Accused Captain Gives Up License

Newsday: November 1, 2022

A cargo ship captain accused of raping a female Merchant Marine Academy cadet and at- tempting to assault another after plying both with spiked al- coholic drinks has surrendered his mariner’s license, making him ineligible to work at sea, ac- cording to the U.S. Coast Guard.

John Christopher Merrone, 50, voluntarily surrendered his Merchant Mariner Credentials to the Coast Guard on Oct. 25, weeks after the agency filed a complaint documenting the captain’s alleged misconduct toward cadets from the Kings Point school on Sept. 9, 2019, officials told Newsday.

Merrone, who has not been charged with a crime, has denied the allegations.

The Coast Guard Investigative Service, which investigated the allegations, referred the case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District, which declined to prosecute, the Coast Guard said.

An Eastern District spokesman declined to comment Monday.

In a statement, the Coast Guard said it considers “sexual assault and sexual harassment occurring on commercial vessels serious offenses, and investigates each and every report over which we have jurisdiction.”

Merrone, now of South Carolina, did not respond to multiple calls seeking comment.

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I’ve done a lot of studying, read the CFR’s more than the Bible & took every uscg engineering test from DDE 4,000 to Chief Engineer Unlimited Ocean. I don’t recall any USCG questions about “sexual assault & sexual harrassment” on any of those exams. No USCG inspector has ever ask me or any of my crew about sexual assault & harassment. If the Coast Guard takes it so serious why haven’t they talked about it before now?

Social responsibilities and ethics are outside the scope of exams designed to evaluate an individual’s knowledge of a specific technical subject. License applicants aren’t tested or instructed on the inadvisability of maiming or killing their shipmates either. How far do you want them to go?


I’ve had to get drivers licenses in a few other countries due to work and residency visas. All those countries mandated not only a physical exam, but a mental acuity exam. And the latter was not a simple formality - they took it quite seriously. My at-the-time, harmless joke at the first one almost failed me. Now that doesn’t prevent mentally unstable people from getting a license, but it’s certainly not unheard of to be denied or sent for further evaluation. Imagine if sailors had to take a mental health exam to renew their credentials…sure, 90% would pass without issue, but I think it would clean up things a bit.

USCG should not need to address SASH issues on a formal level. My parents never educated me to violate anyone’s rights in this manner, it was simple common sense as a decent human being. If anyone debates this issue I have no respect for them.

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If you’ve sailed in the US government fleet you’d know that number is far to high

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Good question! With centuries of incidents of debauchery & misogyny in our maritime industries I think the USCG should go a lot farther than their recent knee jerk reaction & rhetoric. They are the governing body that oversees the US fleets manning requirements so why shouldn’t they? The CFR’s are filled with rules & regulations trying to attempt to tame every other part wild natures. I have absolutely no problem with them adding a few more paragraphs to shine a light on people being victimized at sea. A USCG inspector can come on board to talk about oil spills until they’re blue in the face & I wouldn’t be bothered at all because I haven’t spilled any oil & can prove it. One reason I’m not spilling nor worried about it is because a generation ago the USCG & our industry decided to come down hard on individuals & companies that spilled oil or who had relaxed attitudes on environmental safety. I’d be completely fine if the USCG & our maritime industry wanted to do the same thing against sexual harassment & sexual assault. Wouldn’t bother me a bit.


I’m not sure what you mean by that.

You bring up an interesting point but I disagree with your conclusion. Incidents of debauchery and misogyny have been part and parcel of society since day one. Ships are microcosms. If civilized behavior hasn’t been instilled in a person’s character by the time they are assigned responsibility in any business, power point presentations and hand holding are probably going to be too little too late.
Not to mention the fact that the CG is already overburdened and adding to their mandate would only degrade their effectiveness.


I’m not talking about power point presentations & hard speeches from soft QHSE people.

When I started in the maritime industry, mid 1990’s, at a mom & pop uninspected pushboat company the owner gave me the no drugs/random screening talk. That man was 100% serious about it. Day 1 on that boat the captain gave me the no litering, plastic or oil overboard speech. He wasn’t kidding & no one else has “wink-wink, joke” about it since. A few days later when I started asking about advancement & licensing I heard the no DUI dogma. I don’t know how much easier & pleasant life was for mariners before the USCG/industry started the no drugs, no pollution, no DUI standards but I don’t want to go back. I’m absolutely sure mariners back then were complaining about change & extra burdens to them but I haven’t noticed & don’t care. The sectors of the maritime industries that still have misogyny & SASH issues should come down hard on it just like we mostly have with racism. We should treat sexual harassment & be as harsh to it as we are with pollution, drugs & DUI’s IMO. No burden to me.

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Doesn’t that prove my point that the stern fatherly talk and monitoring is more effective coming from the employer and not a federal agency tasked with enforcing sailing regulations? If a sailor breaks a regulation, it’s the CG’s business. If he breaks society’s rules by committing a criminal act against a shipmate, it’s the business of the company to bring in law enforcement for prosecution.
Industries have a basic responsibility to police themselves.
I think the lack of morals or self control begins with poor parenting and is exacerbated by a failed education system. It’s a societal problem. That’s where character gets forged but that’s taking the discussion to a whole new level.

STCW Basic Training Personal Safety & Social Responsibility syllabus has a section for harassments including sexual harassment. Last I took it anyway…

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I think not. They had that talk with me (& I with others down the road) because we knew we would be sued/fined into poverty or thrown in jail if the rules were broken. All that didn’t come into effect due to our Ward Clever, Boy Scout natures.
On a side note, that pushoat company owner was friends with the owner of Crescent Launch Service who was in federal prison at the time for environmental violations.

THEY (the employer) sent you off on the righteous path. You’re reminding us once again that civility in the workplace is a HR issue not the responsibility of the CG.
If you still think work place violence should be a CG responsibility please explain how this already overburdened agency should proceed.

per Workplace Violence - Overview | Occupational Safety and Health Administration

How can workplace violence hazards be reduced?

In most workplaces where risk factors can be identified, the risk of assault can be prevented or minimized if employers take appropriate precautions. One of the best protections employers can offer their workers is to establish a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence. This policy should cover all workers, patients, clients, visitors, contractors, and anyone else who may come in contact with company personnel.

By assessing their worksites, employers can identify methods for reducing the likelihood of incidents occurring. OSHA believes that a well-written and implemented workplace violence prevention program, combined with engineering controls, administrative controls and training can reduce the incidence of workplace violence in both the private sector and federal workplaces.

What no one is talking about, and what I want to know, is:

Why did the DOJ decline prosecution against Merrone?

Merrone has not been charged with a crime, tried, or convicted. Why?

The only reason I can think of to decline prosecution in a rape case is grossly insufficient evidence to prove that a rape occurred.

Next question: If there was insufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution, why did Merrone surrender his license?


2 possibilities come to mind. If he’s in the WPP as someone suggested, using his license would be a bad idea. Or even if he and his family’s lives were under the threat of a cartel, he should have reported it to the FBI.

That seems far fetched.

The question remains; why wasn’t he prosecuted?

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Witness protection?? Come on.

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Sorry, I misspelled it. I had never seen it written before. It’s spelled kowtow.

Since no one seems to have a clue, why is it impossible?