Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Looking Out for Seafarers—Part 1

Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council magazine by LCDR Norbert John Pail, Jr., U.S. Coast Guard Sector Houston/Galveston; and Father Sinclair Oubre, J.C.L., President, Apostleship of the Sea of the United States of America.

Seafarer Welfare Organizations
Seafarer welfare organizations, faith-based or secular, welcome journeyers into ports throughout the United States, offering hospitality to mariners who may not have seen land for weeks. In the first picture, Sinclair Oubre and Doreen Badeaux welcome a vessel’s master to port.

Resources include access to transportation and conveniences such as high-speed Internet and pre-paid phone cards. Many seafarer centers also have big screen televisions with international channels. In the second picture, ship crewmembers use the resources at one of the nation’s seafarer centers.

The relations between the local Coast Guard and seafarer centers keep the needs of the seafarer at the top of the list of port priorities.

Seafarer Access and Living Conditions
With the advent of the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (MTSA), critical facilities must outline how access is restricted to secure areas. Coast Guard requirements outline that owners of these facilities ensure coordination occurs to provide for the needs of crewmembers and the vessel.

Additionally, living conditions on a vessel are determined by the economic health of the operator and the cultural traditions of the crew. What is “clean” for one crew may be considered unhealthy or substandard by another.

Without specific international standards for living and working conditions, port stakeholders are left asking questions such as: Do problems exist when vessels do not meet the hyper-clean standards Americans are used to? Is there sufficient quantity and variety of food, or are the dietary needs of the crews being put at risk?

It is much easier to determine whether the lifeboat davits work than to know if the vessel provides adequate accommodations.

Help Is on the Way
The Maritime Labour Convention of 2006 is expected to standardize the living and working conditions for mariners while at sea. These regulations are the first attempt to set minimum requirements for seafarers, including conditions of employment, hours of work and rest, accommodations, recreational facilities, food, health protection, medical care, welfare, and social security protection.

For more information:
Full article is available at http://www.uscg.mil/proceedings/winter2009.

Subscribe online at http://www.uscg.mil/proceedings/subscribe.asp.