2016 National Maritime Day Seminar-Safety at Sea
Geoffrey R. Cooper, Master of Environmental Management Candidate, Duke University
On May 23, in celebration of National Maritime Day, NAMEPA convened a gathering of government officials, industry leaders, and nonprofit advocates at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The loss of the El Faro and its 33 crew members was a haunting reminder to all participants of how sacred life is and how important the seminar topic—safety at sea—is to the maritime industry.
The regulatory update from RDML Paul Thomas of the U.S. Coast Guard highlighted the ongoing debate over the competitiveness of the U.S.-flag privately-owned fleet, the failures leading up the loss of the El Faro, the implementation challenge of Subchapter M for the Coast Guard, the IMO approval of draft interim guidelines on cyber risk-management strategies, and the increased attention on environmental issues like ballast water discharge and vessel emission levels. Regulatory burden and uncertainty was a theme throughout the event and speakers stressed the need for smart regulations. While the vast majority of the maritime industry operates above and beyond compliance standards, there is a small minority of offenders that act in a negative way that forces increased regulations. But the frustration from the industry towards regulation is due to the conflict caused by varying levels of governance starting from international standards down to specific port requirements. Caught in the middle of these conflicts is the seafarer, and it is the seafarer that must be at the considered throughout the regulatory process. Reverend Marsh Drege of the Seafarer’s International House said it clear and simple when he said, “We all care about the seafarer.”
This is a time of enormous progress, and with that progress undoubtedly comes increased regulation. The goal of every ship owner is to move cargo from Port A to Port B, and regulations need to create a system that enables this goal to be reached in a safe, secure, and sustainable way that takes into account the realities of doing business. Captain Jack Hearn of the American Professional Mariners Association relayed the advice to “be careful, be ready, and be safe.”
The U.S. maritime industry is at a tipping point. From January, 2012 to May, 2016, the U.S.-flag privately-owned fleet declined 27% to a near record-low 79 vessels. Not only does this translate to a loss in 2,400 jobs, but barring any drastic changes, the number of vessels, crumbling infrastructure, and the decline in the number of mariners threatens the ability for the U.S. to project our troops anywhere in the world and sustain any type of serious military engagement. But Maritime Administrator Paul “Chip” Jaenichen reminded the crowd that the American story began as a maritime story. So much of our history, culture and prosperity is because of the maritime industry, but now is the time to make the right decisions and act to insure the long-term future of the maritime industry.
1400- Opening and Welcome- Clay Maitland, Founding Chairman NAMEPA
Regulatory Hot Topics- RADM Paul Thomas, USCG
Legal Perspective Today- Jonathan Waldron, Partner, Blank Rome
Shipowners Concerns in Today’s Times- Kathy Metcalf, President and CEO, Chamber of Shipping of America
1530- Coffee Break
View From the Bridge: What Keeps Mariners Awake at Night- Captain Jack Hearn, American Professional Mariners Association
National Maritime Day Address -Paul “Chip” Jaenichen- Maritime Administrator, US Department of Transportation
Following the Safety at Sea Seminar, NAMEPA hosted the annual Amver Awards Ceremony also at the National Press Club. Amver, a program sponsored by the United States Coast Guard, is a computer-based voluntary global ship reporting system used worldwide to by search and rescue authorities to arrange for assistance to persons in distress at sea. 922 U.S. managed ships earned AMVER awards in 2015 and more than 70 people gathered to celebrate their commitment to safety at sea and honor the Captains and crews of these vessels. U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Paul Zukunft gave the keynote remarks speaking about the tradition of mariners helping those in distress at sea and encouraging vessels owners to continue to participate in the program, noting how vital it will likely be in areas newly opened to navigation such as the Arctic. AMVER Director Benjamin Strong and the Commandant then personally presented the Amver awards to vessels with representatives present at the ceremony, thanking and congratulating each recipient for their commitment to safety at sea.