Anyone who knew my father, former Offshore Marine Service Association (OMSA) President Bob Alario, knows he loved a good joke. From Boudreaux and Thibodeaux to the duck walking into a bar, he knew how to make people laugh.
However, even he would have never imagined something so funny as the American Clean Power Association's (ACP) attempt to “revise” our family’s story to justify the taking of U.S. jobs to benefit "Big Wind." I want to set the record straight: I find the “rewriting” of our family’s history offensive.
When my uncle Nolty Theriot and my father started Theriot Overseas Service in the North Sea in 1966, it was a different time, different industry and, most importantly, factually different from the misconceptions ACP is peddling today by appropriating our family’s story to align with their narrative. While Nolty was bold in his vision and capabilities to expand and operate in the North Sea (and bring other needed operators with him), his presence was not without invitation as our company had vast industry experience in a very niched and developing market. We were not there to steal jobs or replace other capable mariners.
ACP is exploiting the honest, hardworking men and women of the U.S. offshore maritime industry by manipulating our family’s story to meet their narrative. A recent article is riddled with fabrications and empty promises, disguising exploitation of cheap labor as “collaboration” and mariners from nefarious nations as “European leaders.”
On a kinder note, perhaps they are only making assumptions based on the lack of actual facts. ACP would like you to believe that the work our family and Theriot employees did in the 1960s and '70s alongside European mariners — mostly from the U.K., Norway, and Spain — is the same as the work being done by foreign vessels in the U.S. today. It is not close.
The Theriot boats that worked in the North Sea usually had only one or two Americans on them. I was told by another family member in the industry that at that time, only the captain and a first engineer were Americans. The rest of the crew was European. Today, foreign boats work in the U.S. without a single American. In fact, Americans are often prohibited from even applying for these jobs. Americans are not being allowed to apply for a job in America. That is wrong.
Theriot Overseas Services paid “market wages” to U.S. mariners and their qualified European counterparts. Today, foreign vessels undermining U.S. law are paying foreign workers next to nothing and the crews of European vessels aren’t even Europeans. Retaining access to these cheap mariners is why ACP wants to manipulate history. But we can stop them.
The American Offshore Worker Fairness Act (AWOFA) would require foreign vessels operating in the U.S. to abide by the same crewing rules as U.S. vessels. If it sounds simple, straightforward and fair, it’s because it is.
AOWFA is no different than the laws most other nations have or are considering today. In fact, recognizing the danger that underqualified workers pose to national security and infrastructure, the European Commission is considering a ban on Filipino seafarers from working on ships that are EU-flagged.
In failing to promote fairness and protect our own, we are jeopardizing mariners and what they can do for our country. We are being conned into believing that forward progress must come at the expense of the U.S. mariner. There’s nothing offshore that U.S. mariners and vessels can’t do. Pass the AOWFA.
I call on policymakers to look at U.S. waters and docks to see for themselves that skilled U.S. mariners continue to be displaced by foreign vessels and crews and ask: Who’s benefiting? It’s not the U.S. and it’s certainly not U.S. mariners and vessel owners.
Yes, my father loved a good joke, but most of all he loved the U.S.-flag offshore marine industry that he committed his life to. He would not want to see his family’s story stolen and used by ACP to try to kill the industry he loved.
Although Bob passed away in 2020, I know he could not rest if I did not stand up and correct this “revised narrative” that is being cultivated by the ACP.
Mitzi Alario is the managing member at Alario & Associates LLC, Sugarland, Texas.