Inc. According to your records, I last worked for TORCH, inc. on Feb. 12, 1999. I was never told by any representative of TORCH, Inc. that I would not be rehired. To the best of my knowledge and belief, I left their employ in good standing.I started working as second Captain on a 120-foot utility boat M/V Fox under Capt. Bill Woodard. Later I was transferred transferred to a larger boat the M/V Midnight Dancer for further training in four-point anchoring work as I had some previous experience working with SubSea International. I spent four days on board the M/VMidnight Dancer. I never received any training and was sent home.

 I worked with TORCH, Inc. into the winter of 1998-99 until the work shut down offshore. When I went home it was with the understanding that they would call me when work picked up. They never recalled me. I was simply left at home waiting for a call that never came. After a reasonable period of time I called my immediate supervisor, Ed. Ed asked, “Nobody called you from the office?” Ed then paged the office and came back on the line and said: “Look, we don’t need you any more.” I asked, “what’s the problem?” He said, “Well, we just don’t need you any more.” I can accept the fact that they no longer need my services; however, I believe I deserve an explanation of WHY they filed a “would not rehire” with PRETIEM that will affect my employment with other companies and, in fact, with just about every maritime company I try to get a job with. This is a sneaky, underhanded thing to do. 

 If TORCH did not like my professional services for any reason, they do not have to rehire me! I really do not have a clue and, in the absence of one, I am left to assume it may well be a matter of racial discrimination. But, without a good reason, they have no right to ruin my career. Unless I obtain a reasonable answer, I will report the matter tothe Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). I always try to get along with my employers and never did anything that would have brought about a reason for them to refuse to hire me in the future. I just want the courtesy of a reasonable  explanation.The fact that this “would not rehire” notation is on my record damages my chances for employment with other companies. In looking for employment, when potential employers see this entry on my employment record, they tend to jump to conclusions that I am not a good employee rather than to take the time to check with other employers I have worked for. I have all sorts of family obligations I need to fulfill with a paycheck from an industry I have worked in all my life.

 I respectfully request that your Agency either provide me with a complete explanation of the background of the “would not rehire” entry in your records from TORCH, Inc. or totally expunge the record from my files. Please furnish me with a copy of my adjusted records.Very Truly Yours,[s/Mariner #181]



File:Aivazovsky - Shipwreck.jpg
Aivazovsky: Shipwreck 1856

 The next installment of our serial presentation of the book  BLOOD ON BROWN WATER  will  start Chapter 7 , and is posted below.  If you are a new visitor, BLOOD ON BROWN WATER is a short 79 page book prepared by the National Mariner's Association documenting  Third World like working conditions in certain parts of America's modern day domestic service Merchant Marine fleets.  The book while not the literary master piece of TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST or MUSCLE AND BLOOD aims at the same purpose to influence legislative corrective action.

 If you are interested in the earlier works that affected maritime and heavy industry occupational safety and health click on any of the book cover icons below 


BLOOD ON BROWN WATER -CHAPTER 7         Flag of Honduras

Foreign Seamen Are Employed and Mistreated

(AAB Editor's Note:) The merchant marine trades discussed in this book are reserved to American citizens by the "Jones Act", foreign seamen are not supposed to be employed in these trades, but frequently are. When they are, they are even more mistreated than the Americans now abandoning the trades.)

Foreign Seamen Are Employed and Mistreated

One way that U.S. Flag vessel operating companies try to deal with their self-generated labor shortage is to import foreign seamen to serve on U.S. Flag commercial vessels under waivers to the Jones Act . Once aboard these U.S. Flag vessels these mostly third world seamen discover conditions of employment right out of the peon/patron system of their native countries.

In a Life or Death Decision an Employer Evades Responsibility
[Source: By Jan Clifford, The Houma Courier, Apr.19, 2006. Emphasis is ours!.}

A Honduran seaman hospitalized in Terrebonne General Medical Center since early February is at the center of what could be a landmark case in maritime law, according to an attorney representing him. While lawyers for the 20-year-old and the tugboat company he worked for argue about who is responsible for the costly life-saving procedure, Dilbert Calix remains in the hospital’s intensive-care unit, his condition rapidly worsening.
Calix went to work for Global International Marine of Houma, LA, about a year ago. Global International operates ocean-class tugs and barges in domestic and foreign waters. Calix’s father Daniel Chacon has worked for the same company for seven years, though he and his son were assigned to different vessels. Neither man speaks English. Calix got sick in early February while working on a tugboat docked in Houma, said Dora Delancey, Hispanic community coordinator for Annunziata Catholic Church and translator for the father and son.
He underwent emergency gall bladder surgery but didn’t get better, she said. That’s when doctors made a second, more serious, diagnosis – Calix has congestive heart failure and won’t survive without a heart transplant. But it’s doubtful he’ll get the surgery unless a judge intervenes. The problem? Calix could be forced to return to Honduras. His advocates say he’s unlikely to get the necessary surgery in that country.

Global International CEO Tony Authement declined comment, citing the ongoing legal dispute. The company’s attorney says the company is simply trying to do what Calix, and his father, agreed to when they signed on with the company. The men signed a contract, which states that each agrees to be sent home in the event of any illness, death, or employment dispute, said Randolph Waits, a New Orleans attorney representing Global International.

The contracts are written in English, but they include a measure that says the signers "have read or have had read to them" the contents. "They agreed by international contract to bring their case before a Honduran court of law," Waits said. He said
Global International has the right to send Calix back to Honduras for medical care. Asked if hospitals in that country had facilities necessary for heart-transplant surgery, Waits said he didn’t know.

Calix and Chacon say they did not understand the particulars of the contract they signed in order to obtain work. They want Calix to get the operation here, and they want Global International to pay for it. Calix’s family and friends say sending him to Honduras without a heart transplant amounts to a death sentence.
While lawyers debate his fate, Calix spends his days in a hospital bed hoping that his condition improves enough for him to be allowed to return to work. He said he has "never run from work" and dreams of becoming a boat captain one day.

Calix is in constant pain, Myers said, and tries to stay as still as possible for fear of triggering a fatal heart
attack. His father keeps a constant vigil at Calix’s bedside and worries about the future. Chacon says a company representative told him to stay with his son and promised both men would continue to receive their paychecks. They haven’t gotten the money as promised, he said, and the cash they had is running out.
The men said they had hoped that Marta Chacon, Chacon’s wife, could come to Houma and stay by Calix’s side so Chacon, who is the family’s sole source of income, could return to work. But Marta Chacon hasn’t been able to secure the travel visa she needs to come to this country.

Dilbert Calix, a Honduras native who was working for a Houma company, waits in a Terrebonne General Medical Center hospital room with his father, Daniel Chacon, to find out if he will get the heart transplant he needs to survive. (Sabree Hill/The Courier)
Global International hired Calix through the Harvey-based Pontchartrain Marine, Inc., according to the signed
employment contract the family showed a Courier reporter. According to Pontchartrain Marine’s Web site, the
company provides foreign crewmembers to work on vessels worldwide. Patricia Martinez, a human-resources
manager for the company, refused to speak with The Courier.
According to Calix’s father and uncle, Martinez is the woman who visited Calix’s hospital room after his gall bladder surgery bearing a portable oxygen tank and plane tickets to Honduras. That’s when the family contacted an attorney. Since Calix needed emergency-medical care while working on an American vessel docked in Houma, his case may fall under U.S. maritime law, said Matthew Slingbaum, a Florida attorney representing Calix.
Robert Myers, an attorney handling the Louisiana proceedings for Slingbaum, said offshore workers have been involved in similar incidents, but this is the first instance involving a resident of another country who has Louisiana ties. Myers filed a motion late last month, asking a federal judge to determine whether the contract Calix signed is legally binding.

"A seaman is legally a ward of the court," Myers said, adding that the law, which is "hundreds of years old"requires the employer to pay for medical treatment when a seaman is injured or gets sick while working, whether his condition is pre-existing or not. Authement, Global International’s attorney, says the contract is valid, and Calix must seek treatment on his own
in Honduras. If U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier of New Orleans agrees, Calix will be sent back to Central America,
and Global International will not be liable for his medical bills.
The heart surgery would cost an estimated $500,000; the hospital bills to date are upwards of $200,000, Myers said. Once Barbier rules on the contract, Slingbaum said he’d file papers alleging that Calix’s health problems stem from Global International’s hazardous work conditions.

Calix’s job was to clean diesel and bilge tanks, the family said, adding he wasn’t provided with the necessary protective gear. They allege that’s what caused his heart problem and say that a Honduras doctor gave Calix a clean bill of health during a pre-employment physical. The Courier’s efforts to reach Dr. Oscar Luis Chavarria in Honduras were unsuccessful. Waits disputes the men’s claims, adding that other family members have suffered the same disease. Attorneys for both sides say Barbier took an immediate interest in Calix’s case, and is moving swiftly to reach a decision. Waits’ response to Myer’s motion is due in the judge’s office by May 1. A decision should come soon after that date.

 As to what will happen if Calix does not recover, Myers said the litigation would escalate. "We’ll file a wrongful-death claim," he said.

 Who Cares For Foreign Seamen Working On U.S.-Flag Vessels?

We explored this issue in our on foreign seamen serving on American-flagged vessels(1) in 2005 when the issue was reignited 

 by the introduction of the Transportation Workers Identification Credential (TWIC) requirements.

[(1)NMA Report #R-334, Rev. 2.]

Our Association consistently opposes exploitation of American “limited-tonnage” mariners serving on vessels of less than 1600 gross tons. The examples we cite are the abuse of the “12-Hour Rule” revealed collected in our reports that the Coast Guard has repeatedly ignored.(1) Cases like these and those reported in 2000 to the Marine Safety Directorate in Coast Guard Headquarters(2) cautioned many mariners and potential mariners to the abuses encountered in working on commercial vessels. 

These reports were mileposts along the way to the industry’s
current personnel shortages. [(1)NMA Report #R-370, Rev. 4 and other reports in the #R-370 series. (2)NMA Report
#R-201.] During the past twenty years, boat companies in the inland towing and offshore oil industry sectors cut crew size
to the bone. Our mariners’ wages failed to keep pace with inflation. Mariners were routinely overworked and
overwhelmed in several attempts to organize to protect and advance their own interests. The Pilots Agree movement on the western rivers and Gulf Intracoastal Waterway in 1998 was followed by an attempt to organize an independent union (Offshore Mariners United) to represent thousands of mariners in the offshore oil industry. These two movements were defeated by millions of dollars spent by individual boat companies and industry trade associations that even hired professional “union busters” to distort the issues and mislead mariners. Many of our Association’s directors and members are veterans of these movements and continue to assist and inform our limited-tonnage mariners. While we witnessed these events happen, we do our best to maintain a record of these events and explain why they happened and see that they are not repeated 

Temporary Work Visas Are No Answer

Boat owners are becoming desperate to crew their boats. Many boat owners believe their key to “success” is to 

 recruit “cheap” labor. “Cheap” inevitably leads to using individuals from foreign countries who may be desperate 


for a job or to immigrate to the United States for a “better life.” 

A letter in the May 2006 issue of WorkBoat magazine suggested that the maritime industry be granted an 

 allotment of H-1B visas so they can bring in skilled workers from other countries as is allowed in other industries 

 with a proven shortage of skilled labor.  were not impressed with this argument. However, we were impressed, by a letter, by a Lawrence Crompton, a 1,600 GT Master and Third Mate who wrote the following in a letter to the editor in WorkBoat’s June issue.

I strongly disagree with the letter… “Temporary Visas Could Ease Mariner Labor Woes.” Not only would it not ease the woes, it would create even more problems. “First, the officer pool in the “patch” (i.e., offshore oil industry) is made up almost entirely from those who came up the hawsepipe. When we open the entry-level jobs to H-1B (visa) labor, who are we training to run the boats in the future? It would only take a few years worth of layoffs and rehire cycles, and we would have to start hiring H-1B officers. How does that ease the woes? “Second is the Jones Act. Shall we abolish it all at once to bring in “skilled workers” from other countries or just whittle it away piece by piece? The loss of the Jones Act would mean the death to U.S. maritime labor. We would also have to ask just how skilled these laborers are. Many of the H-1B workers I have seen are hired from their government-owned employment services. Will those governments also guarantee the skill and training levels of the workforce?

“The last thing I want to mention is the revolving door of H-1B labor. In other industries, H-1B labor has been used for short term (often on a six-month work visa) in jobs the employer can’t find local labor to fill. Most are minimum wage positions. Once these jobs have been given to H-1B labor, there is no reason to improve working conditions and make wages more appealing to the local work force. In six months (with a minimal amount of paperwork) they hire another group for the next six months. “In the Oil Patch they are having a hard time with labor because of the working conditions and wages. When the less expensive H-1B labor comes in then wages will most likely drop, benefits lost, rotations will increase to six months on (same as the work visa) and conditions will not improve, except when legally required. That will surely 

 push the mariner out of the workforce. I guess that would ease the woes of the U.S. mariner, because  there 

 wouldn’t be any.”

NMA Traditions

From the earliest days of our Association, the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) always has been a source of support. We recall the day when one hundred fifty ITF delegates attending an international conference in New Orleans marched in support of our mariners and demonstrated in front of the Work Boat Show. They came 

 from all corners of the globe to protest the way that the offshore oil industry trampled the rights of our mariners.

Our concern over the employment of foreign workers follows most of the concerns mentioned in Lawrence Crompton’s letter as well as the fact that the same people who exploit American workers can be trusted to do the 

 same thing to foreign workers. This case serves as an example that we brought to the attention of both the Coast Guard and the International Transport Workers Federation. 



Blood on Brown Water Ch.8
U.S.Merchant Marine Shop Hats, Shirts, Jackets, Watches, Jewelry, Decorations, Etc.
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 CHAPTER 8                                                   

No Next Generation of Seamen

 Young Americans newly reporting aboard America's work boats often fare even worse than the imported Third World labor. Too many quit too soon as a result of the harsh working conditions and contribute to the labor shortage. Others without previous experience at sea never receive a proper job safety orientation and step aboard to fill a job opening with no idea of what they are getting into. Others make foolish mistakes at sea and find the sea is unforgiving and become permanently removed from the potential labor pool. This is an industry with a “sink or swim” attitude that all too often kills its young. Read of the demise of twenty two year old ordinary seaman Jamie Ashford on a routine crewboat trip offshore that highlights an almost total lack of responsibility and accountability by the boat owner and two licensed officers.

“Green” Deckhand Lost at Sea – The M/V Gulf Pride Case
[Source: NMA File A-174. Disclaimer: What follows is not legal advice. Rather, it is a synopsis of information
gleaned from reading this case. Each case must stand on its own merits. If you have a specific legal problem, you
should contact a lawyer for legal advice.]

 If there is any "Gulf Pride" in the offshore oil industry in the Gulf of Mexico it is not symbolized by the now defunct company of that name or by the repossessed crewboat bearing the same name. In fact, the boat owner, the boat, its master and mate were just about as sorry as it gets out in the oil patch. This is the largely untold and unpublicized story of what many "limited-tonnage" mariners know happens in a hundred different forms but never sees in print. When a whiff of scandal does reach the newspapers, it never did in this case, it may appear in a 3½-inch release from the court announcing a decision. There are things that industry apologists don't want the general public to know about the marine industry. It is
the truth about things that happen to many of our mariners both in the Gulf of Mexico as well as on inland waters. The marine industry can be a very dangerous place for a newcomer, especially a young man with little or no experience around boats. It does not have to be a hostile environment, but it can still be a dangerous one because of the hazards of the oil industry. These hazards are coupled with the hazards of the sea and the carelessness of some
people who work in the industry. The lack of standards of care and ethics of some (but not all) boat owners, whether individual or corporate, creates a workplace that leaves a great deal to be desired. This is a true story brought to our attention by a brief news release of 3½ column inches in a local newspaper that never made front-page news. It announced a sizeable settlement made on behalf of two children of a mariner lost at sea. We extracted the story from the public record. The matter was brought to its conclusion by a team of
persistent attorneys(1) who exposed a pattern of carelessness and neglect that left a several insurance companies holding the bill for insuring a very questionable commercial boat operation. [(1)Hebert & Marceaux, 8026 Main St, Houma, LA 70360. (985) 876-4324]

 To secure "justice" in the marine industry, a mariner – and often his family or heirs – must be prepared to fight for it. To do this, you will have to call on the services of an experienced admiralty attorney who has studied the law, is conversant with all sorts of federal regulations and agency policies, and above all, is able to combine considerable legal research in case law with some good detective work and credible expert witnesses to forge the tools necessary to prevail. The maritime industry in this part of the country brainwashes the public to look askance at trial lawyers much as they have been taught to look down on our “limited-tonnage” mariners as "boat trash." However, without conscientious trial lawyers, our mariners would never have their day in court. Statement of the Case [Editorial note: Most of the following was extracted and edited directly from the public record with legal citations
removed for ease of reading. Although some names are presented, others are not identified in the interest of privacy. Most of the events recited took place in Terrebonne Parish, LA, and in nearby offshore waters.]

Names and Positions
● Jamie Ashford - Deckhand lost at sea.
● Robert Jones(1) - Boat owner of M/V Gulf Pride

● Captain Gerald Smith(1) - Captain M/V Gulf Pride
● Phil Taylor(1) - Unlicensed Relief Captain, Mate of M/V Gulf Pride
[(1)A pseudonym.]
["I guess the thing that is most shocking to my soul and heart is the fact that when they reached the Global Dock, the
Captain did not report Jamie missing, and in part his fault and part the fault of Mr. Jones because they were both aware
that he was missing and to wait some 12 to 13 hours before reporting it to the Coast Guard or the Sheriff's Office is
almost criminal in my mind. I think it could be considered a cause of Mr. Ashford's death." The Court.]
Trial court's decision.(1) The trial court held that Jamie Ashford died on the high seas, i.e., beyond territorial
waters. The court concluded that Jamie's survival time in the cold water was 5-6 hours. [(1)The trial took place in
the 32nd. Judicial District Court, Terrebonne Parish, LA. The decision was appealed to the First Circuit, Court of
Appeal, in Baton Rouge, LA, that rendered its decision on Mar. 28, 2002.]
The trial court found that the evidence proved that Gulf Pride was negligent for:
● failure to report a man overboard;
● failure to conduct a search and rescue for over twelve hours;
● failure to have a proper communication system between the Captain and crew working at night;
● failure to obtain knowledge of Jamie's whereabouts;
● failure to properly man the vessel for the job;
● failure to provide proper training and rules on the proper use of safety vests; and
● the bulwarks on the vessel were low.

 The court found that Jamie was a young, "green" hand and, thus, was not contributorily negligent. The court held that the vessel was unseaworthy, but was not the proximate cause leading to Jamie's death. Jamie was 22 years old. He was a first-time deckhand assigned to the M/V Gulf Pride. He fell off the vessel on Jan. 27, 1997 while he was on night watch. Captain Gerald Smith testified that it was four hours after last seeing Jamie before he realized that he was no longer on the vessel. However, Jamie was conducting his night watch activities, as required by law. More egregious, however, was that once Captain Smith reached the dock in Houma, he did not call the Coast Guard. Rather, he called the vessel owner, Robert Jones. Nevertheless, neither man called the Coast Guard or law enforcement until the next day, well past any possible survival time. In fact, Captain Smith went to bed. The defendants stipulated (i.e., agreed) that Jamie was a Jones Act seaman. They acknowledge their duty to keep watch and to rescue  that fell overboard. After Jamie's mother (i.e., the "plaintiff") presented her
case, defense counsel admitted to the court that it was reasonable to infer from the evidence that Jamie fell off the M/V Gulf Pride.

 Another unfortunate human being who previously had fallen off a vessel spent 10 hours in the Gulf of Mexico, and survived, stated, "I was not ready to die." He was lucky, but Jamie was not as lucky and is dead. The defendants' actions in this case are horrible by any standards of humanity. Jamie's employment. Gulf Pride Marine Services, Inc. employed Jamie in Nov. 1996. He was 22 years old. He was assigned to the M/V Gulf Pride as a deckhand/seaman. On the date of the accident, a three-man crew manned the M/V Gulf Pride. The crew consisted of Captain Smith and Relief Captain/Mate Phil Taylor, and Jamie. The Gulf Pride is a 95-foot, 92 gross ton aluminum hull crewboat. Other than working for several months as a
roustabout/roughneck aboard a drilling rig, Jamie had little experience in the oilfield. Jamie's first experience working aboard vessels was with M/V Gulf Pride. He had only worked a couple of months on the vessel at the time of the accident and was a classic "green" hand. According to Captain Smith, it was his responsibility to train Jamie on the job. He admitted that a two to three month "first time" hitch was little experience. The Gulf Pride (the boat and the company) were formerly owned by Robert Jones. Gulf Pride is no longer in business because of extreme financial trouble.(1) This led to its failure to maintain the two vessels which comprised its fleet. Subsequent to the incident at issue, Sea Craft Corporation seized the M/V Gulf Pride because Gulf Pride did not pay for necessary repairs done to the vessel. Jones is a convicted felon for theft. [(1)For a colorful yet sordid history of Gulf Pride's "operations" see Matter of Gulf Pride Marine Service, Inc., 1997 WL 118394 (E.D.La. 1997).]

 The M/V Gulf Pride was a vessel inspected by the United States Coast Guard. After inspecting the vessel, the Coast Guard issues a Certificate of Inspection with certain requirements for the vessel that must be followed along with vessel manning requirements. The certificate is then posted on the vessel in public view. The Coast Guard performs inspections and re-inspections annually. If events occur during the year that affects the vessel's seaworthiness, the Captain is required to notify the Coast Guard. The M/V Gulf Pride was supposed to have a minimum of a four-man crew when operating more than twelve hours per day. However, Jamie was part of only a three-man crew when he drowned. Captain Smith testified that with a three-man crew, the vessel was considered undermanned. He often complained to Jones about operating with only a three-man crew but Jones disregarded his complaints. Our Association is quick to add that the Coast Guard has a dismal record of enforcing its vessel manning requirements in the Eighth Coast Guard District.

Global Industries chartered the M/V Gulf Pride to provide crewboat services to its pipe laying barges working in the Gulf of Mexico. On Jan. 27, 1997, the M/V Gulf Pride made a trip to the Global pipe-laying barge GP-37, which was working on the outer continental shelf (OCS). It was located in the Gulf of Mexico, approximately four to five hours from Global's dock in Houma, LA. The lay barge was located southwards from Cat Island Pass, the entrance to Terrebonne Bay. Captain Smith, along with mate Taylor and Jamie traveled past territorial waters to reach the GP-37.

On the day of his disappearance, approximately thirty Global employees boarded the M/V Gulf Pride to ride home. Captain Smith began the return trip from the Global barge, heading to the Global dock in Houma where the passengers would disembark. The only crew members transporting the passengers while underway were Captain Smith and Jamie, as his watchman. Jamie, as the deckhand on watch, would be "about" the vessel in order to perform his duties. For example, Captain Smith testified that when they were underway, he ordered Jamie to check the engineroom every twenty minutes – but apparently never checked to determine that this was being done. After the Global passengers boarded the boat in the Gulf of Mexico, they went below deck to the cabin and there they went to sleep during the ride in.

The M/V Gulf Pride got underway between 6:30-7:00 p.m. in darkness. Captain Smith took a route that allowed  them to travel through Cat Island Pass, up the Houma Navigational Canal, and ultimately to the Global dock in Houma. The seas that evening were estimated to have been between two and four feet, with occasional swells. The water temperature was 62 degrees. Hypothermia is a serious issue facing mariners who fall overboard in cold water – and one we believe the Coast Guard has neglected over the years as we reported to Congress in detail.(1)
Fortunately, Congress took some important steps to address the issues in 2010.(2) [(1)NMA Report #R-354, Rev. 4. (2)46 U.S. Code §3104 added.]

Upon getting underway, the vessel ran without using either its inside or deck lights. Jamie was in the pilothouse with Captain Smith and a passenger. Captain Smith allowed Jamie to pilot the vessel for approximately 15 minutes. Thereafter, Jamie left the pilothouse. Captain Smith claims Jamie's destination was not known exactly, a claim that relies upon Captain Smith's veracity. Mate Taylor was sleeping since it was his time off duty. The M/V Gulf Pride arrived at the Global dock at approximately 11:30 p.m. on Jan. 27, 1997. However, Jamie
was not on deck to throw the lines to tie up the vessel. Unless Jamie could walk on water, it soon became clear that he was not on the vessel. Ironically, Captain Smith testified that he had not seen Jamie for the last three and one half to four hours of the voyage. Captain Smith did not know Jamie's whereabouts for almost the entire trip. Modern seamanship practices and common sense dictate that the captain account for his crew on duty at regular intervals and use communication devices, such as walkie-talkies, to stay in contact with his deckhand on watch. All the vessel captains, including mate Taylor, testified that Captain Smith should have checked on Jamie's whereabouts every 15 to 30 minutes. Captain Smith was aware of his duty to care for and look out for the safety of his crew. Captain Smith was the master of the vessel at the time that Jamie drowned. Captain Smith's license is currently under suspension because he failed a Coast Guard drug screen unrelated to this incident. Mate Taylor was not
licensed because he pled guilty to negligent homicide in 1995 when he attempted to "perform surgery" on his girlfriend who overdosed. He has a 7th grade education.

 Jones knew that he was required to have two licensed personnel as well as two deckhands on board the vessel but willfully operated the vessel without a proper crew! This was a pretty shabby operation. The boat. On Jan. 27, 1997, as well as several months before and seven months after, the M/V Gulf Pride had problems taking on unwanted water because of a cracked hull. Captain Smith knew this, but never reported the hull problem to the Coast Guard, as he was required to do. Captain Smith knew that once they got offshore, the boat had to be pumped out with the bilge pump. He knew this would be done at night, and would require the deckhand to check for oil discharge sheen by looking overboard because some oil commonly leaks into the bilge from the engines. Monitoring the bilge pump's flow was a continuous operation. Although a person inspecting the engineroom could tell if the bilge pump was pumping, he could not tell if it was pumping oil overboard except by visual inspection. To make this visual inspection, a person had to straddle the side of the vessel and lean over the
side to view the discharge opening approximately 2 feet above water level. However, the top of the bulwark railing presented a hazard because it was below knee height. Captain Smith knew the severe consequences of discharging oil in open water; and he knew that the "red hand" patch material was not stopping the leak in the vessel. In fact, the M/V Gulf Pride's Certificate of Inspection was temporarily suspended during a routine inspection in Aug. 1997, months after the accident, because of the cracks in the hull. Since Jones did not want his customers to know his boat leaked, he instructed Captain Smith to make no such notations in the billing logs. Although requested in court, Gulf Pride did not produce the official
Captain's logs or the engineroom logs for Jan. 27, 1997 or surrounding dates.

 Our Association prodded the Coast Guard on many occasions to make necessary reforms in the way that entries are made in an inspected vessel’s logbook. When the Coast Guard refused to take any action, our Association took the matter to Congress. In 2010, Congress acted and amended the statute and required Official Logbooks on all inspected vessels.(1) [(1)46 U.S. Code §11304 added.] Part of Jamie's deckhand duties, although Gulf Pride never specifically trained him how to do it, was to check the bilge discharge while the pump was operating. Furthermore, no one ever told Jamie to wear a life vest or life jacket to perform this inspection or even to always wear it while on deck when the vessel was underway.
The last time anyone saw Jamie alive was between 15 and 60 minutes after departing the GP-37 lay barge.

Allegedly, Captain Smith did not know where Jamie was going when he left the wheelhouse. Of course, Captain Smith would never announce to his passengers that the vessel had problems taking on unwanted water! About thirty minutes after getting underway, a passenger saw Jamie down below looking for something in the storage compartment. At the time, Jamie had a life vest on. The item Jamie removed from the closet had a hose on it and appeared to be a pump. Another passenger saw Jamie on deck heading towards the side of the vessel.
Although Jones and the Coast Guard records dispute Smith’s testimony, Smith claims to have no idea when Jamie was last seen. At no time did Captain Smith attempt to backtrack and perform what is known as a Williamson Turn maneuver to search for Jamie. This could easily have been done since Captain Smith had tracked his route on LORAN. Once he reached the Global dock in Houma, Jamie was not onboard. Captain Smith and mate Taylor did, however, search the vessel. They found Jamie's clothes and wallet, and Taylor claimed that the wallet was empty. The Terrebonne Parish Sheriff's Office later returned Jamie's clothes to his mother.

 Knowing that Jamie obviously was not on the vessel, Captain Smith refused to notify the Coast Guard. Rather, he called Jones from the Global yard. This was after the vessel docked in between 11:00 p.m. and 12:00 a.m. Jones instructed Captain Smith and mate Taylor to take no further action because allegedly he wanted them to wait until the morning to "see if Jamie would reappear." This was under the guise that Jones believed Jamie had left the vessel to go drinking in bars. Captain Smith and mate Taylor then went to bed. The next morning at
approximately 8:00 a.m. Captain Smith again spoke with Jones. Finally, on Jan. 28, 1997, at approximately 10:14 a.m., fourteen hours after leaving barge GP-37, Jones notified the Coast Guard in Grand Isle. Around 11:00 a.m. he notified the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff's Office. He told these agencies that Jamie was missing and that "he was last seen at the dock." Jones never ordered his crew to use the vessel and attempt a search. The Coast Guard dispatched a helicopter to cover the Gulf and notified the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff's Office.

According to the Coast Guard's official record, Jones called the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard report states that Jones told them a person was in the water off the vessel M/V Gulf Pride and was last seen at "Cat Island Pass" working on a light in a shop." The shop was the engineroom. Cat Island Pass is about ten miles offshore from the mainland at the entrance to Terrebonne Bay. Captain Smith testified that he did not know who told Jones this information. On the other hand, Jones, by deposition impeachment testimony, testified that the crew thought Jamie had fallen overboard. Jones did not report the claim to his insurer until June 17, 1999 (almost 5 months after the accident), and falsified certain information about the incident. The vessel had two logs: (1) The rough log that kept day-to-day events; and (2) a smooth log, sent to the customer, and called the billing log. Defendants never produced the rough logs and produced only portions of the billing logs. Captain Smith testified that the rough logs should contain information about the incident. Further, problems with the vessel were logged there as well. Neither Captain Smith nor Jones ever filed a Coast Guard Form 2692 Incident Report to report the accident. The Coast Guard requires that this form be completed along with a 2692-A Substance Abuse Form – but apparently never checked to determine that the casualty report was submitted. Also, the captain must take a substance abuse test within two hours after a serious incident such as loss of life occurs. This never happened.

A former Gulf Pride captain and close friend of mate Taylor's testified that during the early morning hours of Jan. 28, 1997, mate Taylor called him and was very excited and confused because he did not know what to do. Taylor told his friend that Jones wanted him and Captain Smith to lie by telling the authorities that they saw Jamie leaving the vessel after it arrived in port. Mate Taylor admits that he called his friend to tell him about "a missing deckhand" and that he was upset. Mate Taylor could never be located, until shortly before trial when Gulf
Pride found and produced him for a deposition. A "statement" was written by Gulf Pride's attorney at his office before the deposition and Taylor signed it.

The Global yard is a fenced-in yard with barbed wire and has a secured exit with a guard shack. It is well lighted with two or three security officers that checked out persons in and out of the yard. Security guards also patrolled the yard. A security guard noted in his logs that "word on the yard is that the deckhand was last seen near the sea buoy." No one at Global ever saw Jamie. No passenger who disembarked from the vessel saw Jamie at the dock. From the dock to the Global parking lot is about 829 feet, and means that everyone had to walk from the
dock to the parking lot. A Detective Lieutenant of the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff's Office investigated the case. He placed Jamie's name in the nationwide computer service used by law enforcement. On Mar. 10. 1997, a U.S. Customs Inspector from Galliano, Louisiana, called the detective. When the M/V Gulf Pride operates beyond territorial waters, a vessel
officer, by federal law and under oath, must certify who comprises the vessel's crew. She informed the detective that Captain Smith and mate Taylor listed Jamie as a crewmember aboard the vessel on at least three separate occasions after Jan. 27, 1997. By signing the declaration forms indicating that Jamie was part of the crew on those occasions, the captain and mate certified that the information was true and correct. After receiving this information, the detective immediately went to Jones' home in Chauvin, LA, which served
as Gulf Pride's office. The detective was very puzzled that Jamie was still being listed as a crewmember aboard the vessel. Jones was aware that the captain and mate continued to use Jamie's name as a crewmember. Jones told the detective that he was required to have four (4) people on the vessel. Neither the Terrebonne Parish detective nor an
independent detective have been able to find Jamie. In 1996, David Morin prepared a safety audit, by written questionnaire, on Gulf Pride for insurance purposes. He wanted to see what safety procedures that Gulf Pride had implemented. Jones told Morin that the vessel
maintained daily logs; after an accident they conducted drug testing; there was a formal written safety program; the crew on the vessel consisted of four members; and that they maintained two types of logs – master's rough log and Gulf Pride billing log.

  Morin then made recommendations to Jones on reporting and investigating incidents and provided him with Coast Guard forms. Jones did not provide deckhand safety manuals to new employees, and Gulf Pride had no safety or training programs. Furthermore, the Coast Guard has no requirements for training entry-level (i.e., “green”) deckhands or “deckineers” who are expected to perform duties in the engineroom.(1) [(1)NMA Report #R-428, Rev. 1.]
Captain Smith testified that it was only mandatory at a dock or when a barge was at the stern bitts for crewmembers to wear a life vest. Captain Smith and mate Taylor testified that they never wore work or life vests while aboard the M/V Gulf Pride. Captain Smith quit Gulf Pride in May 1997 for fear of losing his license because of safety concerns aboard the
M/V Gulf Pride. He testified that Gulf Pride's paychecks were bad. In May 1997, by impeachment, Captain Smith admitted that the hull leak still existed.

Dr. Alan M. Steinman, a former Coast Guard surgeon general who is board certified in occupational and environmental medical matters, specialized in sea survival in cold weather, cold water exposure, hypothermia, and drowning. He is the author of numerous publications on sea survival and hypothermia and was a flight surgeon. He is a graduate of M.I.T., Stanford, the Mayo Clinic, and the University of Washington and has performed
experiments on sea survival and hypothermia. He was the Coast Guard's expert for twenty years in this field. As an expert witness, Dr. Steinman offered the opinion that Jamie had a sea survival time of 5 to 10 hours in seawater of the temperature at the time of the accident. The Coast Guard records estimated Jamie had sea survival time of 8 hours. Dr. Steinman explained the events Jamie went through psychologically and physiology immediately upon falling into the water and up to his death.

Falling overboard is common on vessels. In its practice of search and rescue, the Coast Guard's purpose is to rescue people in the water. A timely rescue is relevant to survival. A lifejacket will not prevent death unless a person is rescued in a timely manner. It is not unusual that a body lost at sea cannot be located. Dr. Steinman testified that people do not become unconscious immediately upon entering the water. Also, it is unusual to be sucked under the boat after falling overboard. The defendants' expert said that Jamie would have survived if
rescued within two hours and further testified that Jamie would not have become unconscious upon immediately hitting the water. Both experts testified that Jamie would have suffered a horrifying death. Finally, Gulf Pride did not do an investigation or take any statements concerning Jamie's drowning. Captain Smith and mate Taylor downplayed the leak on the vessel. They testified: "we patched it with red-hand.” On Aug. 15, 1997, upon routine inspection, the Coast Guard pulled the M/V Gulf Pride's Certificate of Inspection when they
found "a crack in the engineroom covered with red hand" and the life rings and life jackets were unsatisfactory.

Jamie's father testified that Jamie had little experience in the oilfield although he wanted to learn about it. In late Dec. 1996, Jamie was in good spirits. Jamie was working to buy a car and marry his fiancĂ©e. He was a fair swimmer.

The Building Blocks of This Case

For those mariners who believe the Coast Guard is out there on the water to protect your interests, think again. The Coast Guard does its best to police the waterways with its limited resources and does a good job in carrying out search and rescue work. The Coast Guard expects mariners to obey all laws and regulations, but does not always enforce all the laws uniformly. As you can see, they played a very minor role in this accident and many other cases
that affect mariners that must finally be resolved in court. This case relied upon a number of laws and regulations. However, it also relied just as heavily on judgments reached in previous cases that were applied to the specific circumstances of this case (i.e., case law). In this particular case, certain laws, regulations, policies, principles and precedents were skillfully blended together to identify the parties responsible for Jamie's death, to prove they were responsible, to arrive at a fair and just settlement for Jamie's mother and two children. Properly blending and presenting it at two trials and defending it against all challenges is up to the attorneys. In this case, the "blend" involved each of the following items to some degree or another. Do not consider any of these to be absolute pronouncements that you can consider as your "rights" as a mariner. You may find some of them helpful, where some may be of no value. However, based on this particular case, these are at least "talking points" if nothing more:

1. If a trial court makes an error of law, the appellate court (i.e., court of appeal) reviews the evidence de novo.(1)
[(1)Vocabulary: De novo = a second time; from scratch.]

2. The Jones Act states that the recovery of damages for death of seaman shall follow the laws for railway employees. [Railway employees are covered by the Federal Employers Liability Act of 1908 (FELA) as amended.]

3. Under FELA, a Jones Act seaman who dies has a negligence cause of action(1) for survival and wrongful death damages. [(1)Vocabulary: Cause of action = a claim in law and fact sufficient to demand judicial attention to enforce a right.]

4. If the death occurs on high seas, the Jones Act seaman has an additional claim for unseaworthiness for wrongful death under the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA).

5. The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) and its complimentary regulations may apply to vessels working on the water and regulates OCS activities in navigable waters. OCS activity includes any offshore activity associated with exploration or development of minerals.

6. Workplace safety is paramount on the outer continental shelf. Owners must conduct workplace activities free of hazards that can cause death or serious injury.

7. Adjacent state law may be adopted as Federal Law for damages and liability for breach of OCS violations.

8. The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) may have the force and effect of law.

9. Coast Guard regulations may be used to establish a duty under Louisiana law and are adopted as federal OCS law.

10. Damages available under the Jones Act are survival and wrongful death. Survival damages under the Jones Act allow recovery for pre-death pain and suffering. These damages include compensation for the terror and fright a drowning victim experiences on the realization that he is about to lose his life.

11. Under the Jones Act, wrongful death damages allow recovery of only pecuniary damages.
Pecuniary damages are generally defined as loss of support; loss of services; loss of nurture, guidance, care, and instruction; loss inheritance; loss of earning capacity; and expenses. The Jones Act does not allow recovery for loss of society, loss of consortium, or punitive damages because they are non-pecuniary.

12. DOHSA provides only a wrongful death remedy. DOHSA follows the Jones Act and only allows recovery for pecuniary damages for wrongful death unseaworthiness claims. The courts have allowed the following damages: loss of support; loss of services of deceased; loss of nurture, guidance, care, and instruction; Loss of support; loss of services of deceased; loss of nurture, guidance, care, and instruction; Loss of
inheritance; and funeral expenses.

13. DOHSA and the Jones Act may allow recovery for loss of inheritance, which is different from future loss earnings.

14. Under the General Maritime Law, there are survival and wrongful death remedies. Damages for a General Maritime death claim in territorial waters may be loss of support, loss of services, funeral expenses, loss of nurture, loss of inheritance, and loss of fringe benefits.

15. A seaman may be allowed to supplement the Jones Act with Louisiana law because the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) federalizes state law. The seaman's beneficiaries have the benefit of recovering Louisiana damages for mental anguish, and loss of society, love, and companionship by applying Louisiana law as an additional damages remedy.

16. The Jones Act requires a reasonable man standard. The negligence of the employer must be judged as a reasonable employer under like circumstances; and the seaman's negligence must be judged according to a reasonable seaman under like circumstances.

17. Negligence on the part of the employer may arise in many ways, including failure to provide the seaman a safe place to work, existence of a dangerous condition aboard the vessel, or any other breach of the standard of care. Since the duty to provide the employee with a safe place to work allocates substantial risk of maritime employment to the employer, identical conduct is not demanded of the employer and employee. Different risks
are allocated to different parties. Central to the negligence inquiry is who had the duty to eliminate or minimize the risks.

18. Even under the ordinary standard of care required under the Jones Act, the slightest evidence meets the burden of proof.

19. The duty to provide a seaworthy vessel is a non-delegable duty on the vessel owner. Defective conditions on a ship or its appurtenances, and unqualified crews, all are situations that give rise to unseaworthiness. The test is one of reasonable fitness.

20. A vessel crew that is trained inadequately, not instructed properly, engages in unsafe work methods, or is furnished inadequate equipment can result in unseaworthiness.

21. Although a safer method may be proven, the causal chain is not broken if the evidence establishes that the seaman did not know of the safer method.

22. Failure to supply a vessel with a crew both adequate in number and competence in duties constitutes a classic case of unseaworthiness.

23. The rescue of a person in the water gives rise to an exceptional duty and accountability. The underlying character of the duty the employer owes a seaman overboard is such that, although it is less than a duty to  rescue him, regardless of the cause for which he went overboard, it is a positive obligation to make a sincere attempt at rescue. "The duty is of such nature that ... once the evidence sustains the reasonable possibility of rescue, ample or narrow, according to the circumstances, total disregard of the duty, refusal to make even a try imposes liability."

24. The maritime rescue doctrine provides that where a seaman "has apparently fallen overboard, but his presence or location in the water is not readily discernable from the ship, the ship's officers are required to both effect a search of the area traversed by the ship and to rescue the seaman, so long as it is reasonably possible that the seaman remains alive in the water."

25. The absence of a crew member cannot be disregarded with impunity. Certain knowledge that a seaman is missing is not a prerequisite to the duty of search and rescue. The maritime rescue doctrine is based on the law of negligence, and like other aspects of this law, responsibility is tested by the standard of reasonable care.

26. If there is a reasonable possibility of rescue, the ship is under a duty to search and attempt a rescue when its officers know or, in the exercise of reasonable care, should have known a crewman is missing.

27. A Jones Act employer has a duty to supervise or instruct seamen as to safe methods by which they can carry out orders given to them.

28. A vessel captain has a duty to look out for the safety and care of his crew.
29. If a seaman is required to do his work in a dangerous manner where there are other and safer ways to do it, an officer may be negligent by having breached his duty to exercise reasonable care for the seaman's safety.

30. Whatever a ship owner might be permitted to do with respect to seasoned hands familiar with the peculiar hazards of the sea, it is plain that it may not be able to absolve itself of the obligation to furnish a seaworthy vessel and exercise prudent care for seamen by leaving this important decision (e.g., to wear or not to wear a life vest) up to an inexperienced person who had not yet begun to get his sea legs.

31. The mere issuance of a Certificate of Inspection by the U. S. Coast Guard does not mean that the vessel is seaworthy.

32. There may be no contributory negligence (on the part of the seaman) if the violation of a safety statute contributes to the seaman's injury.

33. If there is a violation of a statute, there may be a presumption of liability without regard to the seaman's negligence.

34. Unseaworthiness, like Jones Act negligence, can also be the per se result of a regulatory violation.

35. A vessel cannot begin to sail in an unseaworthy condition.

36. A captain must render assistance to seaman overboard.

37. A small passenger vessel may have to have a public address system. [46 CFR 184.610.]

38. The master and crew must be properly trained and trained for man overboard situations.

39. The failure to investigate a serious incident without substance abuse testing may violate federal statutes and  regulations.

40. Adequate rails are needed on a vessel to prevent persons from falling overboard.

41. The standard in an unseaworthiness claim is "proximate cause in the traditional sense." Proximate cause means that:
a. The unseaworthiness played a substantial part in bringing about or actually causing the injury; and
b. The injury was either a direct result or a reasonably probable consequence of the unseaworthiness.

42. Courts have viewed the failure to make and keep appropriate entries in vessel logs with suspicion and disfavor.
Failure to make, critical entries is proof, by itself, of the facts omitted.
43. Absence of a controversial fact in a logbook may be significant in evaluating testimony.

44. Suppression and loss of the vessel logs, such as spoliation of evidence, may create a legitimate inference that if the true facts were entered in the logs they would be unfavorable to the vessel.

45. A vessel's logs must be preserved after an incident.

46. A captain should log all vessel accidents.

47. When a seaman deserts a vessel, a vessel officer should promptly make an entry of this fact in the vessel's logbook. The entry must be signed by the master and witnessed by the mate or a crewmember. There is a presumption of innocence from a charge of desertion in favor of the seaman if he leaves his clothes aboard the vessel when he left the ship. Leaving his clothes and possessions aboard his ship may be prima facie evidence that the seaman did not intend to desert his ship.


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Aivazovsky, Shipwreck 1856

CHAPTER 9         

If Injured Crewmen Are Ruined

Middle-aged seamen on workboats industries seem less likely to be lost overboard than green young seamen. Yet some are lost in most years and many more experience serious injury. Even a relatively minor on board injury can mean the loss of a job and all meaningful financial support. Seamen in these trades are often denied even the miniscule supports provided by the Jones Act which are so far below the workmen's compensation payments that any land based employee in a heavy industry might expect as to appear to be third-world in origin. The on duty accident and injury compensation program of the domestic non-union
workboat sector is in fact nineteenth century in origin with some minor tweaking in 1920 and is played to advantage by today's maritime employers. The resulting stories of ruin in the face of relatively minor injury and families virtually uncompensated for the death of the bread winner seem straight out of Charles Dickens. Here are two examples. Meet First Mate Rusty Smith and the late commercial fisherman Joseph Waterhouse. Stacked Deck: Death on the High Seas [Source: NMA Report #R-309, From National Fisherman, Apr. 2002 issue with permission.]

Smith was working as a first mate on a freighter in Alaska when a pallet jack ran over his foot, breaking his big toe. Smith, a 10-year veteran in the merchant marine who has also worked on crab boats, trawlers and tugs in Alaskan waters, toughed the injury out until arriving in Dutch Harbor on Jan. 5. At the hospital, doctors discovered an infection and put the 46-year-old Ballard, Wash., resident on an intravenous drip of antibiotics and put his foot into a whirlpool filled with betadine solution. Smith wanted the physician treating him to allow him to go on light duty, so that he could earn a living. But the doctor declared him unfit, gave him a pair of crutches and told him to return home to Ballard for further observation and treatment. "The doctor said, "You could lose your toe or the lower part of your foot," Smith recalls. It was then Smith found out just how tough life can get for injured, out-of-work seamen. Although the company he was working for is on the hook for Smith's medical bills, it will only have to pay a fraction of his living expenses while he's unable to work.
A shore-based employee could expect to get up to two-thirds of his income while out on workers' compensation, But under the Jones Act – a law governing maritime injuries – Smith will be lucky to get $35, a day. The act says he is entitled to maintenance (the cost of room and board for the time he would have been out at sea) and cure (the cost of his medical bills).
It may sound good, in theory, but the reality is that boat owners and insurance companies typically end up spending very little for maintenance and may even cut corners when it comes time to pay for the cure. Smith says that the company he worked for is trying to get him to accept $20 a day for maintenance, although under its typical contract, an officer would get $35. Smith, who was working without a contract, has hired a lawyer. As parsimonious as the $20 may seem, it's typical for the industry. Payouts for maintenance in the United States generally range from $8 to $20 a day.

Over the long term, lawyers explain, Smith may be entitled to more than just the maintenance and cure if he is able to prove the pallet jack was poorly maintained. In instances where a seaman can prove unseaworthiness or negligence on the part of the boat owner, he can sue for emotional pain and suffering and for all of the lost wages
he suffered while out of work – in the latter case, a right not typically accorded to shore-based employees under state-run workmen's compensation programs. Additionally, if the injury is permanent, a seaman is entitled to recover the difference between his income as a
seaman and his income in his next line of disabled work, the seaman is entitled to full wages. But recovering these payments can take months or years, which makes the dependence on maintenance payments from insurance companies so important to injured seamen.
"A seaman cannot have a roof over his head or survive on $20 a day anywhere in the U.S.," says Smith's lawyer, Seattle-based Anthony Urie. "Maybe in Mexico, but not in the U.S."
But if it seems harsh that an injured seaman is expected to make-do on $20 a day, God forbid he or she should get killed at sea. If he is unmarried or has no children, his parents and siblings get nothing.

Indeed, while under U.S. maritime law a vessel's owner or insurer may be forced to compensate a seaman who survives an accident, either may get away scot-free if he dies. The reality is this: The death of a fisherman with no wife or children costs a vessel less than an amputated pinky. "There's a saying among marine insurers," says David Anderson, a partner in the Boston-based maritime law firm, Latti and Anderson. "If you're going to hurt him bad,
make sure he dies." The law largely responsible for this state of affairs is called the Death on the High Seas Act. The 1920 law stipulates that the survivors of seamen (a legal category that includes fishermen) who die offshore as a result of an accident are entitled to sue for monetary damages and for the conscious pain and suffering of the seaman before he
died. If the survivors prove that the death was the result of negligence or unseaworthiness, they are entitled to compensation for the terror of dying at sea and the financial support the seaman would have provided to them if he hadn't died. "The damages to the wife are pre-death conscious pain and suffering and loss of income," says Carolyn Latti, of Latti and Anderson. "If he has kids they get what we call `loss of nurture and guidance' to age 18."
Siblings and parents who suffer the loss of a loved one at sea get nothing unless they can prove the victim gave them financial support. Although relatives can get millions in the loss of a loved one in an accident ashore, U.S. maritime law recognizes no emotional component in the loss of a husband, father, or brother.

Insurance companies and boat owners have been known to go to great lengths to undermine the claim of financial support, lawyers familiar with such cases say. If the victim was a smoker, a heavy eater or wore expensive clothes, the insurance company will argue that the cost of these should be deducted from his income, says Steve Ouellette, a Gloucester-based maritime lawyer whose practice is for the most part devoted to fishermen's issues.
Urie agrees that insurers play hardball. "I represented a fellow who died on the Aleutian Enterprise," he says, referring to a catcher-processor that capsized in the Bering Sea in 1990. "He hadn't been paying child support regularly, so, the insurance company told his family, “You can't make the argument you lost anything.” Urie was able to obtain a settlement for the seaman's survivors by demonstrating that in cases of non-payment of child support the state steps in, makes payments and then goes after non-payers, but the strategy demonstrated just how aggressive insurance companies are. "They try to knock down damages," Urie says.
The Death on the High Seas Act was amended in 2000 following a series of aviation disasters in the 1990s that took place over the water. When families discovered the law deprived them of the right to be compensated for their grief at the loss of their loved ones, they pressured Congress to amend it, giving them the right to sue for nonpecuniary damages – "the loss of care, comfort and companionship." The straw that broke the camel's back, legislatively, with respect to aviation disasters and the high seas act, was the crash, in 1996, of TWA Flight 800 in the waters off Long Island. Sixteen children from Pennsylvania, on a school trip, were among the 230 victims. The children were held as having died instantaneously, and as minors
were seen as having contributed nothing to family income. Nonetheless, the notion their relatives were not entitled to compensation seemed indefensible, if not shocking.
"There is something wrong when a shipping law dating back to 1920 keeps these families from having their day in court and, by limiting compensation to pecuniary losses, tells them that their loved ones had no value to them other than the salaries they brought home," said U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Penn.). However, when the act was amended, the survivors of fishermen and other seamen lost at sea were excluded from the modified provisions.

Paul Hoffman, a maritime lawyer from New York, testified before Congress in 1998 in an effort to convince lawmakers that the survivors of seamen deserve the same legal rights they were proposing to give air travelers. To not do so, he said, would create a "steerage class" of victims whose loved ones died in accidents afloat, Hoffman said. "It is discriminatory to create yet another class of wrongful-death victims, by allowing certain remedies to airplane accident victims dying on the high seas, while excluding from those rights the families of
persons who die on ships and boats on the same waters." Later in his testimony, he added: "Merely singling out airplane accident victims for special treatment is an affront to those whose family loved ones died at sea in vessel accidents." Hoffman told the story of Joseph Waterhouse, a 37-year-old fisherman who died on board the Terri Lei, a fishing boat that sank in 1993 without explanation. Waterhouse's family recovered approximately $30,000, in
pecuniary damages. As far as emotional damages, his survivors, who included a 10-year-old son got nothing.

"As to Joe's family, his son will never again be able to walk on the beach with his dad," Hoffman told Congress. "He'll never be able to speak to him on the phone to pass the time, ask his advice or tell a joke. Joe's mother will never again be able to sit down across the table and chat with him over Sunday dinner, or see all of her sons together again. But none of these intangible losses can be compensated under [the act]." Hoffman said there was no way commercial fishermen could match the political clout enjoyed by the victims of
aviation disasters and that his efforts to include seamen in the high seas act amendments failed because of opposition from the shipping industry. In order to get any changes passed, those who wanted the act amended had to content themselves with helping aviation accident victims, Hoffman says. "The deal was `Let's do it for aviation, but when it comes to maritime interests let's ignore the seamen,'" he says.

Like the Death on the High Seas Act, the Vessel Liability Act limits the compensation given families of seamen who die at sea. The 1850 law, which was passed to promote the U.S. maritime industry, affords vessel owners the chance to limit their liability to the value of the vessel at the end of the trip that has triggered wrongful-death suit. Thus, if the vessel is unsalvageable and lies at the bottom of the ocean, an owner's liability may be nothing.
Only plaintiffs, who can prove that a boat was unseaworthy, and that its owner was aware of it, can surmount this provision of the law.

When the Vessel Liability Act is successfully invoked by boat owners and insurance companies – and it often is – victim's families get nothing. For instance, Anderson says, if a boat goes down without a trace and no one knows why, families can't prove unseaworthiness.
Anderson says this could prove to be the case with the Arctic Rose, a trawler that sank last year in the Bering Sea for reasons as yet uncertain. All 15 persons aboard the Arctic Rose perished. "There you have a lot of people dying," Anderson says, "but you don't know what happened, making it more difficult to prove the owner knew what caused the sinking."
Vessel owners and maritime insurance companies love the Vessel Liability Act, Latti says, because it often prevents claimants from getting any money. Insurance companies may pay a nominal sum to families to make them go away, but otherwise, the real cost of a sinking is the claim for the hull. "Even though they are collecting premiums, if they prove limitation they don't have to pay a thing for a death," she says. "It's a great thing for them."
Moreover, with the lives of fishermen and other seamen seemingly so cheap, insurance companies don't do everything they should to make sure the boats they insure are safe, Anderson says. "If the law valued the life of seamen, the insurance companies would not let a lot of these boats leave the dock." Taken together, the consequences of federal law – the Jones Act, the Death on the High Seas Act, and the Vessel Liability Act – is more than unfair treatment of families, Anderson says. "When you undervalue life," Anderson says, "you make it expendable



A Danger to More Than Just Themselves

Fatigued mariners don't just injure themselves. Too often work boat mariners are given greater tasks than their boats should handle while the mariners themselves become so fatigued and cognitively impaired that handling normal tasking becomes unduly challenging. One of the more common results of underpowered tows combined with overly fatigued crews is the bridge allision – the part where members of the public connect the dots and realize that they or their loved ones could be killed as a result of these abuses. A little admiralty law tutorial may be in order here. Vessels collide with one another and allide with immovable

objects such as bridges or other parts of the nation’s infrastructure like piers, wire line towers, levees, bulkheads and other fixed structures. Ships have collisions with each other but have allisions with bridges.

In a collision, the admiralty courts begin their examination with a sort of “it takes two to tango” attitude. Since bridges, piers, and breakwaters are unlikely to grow wings and fly into the path of an oncoming ship, the courts start with a much more negative attitude towards the Captain who experiences an allision. Despite the long-standing denial by towing industry management, there is a predictive relationship between

available horsepower and safe tow size. There is also a relationship between being a non-union “employee at will” Captain and the ability to refuse an unsuitable tow, or refuse to attempt a movement while in an impaired condition.  The “at will employee” must tow what he is given whenever and wherever he is told to do so, or he is quite simply fired.

Meet Captain Kevin D. Kelly. Master Fired For Making a Professional Judgment in a Safety Call

[Source: NMA Newsletter #9, Sept./Oct. 2001, p. 24.]

If you are an "employee at will," as are most mariners working for non-union companies, you can be fired at any time for any reason whatsoever. Termination can be particularly painful when you are a long-term employee, are told reassuringly that you are a part of company "management," and are encouraged and expected to exercise your "professional judgment" on the job. This is the story of Captain Kevin Kelly of Alton, Illinois. Let Captain Kelly's letter serve as a warning for long-term employees who hold their jobs without the protection of a written contract. This could be what happens when you exercise your professional judgment! Here is Captain Kelly's story:

 On June 3, 2001, while Master of American Commercial Barge Lines (ACBL) towing vessel M/V Tom Frazier, I refused to accept a 12 barge-loaded tow that was destined southbound out of the Upper Mississippi River. On June 4th, I was relieved of my duties by Thomas L. More, ACBL's Marine Superintendent at Burlington, Iowa, while I was still northbound. Subsequently, on June 7th, I received a letter stating that I was terminated immediately for "serious misconduct" for refusing to push this tow. I had been an employee at ACBL for 26 years, 21 of which was in the capacity of Pilot or Captain. I have 15

years of experience on the Upper Mississippi River. In over 21 years I operated vessels for ACBL, I have never before refused to take a tow. So, why did I refuse this one? ACBL claims its Company Policy is for every employee to abide by the company's four operating priorities,

which are:

● Safety of life and limb;

● Safety of marine environment;

● Safety of property and equipment; and

● Cost and efficiency.

As individual employees, we are not only required to abide by these priorities but to report any employees we feel are not doing so. That the M/V Tom Frazier was in disrepair is indisputable.(1) That its state of disrepair was bad enough to affect its performance is also indisputable. Whether or not it was unsafe is an opinion. Frankly, at the time, I was the only person qualified to make that decision. [(1)NMA Reports #R-412 & 412-A, Rev. 1 deal with vessel engineers overwhelmed with overwork, fatigue, and unbearable physical and psychological pressure as well as vessel maintenance issues.] Neither of the Marine Superintendents that kept insisting that the vessel was safe ever boarded it prior to my being relieved. The one that relieved me spent 24 hours aboard and then got off. During this time the vessel never navigated a lock or a narrow swing bridge traveling southbound with the current. In fact, the vessel traveled less than 30 miles southbound for the entire time he was aboard.

 The Marine Superintendent that relieved me also had very little experience on the section of river in question. In fact, he brought another Pilot with him to operate the vessel. The second Marine Superintendent hadn't spent a 30-day trip operating a vessel in over 20 years. He, too, hadn't the experience on the river in question that I do. Furthermore, the Pilot that was aboard the vessel when I refused the tow had been aboard for only four days and had yet to operate the vessel south bound. I was the only one who had the experience to make an informed

decision. Before I refused the tow, I took into consideration my experience with this vessel, my experience on the river in question, and the comments, and opinions of the Pilots who had worked aboard the vessel with me. I even called the Relief Captain at home to get his opinion. It was my decision, but it was an informed decision. To call these towboats "uninspected vessels” is misleading. They are inspected every day by the men and women who work on them. By Coast Guard regulations at 33 CFR §164.80, we are required to document an

inspection within 24 hours of boarding the vessel. The question now becomes who is responsible for determining the seaworthiness of this "uninspected vessel?”

The Coast Guard tends to be reactive instead of proactive. I notified St. Louis Marine Safety Office about my concerns. Yet, to the best of my knowledge and belief the vessel was never boarded. So that leaves the men and women who operate them and the company as being responsible for safe vessel operation. The industry has long argued before the NLRB that the Captains and Pilots are management. Yet when I, as Captain in charge of this vessel made a management decision that only I was fully qualified to make, I was terminated for "serious misconduct.” If the Captain cannot be trusted with making such a decision, that just leaves the company men and women behind the desks. Our industry operates on the rivers by the grace of public trust. With the environmental issues we face today, that public trust is shaky at

best, especially on the environmentally sensitive Upper Mississippi River.

 After the Bayou Canot incident; the industry assured everyone that it was capable of policing itself. Out of that disaster emerged the "Responsible Carrier Program.” While painting yellow stripes around all the equipment and posting colorful warning signs all over the vessel is fine, anyone in any type of transportation business will tell you

safety starts with the maintenance and repair of the equipment.

It is no secret that the maintenance and repair at ACBL has been a long-standing joke with all of their vessel employees. So why should the Coast Guard and the general public be concerned with what is happening at ACBL?

This concern should arise because ACBL is not only the largest carrier on the inland waterways but also the second largest carrier of hazardous cargoes. This company needs to be reminded that using the inland waterways is an exercise in protecting the public trust not putting it at risk. I certify that this information is true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief.

s/Capt. Kevin D. Kelly

Lake Pontchartrain, LA: Tugs & Tows Struck Causeway Bridge 16 Times

 Too few mariners exhibit the moral courage of Captain Kelly in the face of certain dismissal and blacklisting. All too often fatigue-impaired mariners attempt to navigate tows that are beyond their capacity or the capacity of their boat to handle. Far too often they make their attempt in a fatigue impaired physical state that ends in a reportable casualty or “serious marine incident.” Some of these accidents are spectacular.

The public became aware of the impact of fatigue on vessel operators shortly after the Lake Pontchatrain Causeway in Louisiana was constructed and a few years after management began reducing crew size in the industry generally by eliminating cooks and deckhands. One errant tow took out a portion of the causeway and dropped a busload of passengers into the water with fatal results.

 Since its construction began in 1955, the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway was struck sixteen (16) times according to Debbie Lopreore, Supervisor of Operations for the Greater New Orleans Expressway Authority. "However, this does not mean that portions of the 24-mile twin roadways were knocked down that number of times," she

cautioned. However, the scrapbook of newspaper articles and editorials she provided our Association showed a number of photographs illustrating the damage wrought by out-of-control towing vessels and barges. Several notable incidents involving towing vessels and the problems they illustrate are cited below. These incidents and the collision involving the towboat M/V Warren J. Doucet pushing a tow carrying approximately 27,000 barrels of crude oil in the nearby waters of the Mississippi River near the Greater New Orleans Bridge on

April 6, 1969 with Taiwanese freighter SS Union Faith tolled the loss of twenty-five lives and led to the enactment of the Pilothouse Licensing Act (Public Law 92-339) that first licensed towing vessel "operators" in 1972 – but clearly did not solve many of the related problems festering today.

 Two Incidents in 1964: "Passed out," before barges hit span, first mate quoted.

[Source: Edited from the Times Picayune, June 17, 1964.]

 The first mate of the tugboat that pushed two barges into the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway early Tuesday morning told state police he had "passed out" sometime before the accident and was not at the wheel of the tug. A Continental Trailways bus plunged into the lake, killing six people after the barges had ripped out four 56-foot sections of the bridge. Capt. Vincent H. Ebeler, Jr., commander of Louisiana State Police, Troop B, said first mate , 30, told him he "didn't even feel the crash." Ebeler quoted as saying he radioed Louisiana Material Co. shortly after taking over the wheel about 12:45 a.m. This said, was about the last thing he remembered until after the crash, which occurred about 1:30 a.m.

Capt. Ebeler said, however, that will be booked with negligent homicide after his release from Touro Infirmary. The local state police commander said he decided to book after obtaining a statement from , the tug's captain, that he heard yelling for him immediately after the impact.

Capt. said he went to the wheel right away, took over from and then gave him series of orders, which he followed without showing any signs of physical disability, according to Capt. Ebeler. The state police commander said 's condition did not seem to be serious and he was told by hospital attaches the man would be released soon.

Coast Guard Finds Tug Crew Inadequate.

[Source: Edited from the St. Tammany Farmer, Oct. 9, 1964.]

Captain was asleep. They were the only (two) men aboard at the time. The Coast Guard noted that had another man been on duty at the wheel, the accident might have been avoided. Findings revealed that the two men had been operating the tug by themselves more or less continuously over a period of 16 days. It was hinted neither man could have received adequate rest. The tug was owned by Ace Towing Co. of Gretna and was under charter to the Louisiana Materials Co. The

Coast Guard said the tug's owner and the Master of the vessel were responsible for the inadequate manning of the boat and the excessive working hours. An “at will” employer with the right to "hire and fire" must be held responsible for adequately manning the vessel while the vessel’s Master is responsible for establishing a legal watch schedule – something he can only do if the vessel is adequately manned.

Television Station Editorial.

[Source: WWL-TV Editorial, July 27, 1964.]

It seems like only yesterday – and it almost was – that this station commented on the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway and the awful tragedy of June 16th. Six lives were lost when two barges knocked 230 feet of roadway into the lake, dropping with it a bus carrying eight people. It was the fourth time that the bridge had been knocked out of business, but the first time any lives were lost. We ended the editorial with these words: Perhaps the blame can be placed. But this is not the answer.

This $51 million bridge will continue to be knocked down – and perhaps more people will be killed – unless laws are passed to regulate more stringently the operations of tugs and barges on the lake,(1) and to regulate the men who command these vessels."(2) Of course, we did not expect this prediction to be fulfilled so soon. But here we

are, only 41 days since the last tragic collision, and we have another. In June the man supposed to be steering the tug and two barges said he "blacked out." Last Saturday, when another tug and two barges crashed into the bridge – knocking out 200 feet of roadway – the man supposed to be steering told the Coast Guard investigators he had fallen asleep. And, passengers of a bus, which crossed that portion of the bridge just before the collision, reported that they could see no one in the pilothouse of the tug. Now in the context of logic and normalcy, it seems incredible that Saturday's accident could have happened at all. But then, it is just as incredible that the earlier collision should have happened, and six people killed. The Lake is so big – 600 square miles. The damages are so great – about $500,000 total for both accidents. The stakes are so tremendous. And yet, simply because one man "blacked out," and another fell asleep, tragedy, and chaos resulted. Now we talk about safeguards for the drivers on the bridge, and of radar, and other

precautions. But until something is done – and again, we are only repeating ourselves – until something is done to regulate, to license, to govern what kind of a man can operate tugboats and such on the lake, travel on this $51 million bridge will be like playing Russian roulette – purely a matter of changes whether you will get across or not.

Well, “something” was done. Congress passed the Pilothouse Licensing Act on July 6, 1972 and "grandfathered" existing industry personnel. Licensing regulations for towing vessel officers were tightened in

2001, but work-hours violations still continue. Local regulations passed by the State Legislature now govern approaches to the causeway.

Another Incident in 1974: Barge Knocks Out Causeway Section.

Captain and Owner Cite the Fifth Amendment.

[Source: Edited from the Times-Picayune, Aug. 3, 1974. by Emile Lafourcade.]

Both the Captain of the towboat Miss Andy and the owner firm's President took the Fifth Amendment Friday at a Coast Guard hearing on the boat's ramming of the Lake Pontchartrain causeway early Thursday.But a statement written and signed by Captain of Galliano, and introduced into evidence, indicated was asleep at the helm at least 20 minutes before his tow of empty barges struck the northbound span

of the causeway, creating a 252-foot gap. Two motorists – Tazille Charles Madison, 36, and Edgar E. Dillon, 41, both of New Orleans – died when the vehicles they were driving crashed through the gap and into the lake soon after the bridge was rammed. Dillon's brother, Wallace, 19, is believed missing in the crash wreckage. The Coast Guard hearing, which lasted four and a half hours, ended at 5:30 p.m. Friday with the hearing examiner, Lt. (j.g.) Richard C. Wigger telling Capt. , "I inform you that the Coast Guard will take action to

secure your testimony." He made the same statement to earlier in the hearing and again to Autry James Dufrene...of...Gretna,

president of American Tugs, Inc., owner of the M/V Miss Andy, when he refused to answer the examiner's questions on advice of his legal counsel. The boat's mate, Larry Stelly, and deckhand, David Knott, both of Arnaudville, were more talkative. Their testimony characterized American Tugs(1) as a loosely-run outfit lacking clearly defined lines of

communication and duties for crewmembers and with no set work or watch schedules. Both said that when they were hired (Knott was hired just over a week ago) they were not told of any specific duties they were to perform or at what time of day they were to perform duties. [(1)Refer to NMA file #M-190]

They said the matter of duties and their timing were left to the captain.

Stelly said watch duties for him and the captain ran as much as 12 hours at a stretch. He added that he is paid $40 a day with no accounting for the number of hours worked in a given day. Knott testified his workday averages 13 to 14 hours, adding that on some difficult duties he was assisted by Stelly or , whichever was not at the boat's wheel at the time.

Asked if a crew of three was sufficient to handle the boat's work load, Knott said three was "not enough.” The hearing progressed tediously at first as the hearing examiner and the attorneys asked numerous questions related to the M/V Miss Andy's log for the 48-hour period prior to the accident.

 Lt. Wigger was trying to put together a picture of the pattern of activities aboard the towboat. Stelly testified that at the time of the accident he was dozing in the bunk room behind the boat's wheelhouse. Knott testified he was asleep below the deck at the time and did not know of the accident until Stelly woke him up a few minutes afterward, telling him to light a fire on the barge in an attempt to caution any motorists who might be headed toward the causeway gap. The hearing became punctuated with controversy and legal questions during testimony of the third witness, Lt. (j.g.) Terry L. Rice, the Coast Guard's investigating officer at the accident scene. He said he arrived on the scene shortly after 6 a.m. Thursday and soon after boarded the Miss Andy with a Jefferson Parish sheriff's deputy. He testified the deputy placed under arrest and informed him of his rights, adding that Lt. Rice also informed the captain of his rights, but encouraged him to answer his questions and sign a statement. He quoted as saying he came on watch at 2:30 a.m. Thursday just before the towboat passed the Florida Avenue Bridge over the Industrial Canal. That he piloted the boat past the Seabrook Bridge and into the lake. Stelly testified that the night was clear, that he could see lights on the causeway from Seabrook and then retired to his bunk. Lt. Rice quoted as saying his boat was traveling toward the causeway at four miles an hour. Lt. Wigger asked Lt. Rice to read the statement given him by      and both 's attorney, William

Crull, and the attorney for American Tugs, George B. Matthews, strenuously objected to admitting the statement into evidence. Crull adding he was concerned about the "wide dissemination" the statement would be given if made public.

 The objections were over-ruled and Lt. Rice read that the towboat had "cleared Seabrook and headed for the south draw" of the causeway.

He continued reading from the statement that "came in line with the draw and lined up the tow with the green lights on the south draw. I was about one and a half miles from the draw and then I hit the causeway and that's when I woke up." Asked what was 's apparent condition and general appearance when he (Lt. Rice) boarded the Miss Andy. Lt. Rice said was "very nervous" and was wearing a white shirt that was dirty and gray pants and "looked like he had been up a while."

Dufrene was then called to the stand, but answered Lt. Wigger's three questions with a Fifth Amendment declaration...

Tightened Local Regulations Now Govern Causeway Commercial Boat Traffic

[Source: U.S. Coast Pilot #5]

Notice to commercial maritime interests in Lake Pontchartrain. Local Regulations.

 Effective July 14, 1988, the Louisiana Legislature passed and Governor Roemer signed into law LA. Acts (1988) No. 552, regulating navigational safety near the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Bridges. Key features of this Act:

(1) Require all tugs, towboats, self-propelled dredges, jack-up barges, jack-up rigs and all self-propelled vessels of one hundred net tons or greater, or one hundred feet in overall length or greater, and all vessel flotillas of one hundred aggregate net tons or greater operating on Lake Pontchartrain to be equipped with Loran C equipment suitable for use with the Lake Pontchartrain Collision Avoidance Warning System (CAWS);

\(2) Establish a "prohibited zone" paralleling each side of the entire length of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Bridge and extending outward for a distance of one mile from the easterly and westerly outboard sides of the causeway bridge twin spans;

(3) Prohibit all privately-owned vessels within the classes listed in paragraph (1), above, from entering, navigating, mooring, or anchoring in any manner within the "prohibited zone," except:

(a) as required to navigate through the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Bridge openings upon such course and upon such directions as may be given by the Causeway Bridge tender,

(b) as required in an emergency to protect against loss of life or property, or

(c) as otherwise permitted in accordance with permitting procedures set forth by the Act and the Rules and Regulations of the Greater New Orleans Expressway Commission;

(4) Provides for the assessment of a civil penalty in the amount of up to $1,000 per vessel per violation against the owner, operator, or charterer of any vessel within the classes listed in paragraph (1), above, which

impermissibly enters the "prohibited zone," or which enters the "prohibited zone" without the Loran C equipment required by the Act;

(5) Requires that all collisions, accidents or other casualties involving a vessel within any of the classes listed in paragraph
(1), above, be reported to the Greater New Orleans Expressway Commission within 48 hours if such casualty has resulted in
death or injury, or within 5 days, if such casualty resulted in property damage exceeding $200.
Tightened Requirements: Hours-of-Service Must Be Logged
Our Association asked Congress to require maritime employees to record in a vessel’s “Official Logbook” the hours that each mariner worked each day. Congress added these requirements at 46 U.S. Code §11304 in October 2010 and the Coast Guard gave notice in Marine Inspection Notice 03-12 on March 10, 2012 of their intent to
review (1) officer/seaman watch change outs, (2) hours of service for officers/seamen, and (3) documentation of accidents, illnesses, and injuries that occur during watch. Following an accident, a licensed mariner often is caught between a rock and a hard place between company policies and government investigators. A mariner must protect his personal interests, his license, and his job. Only through license insurance can a mariner ensure immediate access to a trained admiralty attorney to protect him from regulations he may not be fully aware of.

Reducing Crew Size

Cooks kept the boat crews healthier by preparing decent meals and improved sanitation by eliminating unnecessary hands in the food supply as cooking became everybody's job and maintaining the galley often a sadly neglected chore. The original “Call Watch” involved a crewman who was not burdened with a regular set of two six hour watches per day, but was on call to fill in all those non emergency needs such as when an extra lookout 10-was needed or an extra deck hand to lend a hand building or breaking tow. The original “Call Watchman”, sometimes called the “Utility Man” allowed the officer on watch to avoid waking up the off-duty crew for routine tasking. Today the “Call Watch” is simply usually the last hired and often youngest crewman who is already assigned a regular set of two daily six-hour watches and all of the extra work.

In the Lake Pontchartrain disaster the tow operator had fallen into a micro sleep, the tow was not underpowered. In other bridge allisions we have seen the deadly effects of both fatigue induced impairment and under powering all too often operating in tandem.

Downgrading Engineers to “Deckineers”

The lack of a trained designated duty engineer (DDE) on many work boats has lead to disaster and loss of life for innocent “civilians” attempting to drive across bridges. On May 28, 1993 the Captain of the small towboat M/V Chris instructed his newly-assigned deckhand that he would have to drain the engine's fuel traps on every watch
because they “must have picked up some dirty fuel.” The untrained deckhand became a “deckineer” and went below to the engine room where he attempted to drain the fuel traps the Captain desired. The Captain had pushed the tow up on the bank and left one engine engaged in gear, a standard practice for keeping a river or canal tow in  temporary position waiting to move into a lock. Next, he did something that only an experienced Captain would be tempted to do on a chronically undermanned vessel. He dashed below to help the
new green hand. Apparently a wind gust caused the tow to slip and start to twist off the bank. In the estimated 3 to 5 minutes that the Captain and deck hand were in the engine room the tow came off the bank and struck the one of the support columns of the Claiborne Avenue bridge over the Industrial canal in New Orleans. A section of the roadway collapsed with fatal results to the occupants of one automobile and severe injuries to others.

 When we view this incident against other incidents investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in recent years the results seem minor in comparison particularly when compared to the fatalities inflicted when a tow struck the Queen Isabella Causeway in Texas and dropped fifteen cars into the water or the ramming of
the railroad bridge in Bayou Canot, Alabama that wrecked the Amtrak passenger train Sunset Limited in 1993 with 45 fatalities and over one hundred injuries to the train crew and passengers. Events like these are somewhat separated in terms of times and distance and certainly in the levels of national media attention. The result is that the general public with its collective short memory span does not appear to see
the pattern. This is not just an issue concerning the health and safety of one industry's work force but a public safety issue as well. At least thirty-three American states have bridges crossing commercially navigable waters.

 The death toll of vehicle occupants killed in bridge allusions with commercial vessels in the last three decades is probably in excess of 100. These people who died while simply trying to cross a bridge were not mariners but moms, dads, children, grandparents, some poor, most middle class and few rich – a cross section of America. These citizens were not at fault. While the towboat captains took the blame and paid the penalty for a moment of fatigue induced weakness, inattention, or failure to exert the moral courage to refuse to take an under powered tow, the company officials who forced these choices and horrific working conditions upon their workers have yet to be held responsible





You May Never Be Able to Go Home Again.

For over one hundred years in the American-flag international trades seamen have had an assured way to get home if they did not complete the intended voyage they signed on for. If all else failed, a stranded American seaman in a foreign port could report to the nearest U.S. Consul who could require the next departing American ship to carry the seaman back to the United States. Jones Act and other work boat seamen often travel hundreds of miles to their embarkation point which in many cases has to be considered the place where they catch the company van that transports them to the crew change point. This final van ride can be several hours in duration. When these employees are discharged for any reason, sometimes including simply being ill, companies feel free to simply abandon them on the side of the nearest road and often do so. Here is an example case and an explanation of the practice as we learned it from our mariners.

Abandoning Mariners Without Transportation Home
[Source: NMA Report #R-202, Rev. 5 and Newsletter #54]

Our Association received a number of calls from distressed mariners who, for various reasons, were abandoned by their employers and told to furnish their own transportation home.
Since the Coast Guard “superintends” our merchant mariners, we took the opportunity to inform them of a “typical” case in a letter dated Dec. 18, 2007 to the attention of the Eighth District Commander through our Coast Guard Liaison Officer. The Situation Captain related to me that his former employer told to get out of his truck miles away from home as a result
of a disagreement. Captain reportedly notified the boat’s charterer (Kirby Inland Marine) and they sent a vehicle to pick him up and charged the vessel’s operating company $185.00 for doing so. The charterer reportedly then billed the boat owner for the $185.00 transportation charge. The boat owner, in turn, deducted $185.00 from Captain ’s wages. Unfortunately, other towing companies simply ditch unwanted crewmembers “in the middle of nowhere.” In
fact, this practice has become quite common. In two recent cases, Versatility Marine (now out of business) put two seriously ill mariners off their towboat in Texas and told to find their own way home to Mississippi and Florida respectively – as reported in the next case (below).
We asked the Coast Guard to comment on these stories and to provide guidance for our mariners. We asked that the Coast Guard give us their “position” on grievances involving abandonment without travel funds remembering that the mariners we represent are, for the most part, not members of a labor union that have grievance procedures established under a collective bargaining agreement.

Coast Guard Response

Dear Mr. Block:
I am writing in response to your letter dated-Dec. 18, 2007 in which you described several instances where mariners were reportedly discharged in remote locations by their employers and left to make their way home at their own expense. Since this is inherently a labor issue, and thus outside the purview of our authority, the Coast Guard does not have an opinion about the practice of discharging mariners in remote locations without arranged transportation or
travel reimbursement. As you are aware, there are many factors that influence how and where a mariner is discharged from a vessel. Company policy, contractual agreements, and the circumstances surrounding the mariner's discharge (i.e. completed their hitch, quit, terminated, illness, etc.) may all factor into whether the mariner is provided transportation or travel reimbursement. Although it would be inappropriate for the Coast Guard to take a position or directly assist a mariner with a grievance relating to a labor issue, I can offer the following suggestions.

● Mariners are encouraged to know the rights and protections afforded them under Federal and State labor laws. Individuals interested in researching labor related issues may consult the U.S. Department of Labor's employment law assistance (ELAWS) website at

● Additionally, mariners should have a thorough knowledge of all company policy and contractual agreements relating to transportation or travel reimbursement following their discharge from the vessel.
● In those instances where pre-existing policy or contractual agreements do not exist, mariners are encouraged to consult with their employers and establish a clear understanding regarding whether they will be provided transportation or travel reimbursement prior to joining the vessel. If you have any additional questions regarding this issue, please contact Commander Jim Stewart at (504) 671- 2164. Sincerely, s/T.D. Hooper, Captain, U.S. Coast Guard – Chief, Prevention Division, By Direction of the Commander, Eighth Coast Guard District

The “Labor Issue” Excuse
We find the Coast Guard often cites the “labor issue” to avoid any responsibility for looking out for the legitimate interests of working mariners. From our experience, the Coast Guard shows little real interest in our mariners safety, health and welfare. When in doubt, we suggest that our mariners forget about the Coast Guard and ask a maritime lawyer for legal advice.
Although our Association is not a union, we urge mariners to join a labor union in order to establish a contractual relationship to effectively address this and other related issues. Until you do this, plan to carry enough cash and a working cell phone so you can get home on your own or at least summon help. You are on your own! Don’t expect the Coast Guard to help you!





 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.





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We thank you for your patience with our many technical difficulties  in this our first attempt at a serial presentation of a work we consider historical and socially important to the maritime professional community. Hopefully our technical ability will improve  with additional attempts. As imperfect and embarrassing as our final copy often, and even now appears, the words of Capt. Richard Block have been made available to you free. In this final word, he asks you to do something now that you have the facts. Now is the time that America needs to know the working conditions in the Jones Act fleets. Waiting until we had the technical prowess to deliver a letter perfect copy wasn't an option. Our duty was to struggle to bring you the truths of this seminal though imperfect work. We did our best to do our duty and apologize for the imperfections. We thank you for your efforts in wading through all 79 pages of BLOOD ON BROWN WATER.  

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How You Can Help Our Mariners

You can help our mariners by supporting our “watch dog” organization, the National Mariners Association by in several ways, namely:  Join our Association and support us with your annual membership dues of $36.00. (Membership blank enclosed)  By a direct donation to support our work.  Follow up your reading, go to our website, look up the titles of the NMA Reports that may be of particular interest to you and provide additional details and order them for delivery by internet or by mail (please specify).  Order copies of this book for your friends.  Contact a local newspaper reporter and tell him about this book.  Send this book with a brief letter to your U.S. Representative or Senator and ask for his or her comment.  Sending this book to a member on the House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee or the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee in Washington. “Civics 101” – How to Contact Members of Congress on Maritime Issues The Merchant Marine is regulated by Federal rather than by state regulations. Consequently, our mariners hold “federal” credentials as officers and ratings issued by the U.S. Coast Guard and TWIC cards issued by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

The Unite d States Federal Government is composed of three separate and distinct Branches:

• The Executive Branch includes the President and Vice-President who serve four-year terms. The President appoints his “Cabinet” composed of Secretaries of Cabinet Level Departments. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in which the U.S. Coast Guard resides since 2003 is one such Department with approximately 160,000 federal employees. The Coast Guard is the Department of Homeland Security’s its largest Agency with approximately 42,000 employees. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is another DHS agency that issues TWIC cards and investigates transportation security incidents. The National Transportation Safety Board is an independent Agency, that investigates some major maritime accidents. The U.S. Department of Labor (DoL) and the Occupational Safety  and Health Administration (OSHA) have jurisdiction over uninspected towing vessels including tugs, towboats, and uninspected passenger vessels.

• The Judicial Branch. Includes the Supreme Court, Federal Courts of Appeal, Federal District Courts.

 Congress. Includes the U.S. House of Representatives with its 435 “Representatives” apportioned according to each state’s population elected for two-year terms. The U.S. Senate has 100 Senators with two “Senators” elected from each state with six-year terms of office.

Congressional Representation
Each individual in the United States is “represented” by one U.S. Representative and two U.S.
Senators. If you experience an issue or problem with any federal agency, you may want to contact the Representative in your Congressional District or one of your two Senators. Each Representative or Senator has a nearby local office that is staffed to handle your complaints – as long as that complaint deals with a “federal” and not a “state” or local governmental issue. You will find their addresses and phone numbers in your local phone book under U.S. Government. Each also has an internet website.

If you divide the nation’s population of about 310,000,000 by its 435 Representatives, you will find that each Representative serves slightly less than 700,000 people. Both your Senators and your Representative maintain offices in Washington as well as one or more local offices and staff to answer your questions and respond to your concerns. How important are our nation’s mariners and where do they fit into the “big picture”? Well, the Coast Guard says that there are about 210,000 credentialed mariners in the country. So, even if every credentialed mariner lived in exactly the same Congressional District and was concerned about the same issues, we would not be in the majority in even one Congressional district.
Dividing the Workload – The U.S. House of Representatives Congress works by Committee. One of the important committees that deal with the Merchant Marine is the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. In the 112th Congress, this large committee is composed of 26 Democrats and 33 Republicans with its Chairman Representative John Mica (R-FL) and its minority “Ranking Member” is Representative Nick Rahall (D-WV) A 59-person committee is unwieldy to work with and its work is parceled out into six specialized Subcommittees. Of these subcommittees, the one of most concern to our mariners is the Coast Guard and
Maritime Transportation Sub-Committee. This sub-committee is part of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and deals directly with maritime issues. The Sub-committee Chairman is

Representative Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Vice-Chairman Jeff Landry (R-LA), and its Ranking Member is

Representative Rick Larsen (D-WA). Representatives Mica and Rahall, chair and Ranking Member of the
full Transportation and Infrastructure Committee also serve “ex-officio” on each sub-committee.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee staff is located at Room 2165, Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515. Telephone #: 202-225-9446.

The Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Sub-Committee staff office is in Room 507, Ford
House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515. Phone #: 202-226-3552.

What Does the Coast Guard and Maritime Subcommittee do?

Rep. Frank LoBiondo, Chairman. The Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee
oversee laws related to the Coast Guard, shipping and all aspects of maritime transportation.
Coast Guard Authorization: One of the Committee’s priorities in the 112th Congress is enacting legislation to provide the necessary authorities and resources for the Coast Guard to carry out its broad responsibilities. The service enforces the nation’s laws in U.S. waters and on the high seas, and protects the lives and property of those at sea. The Coast Guard’s missions include maritime search and rescue, illegal drug and migrant interdiction, oil spill prevention and response in the marine environment, marine safety, maintenance of aids to navigation, icebreaking, enforcement of U.S. fisheries and other marine environmental laws, and maritime defense readiness. Marine Safety, that regulates the U.S. Merchant Marine, is only one of the eleven Coast Guard “missions.”Maritime Transportation: The Committee supports the development of a national strategic transportation plan that includes a strong maritime transportation component and greater use of coastwise trade. Marine highways represent a cost effective but underutilized mode of transportation, and the Committee will examine ways to encourage the use of short-sea shipping, or shipping between domestic ports in the United States.

This concept has the potential to create new maritime industry jobs for Americans. Oil Spill Prevention and Response: The Coast Guard was the first federal agency to respond to the
Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The service also assumed the role as the Federal On- Scene Coordinator and the National Incident Commander for the spill. The Committee will work to ensure that the nation’s oil spill prevention and response capabilities
protect the environment without threatening U.S. jobs. The Committee is also committed to ensuring that future deepwater drilling permits are not rubberstamped and that adequate technologies, more thorough inspections, better oversight and better planning are required for future exploration and drilling activities.

We can provide responsible environmental safeguards while continuing to utilize domestic energy resources and ensuring vital energy sector jobs. Dividing the Workload – U.S. Senate
In the U.S. Senate, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee composed of 13 Democrats and 12 Republicans and is divided into seven (7) sub-committees. The Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure Subcommittee with Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) as Chairman and Senator John Thune (R-SD) as Ranking Member deal with many of our issues as does the Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard Sub-committee with Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) as Chairman and Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) as Ranking Member. The Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard This subcommittee is responsible for legislation and oversight of matters that impact our oceans, coasts, and climate, including: coastal zone management; marine fisheries and marine mammals; oceans, weather and atmospheric activities; marine and ocean navigation; ocean policy and NOAA. The Subcommittee is responsible for overseeing the Coast Guard, which includes the safe and secure operations of vessels entering the United States or transiting through our Exclusive Economic Zone and the enforcement of maritime laws to support maritime commerce and protect marine living resources. The Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security
This subcommittee has jurisdiction over matters relating to interstate transportation policy issues. In addition to the Committee’s broad oversight of the Department of Transportation, the Subcommittee has oversight over the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the Federal Railroad Administration, the Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the Research and Innovative Technology Administration, the Maritime Administration and the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation.  The Subcommittee also has jurisdiction over the transportation security programs and policies of  the Department of Homeland Security. It also has jurisdiction over independent transportation regulatory boards, including the Federal Maritime Commission and the Surface Transportation Board The Subcommittee focuses on safety, security, and infrastructure development related to both freight and passenger transportation. Each Senate Committee has Staff Members who carry out the tasks assigned by their Committee or
Subcommittee. The Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee is located at Room 254, Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510. Telephone: (202) 224-0411.
The following pages list the mailing addresses (i.e., snail mail) for the Washington, DC office of each of these committee members. To find the telephone, fax, or e-mail address of ANY Representative or Senator, use the internet address or call the local office of your U.S. Representative or U.S. Senator. If you are an NMA member, call us for this type of information and suggestions.

The following pages are set up to print on a 1 in. x 2 5/8 inch label. Compared to Avery #5960.

What Does Our Association Ask of the 112th Congress?

We ask Congress to consider our requests contained in NMA Report #R-350, Rev. 6 titled Limited Tonnage Mariners Ask for Assistance from Congress on Marine Safety, Health, and Work-Related Issues. This list focuses on important changes that we believe need to be made at the Congressional level, especially in areas where the Coast Guard tells us it lacks the authority to make the changes requested or where a conflict exists between two Executive Branch agencies.

House of Representatives
Coast Guard & Maritime Transportation
112th. Congress -2011
House of Representatives
Coast Guard & Maritime Transportation
112th. Congress -2011
House of Representatives
Coast Guard & Maritime Transportation
112th. Congress -2011
Rep. Frank LoBiondo, Chairman
Coast Guard & Mar Trans. Subcommittee
2427 Rayburn House Office Bldg/
Washington, D.C. 20515
Rep. Rick Larsen, Ranking Member
Coast Guard & Mar Trans.
108 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Rep. John Mica
Coast Guard & Mar Trans. Subcommittee
2187 Rayburn House Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20515
Rep. Don Young
Coast Guard & Mar Trans. Subcommittee
2314 Rayburn House Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20515
Rep. Elijah Cummings
Coast Guard & Mar Trans. Subcommittee
2235 Rayburn House Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20515
Rep. Nick Rahall
Coast Guard & Mar Trans. Subcommittee
2307 Rayburn House Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20515
Rep. Howard Coble
Coast Guard & Mar Trans. Subcommittee
2188 Rayburn House Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20515
Rep. Corinne Brown
Coast Guard & Mar Trans. Subcommittee
2336 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Mr. James W. Coon
Chief of Staff
House Trans.& Infrastructure Committee
2165 Rayburn House Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20515
Rep. Andy Harris
Coast Guard & Mar Trans. Subcommittee
506 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Rep. Tim Bishop
Coast Guard & Mar Trans. Subcommittee
306 Cannon House Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20515
Rep. Frank Guinta
Coast Guard & Mar Trans. Subcommittee
1223 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Rep. Mazie K. Hirono
Coast Guard & Mar Trans. Subcommittee
1410 Longworth House Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20515
Rep. Chip Cravaack
Coast Guard & Mar Trans. Subcommittee
508 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Rep. Michael Michaud
Coast Guard & Mar Trans. Subcommittee
1724 Longworth House Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20515
Rep. Blake Farenhold
Coast Guard & Mar Trans. Subcommittee
2110 Rayburn House Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20515
Rep. Jeffrey Landry
Coast Guard & Mar Trans. Subcommittee
206 Cannon House Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20515
Commerce, Science & Trans.
Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries &
Commerce, Science & Trans.
Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries &
Commerce, Science & Trans.
Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries &
Senator Mark Begich, Chairman
Oceans, Atmos., Fisheries & Coast Guard
144 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, Ranking Mem.
Oceans, Atmos., Fisheries & Coast Guard
154 Russell Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Senator Jay Rockefeller, Chairman
Commerce, Science & Trans. Committee
531 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Senator Daniel K. Inouye
Oceans, Atmos., Fisheries & Coast Guard
722 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Senator Dean Heller
Oceans, Atmos., Fisheries & Coast Guard
361 Russell Senate Office Bldg..
Washington, DC 20510
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, RM
Commerce, Science & Trans. Committee
284 Russell Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Senator John F. Kerry
Oceans, Atmos., Fisheries & Coast Guard
218 Russell Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Senator Roger Wicker
Oceans, Atmos., Fisheries & Coast Guard
555 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Ms. Ellen Doneski
Majority Chief of Staff
Commerce, Science & Transp.
254 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Senator Bill Nelson
Oceans, Atmos., Fisheries & Coast Guard
716 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Senator Johnny Isakson
Oceans, Atmos., Fisheries & Coast Guard
120 Russell Senate Office Bldg,
Washington, DC 20510
Mr. Richard Russell
Minority Chief of Staff
Commerce, Science & Transp.
254 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Senator Maria Cantwell
Oceans, Atmos., Fisheries & Coast Guard
311 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Senator John Boozman
Oceans, Atmos., Fisheries & Coast Guard
132 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Senator Frank Lautenberg
Oceans, Atmos., Fisheries & Coast Guard
324 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Senator Marco Rubio
Oceans, Atmos., Fisheries & Coast Guard
317 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Senator Amy Klobuchar
Oceans, Atmos., Fisheries & Coast Guard
302 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Senator Kelly Ayotte
Oceans, Atmos., Fisheries & Coast Guard
144 Russell Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Senator Mark Warner
Oceans, Atmos., Fisheries & Coast Guard
459A Russell Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
U.S. Senate
Surface Transportation & Merchant
Marine Infrastructure, Safety & Security
(Additional Members not on Oceans,
Atmos, Fish & USCG Subcommittee)
Senator Barbara Boxer
Commerce, Science & Trans. Committee
112 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Senator Mark Pryor
Commerce, Science & Trans. Committee
255 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Senator Claire McCaskill
Commerce, Science & Trans. Committee
717 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Senator Tom Udall
Commerce, Science & Trans. Committee
110 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Senator John Thune
Commerce, Science & Trans. Committee
493 Russell Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Senator Jim DeMint
Commerce, Science & Trans. Committee
167 Russell Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Senator Roy Blunt
Commerce, Science & Trans. Committee
B40C Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Senator Patrick J. Toomey
Commerce, Science & Trans. Committee
B40B Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Hats, Shirts, Jackets, Watches, Jewelry, Decorations, Etc.


First we introduce you to a historian who makes a clear point that world history is maritime history.
Lincoln Paine
Photo by Nellie Large
Lincoln Paine is the author of five books and more than fifty articles, reviews, and lectures on maritime history. His books include the award-winning The Sea and Civilization: A Maritime History of the World (Knopf, 2013), Down East: A Maritime History of Maine . The photo above is a capture from his personal site.which we link you to below:


All Maritime History Is Not Western:

Chinese sailors at Pearl Harbor, the place their government has publicly announced that they would drive us back to. (Official U.S. Navy Photo)



  1. As some may or may not know there have been some recent and significant changes at the Merchant Marine Academy in Kingspoint, NY. Of note is the Global Maritime and Transportation School (GMATS) will be closing its doors this summer. GMATS has been a mainstay at the academy since the early 90's. It has offered Professional Mariners continuing education and professional development for almost two decades. While their webpage offers little information as to why, it comes at a time of some significant change and uncertainty at the academy.

    One little known program GMATS has been responsible for is the training and education of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Commissioned Corps a.k.a NOAA Corps. The NOAA Corps is the smallest of the seven uniformed services. NOAA Corps officers operate NOAA's ships and aircraft as well as provide management and leadership throughout the organisation.

    Now that GMATS will be closing, NOAA Corps is actively looking for a new home for it's Basic Officer Training Class (BOTC). Discussions with other maritime academys as well as Coast Guard OCS look promising.

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