Mariners deserve better

Before I launch into the subject of my first Captain’s Table column in WorkBoat , first a little background. I am taking over the column from Bernie Jacobson, who filled this space for eight years. Sadly, Bernie passed away April 22 after a long battle with cancer. I have lost a good friend and the passenger vessel industry has lost one of its biggest contributors. I hope that you find my columns to be as thoughtful and informative as Bernie’s were.

As for my background, I am the owner of BB Riverboats in Cincinnati. I have been in the passenger vessel industry for my entire life. I am proud to say that my son and daughter have kept the tradition going and followed me into the business. They are both licensed masters.

And that brings me to the subject of my first column, “honor the mariner.” This was the benchmark on how our government, primarily the Coast Guard, viewed the men and women who made their living on the water. But in our nation’s fervor to secure our ports, waterways and marine facilities from the threat of terrorism, we have thrown this concept out the window and, in the process, thrown the mariner under the bus.

Like many of you, I am concerned about the inefficient implementation of the TWIC program and its potentially negative impact on mariners. I also am extremely upset by the way the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and TWIC program contractor Lockheed Martin and its subcontractors have been treating mariners at TWIC enrollment centers across the country.

Many of the centers are located in old strip malls and “back alleys” and manned by unprofessional people who don’t understand how mariners work. This is an embarrassment to those charged with carrying out the program and it is an insult to mariners. I think we deserve better treatment from our government. The TWIC card should be reasonably priced and mariners treated with respect and professionalism.

It is clear that neither TSA nor Lockheed Martin understand mariners’ needs and can properly manage the program. What’s the solution? Let the Coast Guard, who understand mariners and the principle of honor the mariner, assume full control over the TWIC program.

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Workboat Staff

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