Seafarers Held At Gunpoint

I saw in your list of unreachable stars “Basic Human Rights For ALL Seafarers .” Deep sigh
As a retired shipmaster and after more than 40 years at sea nowhere did I suffer abuse of my human rights comparable to arriving in a US port. Of course you are championing the stars from an American perspective and you are likely ignorant of the abuses occurring daily to the thousands of seafarers that arrive in US ports every day.
The abuse comes from your Homeland Security agents, from your Coast Guard, and from other local or national officials who “meet and greet” the latest arrival. Nowhere else in the world have I been held at gun point on my own vessel by the authorities along with all of my crew, or sailed into port with armed coastguard on the bridge and the engine control room. Or members of my crew being denied shore leave, despite possessing the appropriate visa because they have never been in the country before and have no record of previous entry.
But I suppose you don’t mean those human rights? You mean rights that you, as US citizens enjoy and may be infringed somewhere else and you expect someone to take action for the abuse of your rights.
My dream, which is likely more of a fantasy is for US authorities to treat foreign seafarers as humans and to afford them the respect they deserve and not to wave their weapons in our faces and treat us as prisoners in our own homes


yes I did mention human basic rights for all seafarers… But the rest of your posts is false assumption.

I am very much aware of the difficulties my country puts on foreign seafarers and I was one of the voices demanding vaccinations for Seafarers entering us ports.

Click on the link in that basic human rights mentioned in the article and it will be brought to one of many Frank Coles’ articles about seafarer rights that gCaptain has published. Frank is fighting for the rights of ALL seafarers not just Americans… and gCaptain is doing what we can to support his efforts.

As far as restrictions in US ports we support the work of Fr. Sinclair Oubre and Seamens Church who have been fighting U.S. Coast Guard and port authorities for seafarers right here in the United States for decades.

In fact if you ask most Americans if gCaptain is a liberal or conservative website most would say we are liberal. I would fight this label vehemently but a lot of that assumption comes from the fact we have published many editorials that have been critical of Republican rhetoric and policy towards foreign seafarers.

That was quick. However, you asked for my dreams and I gave them.
It is interesting that you feel it necessary to label the site’s content in terms of liberal or conservative. Human rights are apolitical. I did not express a political opinion, I gave my thoughts based on experiences I have had in the US from my first call as a cadet in 1969 to my last visit in 2011. These visits were under presidents and senate / congress of both main parties, the abuse has been there and has only worsened over the years.No political party is blameless, neither has tried to rein in the abuse, in fact foreign seafarers are an easy and popular target for government that want to be seen to act tough.

No, I said I would vehemently oppose labeling both the news on site and this issue as political.

Then I said that most american readers would disagree with that assertion.

You are :100: right that both sides are to blame. The difference is that the Republicans have actively pursued maritime policy over the past few decades all the Democrats are almost completely apathetic towards Maritime issues.

It’s very hard writing articles about apathetic politicians because there’s no proof or substance to an article saying that someone has done nothing.

If I was to take a side I would say that the democratic policy is slightly worse for seafarers. Are the Republicans primary stances anti-foreign seafarers they are willing to listen and debate the issue and make some concessions. Most Democrat politicians are not willing to even talk about any of this.

I’ve only entered U.S. ports on a U.S. flagged ship so I can’t say to what degree foreign crews get treated differently. I assume it’s better to have a U.S. passport in U.S. port as far as getting ashore.

I do know for a fact that a U.S. crew on a U.S flagged ship was also held at gunpoint by U.S. authorities so it’s not necessary correct that it only happens to foreign crews.


As KC just mentioned, after 9/11 we were boarded several times coming in from foreign. Nothing like having people all decked out with their M16’s pointed casually in your direction. Both on the bridge and engine room. All I could think of at the time was I sure hope we don’t lose the plant.


Hell, my then 6 year old son and I were once held at gunpoint by a California fisheries boarding team with assault rifles and anger management issues aboard a us flagged sailing yacht. We were just going offshore for a sail and they could not for the life of them understand why we would have fishing gear aboard that we did not intend to use :roll_eyes:.

Getting held at gunpoint is bad but, believe me, watching a Leo point a gun at your six-year-old son is worse…. And there was nothing I could say without angering him more.

I think that was the third time in my life that I had a gun pulled on me by an American LEO (it was my first assault rifle in this country)… and I’m a white guy married to a police officers daughter with countless FBI background checks on file who has never once been arrested.

That’s why it’s not just black men that are calling for police reform.


I was on a FOC research vessel that was hostility boarded by the French while transiting the English Channel. Nigeria was notorious for having militants coming on board & the Mexican navy came on my boat once, flipped it upside down trying to find cash from illegal fuel sales that we weren’t partaking in. But I don’t think this thread should be turned into a discussion of how good or bad the US is compared to countries in Africa or to Japan that practically has its doors shut to all immigrants. If you read the very short comment history of the guy derailing the thread it is obvious he has a problem with John, gcaptain & probably with the US about everything else too.


Held at gunpoint? What did y’all do? Arrive on some shady looking gunboat with no A.I.S? Tell me somewhere a U.S. flag vessel can enter foreign without the locals being armed to the teeth. Anyway, come to the Gulf. I’ll take you and your boys to Walmart then we’ll go party.

Ok, I moved this to a new topic.


So on the F.O.C Research vessel boarded by the French commandos. The Master & myself were on the only Americans on board. The rest of the crew were Mexican, Honduran & Panamanian. It was a spot/contract job for all of us & we were just moving the ship from South America to Norway. A plane buzzed & circled us in the late morning. In the late afternoon 2 smallish combat vessels approached & dropped off a bunch of commandos armed to the teeth. They didn’t say what they were looking for but it was obvious they were looking for drugs. All the crew were held by armed guards in the mess, a mate was left on the bridge under guard, 3 soldiers came with me to check the engine spaces & 3-4 soldiers with the Master to check the top decks. Even though we kept a manned engine room they told us they knew it was an unmanned vessel & evacuated the guys on watch to the mess. One drawer under my rack was locked & I didn’t have a key. They said to bust it open or we had to change course to go to port to get a locksmith. I used a chisel & hammer, drawer ruined. As far as I can remember, the soldiers were a bunch of assholes & no politeness was shown. We all had guns pointed at us at least casually.

Did any of us cry & put up a big fuss. Hell no. We’re mariners. If I didn’t want my feelings hurt I would have stayed at home. I started my career on the lower Mississippi River in the New Orleans area. During that time foreign mariners jumped ship or didn’t come back from leave all the time. Things are more strict now thank goodness. Now a bunch of pansy ass foreign mariners want to complain about the same treatment that Americans & other nationalities get everywhere else. Here’s an idea for them. STAY AT HOME IN YOUR SHITHOLE COUNTRY!!! I have a lot of screwed up stories about places I’ve been but I never tried to change any of those places. If I didn’t want to be treated bad in west Africa, Mexico, the English Channel or North Korea I wouldn’t go to any of those places. Why a bunch of foreign mariners think we should roll out the red carpet & bend over backwards & forward for them is beyond me. STAY HOME, only sail domestically in you own country if you can’t handle it. (This goes for US mariners too!)

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I agree to some extent. FWIW, I was held at gunpoint (AK47) by Iranian oil rig security guards for sailing too close to their rigs. They came alongside, there were was a lot of shouting and guns being pointed as they wanted to board us. When I saw the closest assailant to me wrap his index finger around the trigger, I dove behind a bulkhead and was injured as a result. After we got away, the onboard medic recommended evac but it was denied until we could clear the area and we didn’t make port for another 2 weeks.
Meanwhile I was in a lot of pain which the medic’s Ibuprofen did little to alleviate but I stood my watches until we made port. My injury wasn’t treated until I landed back in the States.
Should I receive special recognition? I don’t think so. Nobody forced me to sail in the Persian Gulf as a civilian contractor on a white ship.

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It is unfortunately the way the world has gone. Law Enforcement on the international stage means the officers are armed. Our New Zealand police are unarmed except at the international airport.
I have been boarded by USCG off San Francisco, we had a stowaway who had boarded the ship in Suva. He had bribed a port worker and was dressed in port authority coveralls. They were armed yes, but there was no unpleasantness.
Unfortunately the Homeland Security were generally unpleasant. Not to me, but to Filipino and Kiribati crew. The Kiribati’s had no previous experience of being confronted with armed officials and the hectoring tone adopted caused some to forget their date of birth.

Been stopped every time prior to entering the USA from down south on a private yacht.
Customs out of bimini are ok. Guns are ready though. Bunch of young guys on a large yacht might be suspicious?
USCG in a cutter can be a bit cluless, always asking where the owner is and we dont know.
Once brought their sniffing machine on board, guy asks to see the ashtrays, the look on his face when I said its a no smoking boat and there are none…
In the yachting world everyone has great stories about arriving in US waters, by far and away the US authorities are the most clueless.
At the airport in Houston once a guy, very polite but could not get his head around I have an Aussie passport, live in Singapore and work for a US company that happened to also be a defence contractor ( at that time) He called his friend over to tell him.
Not had guns pointed at me though.
The bosses crew on his jet get guns when they fly in from down south to Palm Beach.
Got some equally funny stories about them bringing foreigners into the USA.

I’ve been in some pretty sketchy places in Central America, Africa and Asia but never had any authorities come on board with drawn firearms. That has only ever happened in the US, though I have to note that it seems to have improved in the last 5-10 years or so? Most of those bad experiences happened in the decade after 9/11. My more recent experiences in GoM ports were quite positive.

It is also quite amazing how different I was treated by border officials when flying in depending on whether I came in under a C1/D or as a tourist/business traveler on an ESTA.

That’s not a US exclusive issue though: I’ve had a pretty robust discussion with the Dutch military police that do border control in the Netherlands about how they were addressing my Indonesian colleagues. Seafarers are poorly treated in a lot of countries - especially the ones from poorer countries - something the MLC was supposed to help.

The one thing that I have to say about port calls in the US is that once you’re past the uniforms - including the security guard with small man syndrome - it completely changes and it’s a very welcoming country. Especially in smaller ports, way out in the sticks where you expect to be stuck on board there is always someone to drive the guys to the local supermarket (or phone boot when that was still a thing).

I’ve been invited to all sorts of barbecues, bars, strip clubs and even on one occasion a shooting range. Don’t see that happening much in other countries.


The police, USCG, ICE, etc. in the US are out of control. They are grossly over militarized with too many expensive and threatening toys. Reforms are needed to get them back under control.


Over a decade ago, US flagged ship having cleared in from foreign at the previous US port, come into the next US port on 9/11. A team of wide eyed CBP officers in full tactical gear, two Geiger counters, and a dog come charging up the gangway as soon as it touches the dock. They scream at the AB on the gangway that they need to talk to the VSO. I am up the deck a bit giving the deck gang some room to work setting up the gangway and introduce myself to a very keyed up CBP officer who is, frankly, rude and out of line. I mean yelling at my AB like he is a criminal. I attempt to instill some calmness into the situation and deescalate things a bit and have two more officers staring me down like they want to tune me up.

I successfully get them to agree to start their “hatch to hatch” inspection and start walking the deck. I start talking to them about football and that is when one of them asks how I know so much about American football. I inform him that this is a US flagged ship with an all American crew. He is confused by this and I explain more until he believes me. At that point it is like a light switch has been hit and their collective tone changes dramatically. Now we are all buddies and everything is good.

That experience was and is really disconcerting and gave me an idea of what is at stake for all of us. It is not acceptable to treat any other nationality different than your own and I feel bad for any of us that have been harassed like this, or worse. This was not guns drawn, but it sure did feel like it was heading in that direction.


Sounds like the CBP officers expected a different ship at that berth, like the SWAT teams breaking into the wrong house.

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That’s a possibility. Most reputable law enforcement academies train their officers for about 4 months before unleashing them on the public. The primary focus is on subjects such as physical training, self defense, reading body language and the study of the legal system. There is little time to weed out those with less than an ideal mental suitability for the profession and there’s not much emphasis on being nice to civilians. Plenty of unsuitable candidates slip through the cracks and are issued badges. I’d be curious to know what percentage of LEO’s anywhere have spent time in other countries experiencing different cultures and fully understand human nature. I expect that number to be as low as it is with the general population, maybe lower.
Based on my experience as a CBP officer, most welcoming speeches from old hands to recent academy grads on arrival to their first duty station includes the following advice: “Forget everything you learned at the Academy; this is the real world and your real training starts now”. That’s the day when the “us versus them” mentality begins to form for some individuals.
I support law enforcement but also recognize that there are incompetent LEO’s just like there are incompetent carpenters, plumbers, lawyers, judges, cooks, musicians, and merchant mariners.


Wow. Sooo much BS on here. A gun in a holster equates as threatened and held at gunpoint?

I never thought I would read so much whining from “professional seafarers”.

Here’s a thought: instead of spending hours trying to figure out how to circumvent the rules, you FOLLOW them…? Nah. Too hard I bet.