Upper Mississippi lock closure is a bad idea 

This is in response to the August News Log item that said the northernmost lock on the Mississippi River is scheduled to close within a year, due to a provision in the recently enacted Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRDA) of 2014.

I lived in St. Paul for a number of years and one of my friends was a towboat master for a sand and gravel operation. As a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary in the Twin Cities, I was allowed to accompany my friend as an observer on some of his trips.

The then mayor of Minneapolis decided to close the upper portion of the Mississippi River that ran through Minneapolis. It seems some of the pleasure boat operators were upset about these big boats disturbing their water skiing and tying up the locks. The quarry owners got together and visited the mayor. They explained that the large convoys of trucks that would be transiting Minneapolis on the way to the quarry operations staging area would cause the city to be gridlocked in no time. The Coast Guard also advised the mayor that she did not have the authority to close the river since it was navigable waters.

Looks like the folks up in D.C. need to be reminded about how vital the barge services are to the area.

Lewis Higgins 

Warm Springs, Ga. 



Red tape at the NMC 

The red tape is apparently so thick at the National Maritime Center in West Virginia that a recent STCW endorsement application took 12 weeks to bounce around the desks there before it was approved. 

Once it was approved I received a license that contained not a single endorsement I applied for and an endorsement I obtained in an earlier upgrade was removed. I was also given an outdated tonnage endorsement that was never on the application in the first place. And piled on top of this mess of incorrect paperwork was yet another pathetic demonstration of our esteemed government agency’s competence. I received a license that expired four months ago.

Is the situation so dire at the Coast Guard office that it takes 12 weeks to approve an application that’s handled so poorly that not a single thing is correct on the finished product?

I hope I’m oversimplifying a complicated situation that’s going on at the NMC but the scope of errors on my license leaves me at a loss while I try to think of a plausible reason all of these things could have gone wrong on a single application. What is happening over there? I’m fighting the urge to reduce myself to hurling childish insults that call their literacy into question plus a few other insults that I’m sure would only confuse and anger the brain trust at the National Maritime Center. Although I’m sure confusion and anger are daily occurrences over there when they are faced with the impossible task of adding five years to the date issued on the license and writing it under the expired slot. 

I’m embarrassed and ashamed for the men and women who call the National Maritime Center their place of employment. Only a small percentage of the employees there worked on my application, but in a fitting metaphor for the industry it’s well known that it only takes a small leak to sink a big ship. 

Maxwell Whitney  

Middletown, R.I. 



Getting his new TWIC card was a breeze 

Six minutes in and out. That’s how long it took to renew my TWIC card at the TSA’s Universal Enrollment Services center in Charleston, S.C.

The new card arrived two weeks later by mail and the activation code arrived two days after that. The entire process involved only one trip to the office. It was quick, easy and pleasant.

The three trips and multiple delays of my prior experience caused me to delay renewing until the last minute. Working up that courage is similar to what I go through when I know a toothache is coming on. Fortunately my apprehension was unfounded.

TWIC finally has its act together. Amy, Jennifer and crew at the UES in Charleston turned TWIC-ing into a pleasant experience. Thanks guys.

John Smith 

Smith Marine Survey Inc. 

Sheldon, S.C. 



Attracting new talent to the maritime industry 

I recently came across Capt. Bernstein’s Aug. 19 blog on WorkBoat.com, “Attracting new blood,” and couldn't agree more with his position on attracting new talent.

I want to share with you the progress we have made in Florida regarding high school maritime education. We have worked over the last four years to create “maritime technology” standards that were adopted by the state during the 2012-2013 school year. This work was done in partnership with Hillsborough County Public Schools (Tampa, Fla., and surrounding area) and the International Propeller Club of Port of Tampa. We have also written curriculum materials based on these standards for grades 7-12.

Currently, we have two high school programs in operation and will graduate our first class in the upcoming spring. Our hope is to expose students from all walks of life to the various opportunities the maritime industry can provide and steer them towards maritime academies, post secondary training, and/or directly to work in our local port.

Jakub Prokop 

Specialist, Curriculum and  

Program Development 

Learey Technical Center 

Tampa, Fla. 



Joe LeBlanc, 87, worked in the inland waterways and offshore industries

I believe WorkBoat runs obituaries occasionally and I hope you can run one for my Dad, Joe LeBlanc, who passed away in late June.

He was very active on the inland rivers and also in the offshore market at one time. I think a lot of people he worked with would like to know that he has passed.

Joe LeBlanc (Joseph E. LeBlanc Jr.) passed away on June 27, 2014. He was 87. Joe was president of Three Rivers Rock Quarry in Smithland, Ky. (a division of Harbert Construction), Three Rivers Towing, Harcon Barge Lines and Louisiana Limestone during the late 1960s and 1970s. He also worked for Luhr Brothers at its St. Genevieve, Mo., facility and was general manager for Boyce Machinery in Morgan City, La. He also worked as a consultant and for NREC in Houma, La., after he retired. Prior to working for Harbert, he was employed by Thomson Tractor in Birmingham, Ala., and also worked for US Steel and Vulcan Materials early in his career. Joe was an electrical engineer and graduated from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, La.


Trey LeBlanc 

Sales Manager 

Rolls-Royce Marine North America Inc. 

Mobile, Ala.