I wanted to kick off some discussion on this topic because I think it is VERY important- because there are a LOT of issues affecting mariners today. My greatest fear is the criminalization of the American mariner. I can understand the need for tightening up security but I think that the port security initiatives and TWIC has taken things too far, especially when our politicians were ready to give the port management contracts to Dubai - a known haven for terrorists which has many wealthy islamic extremists.
I think that in the quest to protect our ports we have damned the industry- which has quickly turned into an nightmare of over-regulation in the past 15-20 years. Things are only getting worse. What really burns me about these regulations is that I have not heard much about how TWIC will solve any international trade security problems. China sends a large number of ships to our ports - I haven’t heard about making them carry special ID cards. Actually, you hear suprisingly little about the international component. The only way that TWIC is going to help security is if it can be made an international requirement for any company that wishes to do business with the U.S. – It seems like congress and the Coast Guard views our mariners as if we were all the next Timothy McVay. There could not be anything farther from the truth- Mariners as a whole seem to be more patriotic than the general population.
Why should we be placing these requirements on our companies that are already plagued by a myriad of other regulations when we are doing very little to take care of the problems overseas? If we cannot put up a border fence between Mexico and the U.S. - how can we expect to secure our coastline and our ports? What is going to stop the next ship from the United Arab Emirates or Egypt from driving into a bridge or waterfront park or detonating a bomb from their own vessel.
If this trend keeps up it will be more difficult to get new mariners to sign up and old mariners who do not want to deal with the TWIC (among other things) will resign. I talked to many older guys that plan on retiring because of TWIC and the hassles they have had in maintaining their license. So one thing leads to another leads to another… My pessimistic crystal ball says that criminalizing mariners will result in a labor shortage which will cause a recession in the industry- and the possible loss of the Jones act to keep vessels running- only with lower wages and/or outsourced work.
Casey O’Donnell - Owner/Editor of MaritimeLinks.net
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