Captain’s Table

Capt. Alan Bernstein Eliminate barriers for mariners

February 5, 2013

We must attract more young mariners to our profession and do everything we can to retain them.

The maritime community continues to have a difficult time with recruitment and retention. The pool of potential new mariners is shrinking and operators are competing with each other and land-based companies for this dwindling worker pool.

Is the pool shrinking because young people are uninterested or unmotivated? No. The big problem is a regulatory environment that simply makes mariner careers unattractive when compared to other professions. Just look at our licensing system, which is slow, complicated and cumbersome. While the Coast Guard’s National Maritime Center (NMC) has made great progress processing mariner applications, they still need to tackle the difficult challenge of modernizing and streamlining licensing requirements.

Safety of our vessels and passengers is paramount and a well-trained crew is a necessity. Yet we continue to put up roadblocks, such as the boondoggle TWIC card, that make it difficult for young people to enter our profession. If we are lucky enough to attract a young person, a cumbersome system makes it hard for them to get and keep their documents and licenses.

For example, an individual in my company was trying to renew his license for the second time. The NMC kept asking for more and more information that could have been requested at the start of the process. NMC doctors requested a litany of tests that our employee’s health insurance will not pay for. As a result, he had to pay for these things out of his own pocket to ensure that he would not be in a position to lose work because his license renewal was pending.

How many young mariners can afford to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars to work in the maritime industry? At some point, they will simply do the math and decide that another line of work is more attractive. Our industry simply cannot allow this to happen.


Expand/View Comments -  2 Comments
02/05/2013 17:52:30 Jill Friedman says:

I am in complete agreement with Capt Bernstein on this issue. One of the major reasons anyone would choose to go to sea is the whole idea of the freedom to just do your job and HOW YOU DO YOUR JOB is the only thing thats important! Sad to say, that is no longer the case. I don't know how in the hell we have got to the point where we have to beg permission from the federal government in order to earn a living. We all have a natural RIGHT to earn a living, and our constitution is supposed to guarantee that our federal government PROTECTS that right. Instead, it is doing everything possible to restrict and eliminate it. I agree other people also have to get licenses to go to work, that does NOT make it either necessary or right for either those people or those of us who still choose to work in the maritime industry. The physical standards are getting absolutly ridiculous and will eliminate most people over the age of 50, maybe thats the point but it sure as hell doesn;t help keep people in the industry or even start in it if they know they'll be kicked out at such a young age and just when they're finally getting to the top of the heap. The TWIC is a useless waste of time and money. Almost every class I've been required to take is the same useless waste of time and money and a benefit for a VERY few mariners. These classes are a HUGE expense and they just keep throwing more of them at us. When is it going to end? They are now going to require us to retake the BST class even if we are still sailing for the entire 5 years. Someone PLEASE tell me what good that class is when we are already required to have weekly fire and boat drills and other shipboard training? I know it can't be done, since there IS nothing to be gained from that class once you've already taken it once (except maybe a few good sea stories). Its the same for most of the rest of them. I think there is and SHOULD BE more to a job than pay and benefits. There should be some respect for the people who work there and respect includes treating them like adults and not idiotic children who can't figure out how to get dressed by themselves in the morning which is how most companies in the oilfield DO treat people these days. The licensing/training scam is just more of the bean-counters and lawyers running things!STCW is supposed to ensure everyone in the world has the exact same training- SO- get rid of expensive US mariners and replace them with cheap Phillipinos. Send everyone to more training so if anyone ever gets hurt you can use the excuse that "they were trained" and so its all THIER fault so you can't get any money. Can someone actually refute this stuff I'm saying with PROOF??? It really doesn;t work for you to talk about other industries, this one is different for a lot of reasons! JP

02/05/2013 15:26:30 JERRY CROOKS says:

I am growing weary of Captain Bernstein's constant whining about requirements for licensing, and his endless complaints about TWICs. I worked as a part-time sports offical for many years, paying for my own transportation, uniforms, training, certification tests, etc. I did it because I wanted to be involved, not for the money. My daughter is a physical therapist and sports trainer, and she pays her way for certifications, continuing education, and so on. My sister is a hairdresser, and she paid for her own schooling and must have a license to practice her trade. Every state has license requirements for trades, so there are barriers to entry in every profession. If you want people to work in your industry, the bottom line is you have to have the pay and benefits structure to make the job desirable. I've never seen a company that pays well have any trouble recruiting or retaining excellent employees. Jerry


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