Catching Up on Paperwork

It’s been a slow day today. I’ve been catching up on all kinds of things I’ve been putting off. One big one was filling out the forms for a ‘qualified assessor’ for the US Coast Guard. My boss at San Jacinto Maritime sent the request out a couple of days ago. I was too tired after work at Maersk to get into it. So, completed and sent now. At least I hope it’s finished to their satisfaction.

This qualified assessor thing is just one more example of how the USCG is making it harder every day for people to work in the maritime industry. I swear, if I had any idea that this industry would wind up so strangled with rules and regulations I would’ve listened to my grandmother and been a doctor!

When I first started working on the water, it was so nice. It was perfect for me. I could go to work, anywhere in the world, with decent pay and benefits (including health care as long as I was working at sea). I could dress comfortably, not have to dress in any kind of uniform. I could look like anything I wanted (dress in shorts, flip-flops, and t-shirts). I could talk like I wanted (no such thing as PC back then). I could just do my job and everyone was OK with that.

No more. Those days are long gone.

When I started, you went to the Coast Guard and got a Z-Card. It was good for life. As an ordinary seaman (deck, engine or steward), you didn’t have to do anything to get one. Just fill out the application, pay a few bucks and that was it.

Oh god, I long for those good old days! Now, you can’t even consider going to work on a boat unless you’re willing and able to spend a shitload of money and weeks/months of time! Just take a look at those checklists on the National Maritime Centers website! Not that there’s any real reason for any of this so- called ‘training’. It’s only all about the money!

Yes, that’s it! The USCG, the schools (of course) and the politicians will all insist it’s about ‘safety’, but I’ve yet to see some real proof that any of these extra expenses (all on the backs of the seafarers) has done anything to improve safety. Instead, I believe it has actually caused a decrease in safety, due to driving out more experienced sailors from the industry.

Another reason: since everyone now has to attend “basic safety training’, the employers feel like their new hires have been ‘trained’ in basic safety. They send them out to the ships imagining that they’re prepared to do their jobs with no incidents. They imagine those new hires have learned enough in a week long class to keep them from ever having any accidents at sea. Yeah, riiiiight.

They’ve cut crew sizes down to ridiculously low levels so the old timers don’t have the time to teach the newbies what they really need to know. The basic safety class is a joke! We were all much safer before that class was forced upon us and people became so complacent because of it!

Who in their right minds wants to spend thousands of dollars and weeks of their vacation time taking classes that don’t even teach you anything new? I can’t imagine anyone who would. Yet, that is what we are all saddled with in this industry these days.

Yeah, the schools love it. it’s wonderful for them. They have plenty of money to lobby the politicians to force us all to attend ever increasing training requirements. Meanwhile, us poor sailors have no representation. And how can we argue against ‘safety’?

Do you think I’m the only mariner who feels this way? I can guarantee you that there are a hell of a lot of us out there who are thinking the same way. Just not a lot who are willing to say it online where the companies will see your ‘bad attitude’.

Too bad. I’m going to keep on saying what I think, here on my blog. Online, and whenever the subject comes up. I am not politically correct, I think the whole PC thing is a big reason the country is going to hell and I’m not going to shut up. I’d love to see a real, honest discussion on some of this stuff.

Who in the maritime industry is going to come out and admit that this whole STCW required ‘training’ scheme is nothing but a devious plan to force ‘highly paid’ American sailors out of the work force?

I’ve said so from the very first time I heard of it decades ago. Intended or not, that is the result. McCain and his flunkies calling for the end of the Jones Act will simply put the last nail in the coffin. I’d like to see Trump say to hell with the IMO and the STCW along with all the other things he says he’s getting rid of.

Frustration

I am just steaming right now!

I FINALLY got a call for a real job! First one in ages, and after talking to them for a few minutes, they eliminate me because I don’t have one, (just one), of the multitude of newly required certificates of “training’.

You want to know which one? It’s a fairly new one, called “T-HUET”. T-HUET is supposed to be a less involved iteration of the HUET. HUET is a less involved iteration of the BOSIET.

I have the HUET, in fact I just renewed it. I also have BST (which has also been repeatedly renewed). They have not taught anything new in either course in the last 20 years.

ALL of these courses cover almost exactly the same stuff! But the companies now are insisting that you need to spend the thousands of dollars and weeks of time to take ALL 3 of them! Of course, THEY will no longer help pay for any of this. YOU need to spend all YOUR time and money on this stuff!

This is the email I just now sent off to the recruiter:

Just for your information: 
T-HUET 
Course Outline
Procedures at Heliport
Helicopter Safety Equipment
Types of Helicopters used in the Offshore Industry
Dangers associated with Helicopters
Helicopter Safety Procedures
Preparation prior to Emergency landing
Emergency landing on Land
Surface Evacuation into an Aviation Liferaft
Escape from a Partially and Capsized Helicopter
In – water Survival Procedures
Helicopter Winching
HUET
Course Outline
Procedures at Heliport
Helicopter Safety Equipment
Types of Helicopters used in the Offshore Industry
Dangers associated with Helicopters
Helicopter Safety Procedures
Preparation prior to Emergency landing
Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET)
Emergency Breathing System Exercises
In -water Survival Procedures
Helicopter Winching

I don’t know why they don’t add the following to their description of their HUET course since they DID cover that same material. The only thing they did NOT cover that they say they do in the T-HUET is: 

  • Surface Evacuation into an Aviation Liferaft- (we DID do this in the HUET course)
  • Escape from a Partially and Capsized Helicopter- (this is the exact same thing as what the HUET course describes as Helicopter Underwater Escape Training)
  • Emergency landing on Land

Do these companies SERIOUSLY want to eliminate pretty much ALL experienced mariners from consideration because they don’t have 10 minutes of ‘training’ differing in a course (that is only for the insurance company that has no clue about what ANY of these courses cover anyway)?

Do they really expect someone who has been out of work for months or years to pay hundreds of dollars for another course when the ONLY difference is at most a half hour talk about emergency landing ON LAND??? We get that same lecture every single time we fly, wether to go to work in the helicopter or flying to vacation. I would think it is 100% memorized by everyone in the country by now! 

So now it is not years of experience and who can do the job, but who has the largest stack of certificates (most of them completely irrelevant to the job at hand). That is really sad. 

I am perfectly willing to wait and ride the crew boat in if they are not willing to put aside that 10 minutes! I think it’s NUTS to throw someone out of a month of work because of some ridiculous ‘rule’ like this!

And you can feel free to pass this email on to Oceaneering (and any other company with the same stupid rule!). Just in case they REALLY believe there is some inherent advantage to their insistence on T-HUET, please do send them the facts, the ONLY difference is 10 minutes about emergency landings ON LAND! 

Hope I’m not burning my bridges here too, but some things just have to be said! 

Jill Friedman

MASTER MARINER (35+ YEARS OFFSHORE EXPERIENCE). 

Do you think that was a little excessive? I don’t, I really don’t. I am getting SO fed up with the amount of complete and total pure BULLSHIT these companies are putting us through. Just in order to go to work for them.

Does anyone really think that after almost 50 YEARS spent working at sea, that 10 minutes, or even if I really push it, 2-3 hours of instruction, will make ANY difference to ANYTHING out there? If anyone does, there is no other word for those people than “INSANE” or “STUPID”. And yes, I am specifically talking to everyone involved in insisting on requiring these so called “training’ certificates!

They’re expensive and they’re USELESS! I know it and you damn sure OUGHT to know it!

How many mariners have you heard gushing about how much they learned in one of those courses? How many have you heard thanking the heavens that they’ve been forced to waste their vacation time in one of those classes instead of spending their time enjoying it the way they EARNED the RIGHT TO?

I can count the number of mariners who’ve felt that way on one hand, and after working out there for so many years, I know a LOT of mariners!

This whole certification rigamarole is just one more unnecessary burden. It’s not as if it’s all that great offshore anymore. They’ve cut and they’ve cut and they’ve cut some more. Yeah, things were finally getting pretty nice out there. Back a couple of years ago when the price of oil was sky high and they needed us badly and so were finally willing to offer us decent pay and conditions. Up until the price of oil dropped like a rock.

Now, we’ve dropped right back to where we were decades ago. Lost pay, lost benefits, lost time at home. Increased workload, increased forced ‘training’ and costs associated with all that, loss of freedom, loss of opportunity.

I used to think this was the best job in the world. It really was, way back when I started. Now, nah, not so much. Yeah, I still do personally consider it the best for me. I really can’t imagine anywhere I’d rather be than out on the ocean somewhere. Sailing to some obscure foreign port with adventures awaiting.

Sadly, there’s not too much of that on offer anymore. It looks to me more and more that my days of sailing the seven seas are about over with. After so many years of fighting to get my license, it’s become all but worthless these days.

Who in their right mind would want to sail as master these days? When every meaningful decision is made by some bean counter on the beach? Yet YOU and ONLY YOU are the one held responsible for the results of those decisions. When you have NOTHING to say about them?

That license you worked so hard to get will be taken from you. Without it, you can’t work ANYWHERE! On top of that, they will probably fine you a lot of money (millions), and then throw you in prison just to make sure that bus runs you over reeeaally good.

The companies need you for your license (by law) but refuse to pay you for them now (see my last job). They treat you like shit and expect you to lap it up like you were slurping down an ice cream Sunday (with a cherry on top)!

The longer it takes me to find a job, the more frustrated, cynical, depressed and angry I get. I think it’s just sick that a company in need of good workers would turn someone with my qualifications and years of experience away simply because they lack one simple certification. Especially when that particular piece of paper is so completely worthless! I worked for that company for 5 years, they KNOW I am perfectly capable and will do them a good job!

I’ve probably just burned my bridges with them and a bunch of other companies office people with this rant. Well, so be it. They need to hear it. For damn sure I’m not the only mariner who feels this way. I guarantee I’m saying what most would say about the situation. These companies need to wake up and get their heads out of their asses and THINK for themselves for a change! STOP sucking up to the god damned insurance companies and their suck-ass lawyers and do the RIGHT thing for once! Stand up for their companies and their people instead of cowering behind the threats of the paper pushers.

God DAMN I wish people in the USA would grow some balls and start acting like the free people we brag to the world about!

I really wish I could afford to start my own boat company. It would be so nice to work for a company that was run by people who really understood the business and was willing to stand up for their employees. I don’t see any like that around anymore. It’s a real shame.

Sacrifice

Today’s prompt for Just Jot It January is: sacrifice.

3. the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim.

For the sake of today’s post, I’ll use this definition, and this quote (some versions add “and lose both”).

I feel extremely isolated in that I agree completely with that quote. I seem to be 1 out of many millions. 🙁 Most people today seem totally willing to sacrifice ALL their freedoms (and mine too), in return for a (false) ‘promise’ of safety.

I can barely stand it; waiting in line for the TSA to grant me permission to travel. It’s all I can do to keep my mouth shut so I don’t lose that RIGHT forever. And the worse thing about it is, listening to the people around me in line making comments like “If you don’t have anything to hide, you don’t have anything to worry about”, or “I don’t care what they do as long as they keep me safe”, or “they’re only doing their jobs’.

Yeah, so were the NAZI’s!

We have given up SO many of our freedoms already, I can’t even begin to count! Just for a start, we have all the violations of the TSA, PATRIOT ACT, NSA spy programs, NDAA, etc. Restrictions of our rights to travel, to earn a living, to defend ourselves, what we can eat and drink and smoke, to choose how to take care of our own health, insane threats of fines and/or imprisonment dictating every single thing we do down to what kind of light bulbs and toilets we can have!

And yes, along with every other right listed in the Bill of Rights, even our right to speak freely has been violated (to all those who inform me how I would be imprisoned for what I say in North Korea or Iraq!).

I am NOT a North Korean or Iraqi! I was NOT brought up idolizing their dictators or ayatollahs as having the god-given right to run my life! I was raised as an American, one who believes whole-hearted in the ideals written down in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Those ideals that millions of Americans before me sacrificed everything up to and including their lives for. Things like individual liberty and freedom.

I can’t believe so many here are just forgetting all that, just throwing it all away, just giving it all up without any fight, without even a feeble protest. What the hell has happened to the American people that they put up with this? All I hear is how ‘times have changed’, ‘we have to go with the flow’, ‘the constitution was written 200 years ago’ and best answer yet- ‘you’re a real nut-job’!

All I have to say to that is: our founding fathers were RIGHT and  principles NEVER change, FREEDOM and individual liberty deserve all those sacrifices made in their name, ‘safety’ and ‘security’ do NOT, even if they were possible to achieve (which they’re not).

Book: The Gathering Wind

It’s been a quiet couple of days around here. I’ve been reveling in the fact that I finally found some time to just CHILL!

I wrote yesterday that I didn’t do anything except take my daily walk and cook dinner. Today I got a little bit more done. I did the laundry. 😉

I’ve been reading a good book and thought some of you might like it too. It’s called The Gathering Wind, by Gregory A. Freeman.

It’s all about the tall ship Bounty, (the replica of the one they had the mutiny on). 😉

The Gathering Storm tells the story of the ship, her captain (Robin Walbridge) and crew and how they wound up sinking in the middle of ‘Superstorm Sandy’.

It’s a pretty wild story, especially the heroic attempts by the crew to save their ship and the amazing efforts of the US Coast Guard to save the crew.

It’s a great read, a real page turner. Even tho I knew how it would turn out, it still kept me interested til the end. As a sailor, I kept wondering WHY would they do that? Head out to sea with a hurricane approaching?

The book doesn’t really give a clear answer to that question. It did have a section on the investigation of the sinking, but I would have liked more. I have my own opinion and it mostly has to do with money.

So many of these disasters at sea probably never would have happened if there was a REAL concern for safety, but ‘time is money’ and it gets harder and harder for a seafarer to find employment where the idea of safety is more than just a façade for the insurance companies!

Just a couple of weeks ago, the El Faro went down with all hands, another 33 lives. Lost in another hurricane.

Will the investigation for the El Faro come to the same conclusion? That it was all the captains fault? That only his ‘reckless decision’ was to blame?

Do you really think the captain of the El Faro (or the Bounty) would have taken the risks he did if there were no pressure from the office to ‘make the schedule’? I sure as hell don’t!

With all the new rules and regulations coming out of the IMO and various governmental bodies, I keep wondering when will they get down to the root cause of all this? The people in the OFFICE who run these ships! THEY are the ones who really make the decisions these days, the poor old captain is nothing but a scapegoat for when things go wrong!

There is only so much a captain and crew can do out there! Without the help and support of our employers, we can only do so much! Sailing around a hurricane (or through pirates, or any other extraordinarily dangerous place), is NOT something we should be doing just to save the company a few bucks!

I’m still waiting to see the day when the IMO does something that actually helps the MARINER! Putting at least SOME of the responsibility on those who really make the decisions, and off of the captain who is now only a figurehead would go a long way in fixing a lot of issues out here!

For further discussions of these incidents among the mariners who hang out on Gcaptain, (professional and otherwise), check out these links:

http://www.gcaptain.com/forum/professional-mariner-forum/10134-hms-bounty-hurricane-sandy.html

http://www.gcaptain.com/forum/maritime-news/17656-sea-star-el-faro.html

DP Workshop

I got home late Thursday last week. I haven’t had time to do much but catch up on mail (and a little bit of sleep). I signed up for the DP conference in Houston a few weeks ago and luckily I was able to get off the ship on time to make it this year.

Today I spent all day in a ‘workshop’. About 100 people (mostly from shoreside) were in attendance. We were given the task of reviewing how to do an incident investigation and brainstorming suggestions to improve on DP incident reporting.

It was interesting to hear all the different suggestions, and also how many items were repeated by all the groups in the room. One that stood out to me was the fact that there are so many incidents that never get reported as they should be. So we all lose the chance for the ‘lessons learned’.

I’m convinced that the reason for that is simply fear. Everyone (including even the company you’re working for) is so afraid for their jobs that they just don’t want to do anything that might reflect badly on them. Yes, these reports are supposed to be ‘anonymous’, but I think there’s still the fear that your vessel might lose work if it somehow gets out that there was an ‘incident’ onboard.

That seems to be the norm even when things are booming, when work is as slow as it has been lately, nobody wants to take the chance that an incident report might lose them the contract.

Somehow, the hiring companies (usually the oil majors) have to get across the message that they will not ‘punish’ in the future for an incident reported today. I don’t know how that will ever be accomplished in reality. No one else at my table did either.

Sad to say, I was one of very few DPOs still sailing at todays event. There were lots of people who have moved into auditing and compliance. Lots of people who represent the different DP equipment vendors. Lots of people from the operations side of the offshore industry, but not enough active DPOs.

It’s always great to see old friends and make new ones. So many interesting people to talk to there. I have 2 more days to hang out up here in Houston and see what’s new in the DP world. (Yeah, I can be a geek sometimes). 😉

IMO Blues

We’re working hard trying to get this boat ready to go to work next week. It’s been raining (hard) off and on since I got here yesterday. I’ve been lucky so far to have avoided getting soaked. Instead I’ve been working on paperwork all day.

The vessel I’m working on now has just recently changed owners. So we’re in the process of going through inspections and getting approvals from all the involved agencies. We are mainly dealing with the DNV and the ABS (class societies).

They are doing ISPS, ISM audits at the moment. We will probably have a visit from the Bahamas inspector too while we’re here for a flag state inspection.

For those who are not seafarers, the ISM Code (International Safety Management) and ISPS code (International Ship and Port Security) have been driving us all crazy out here since the IMO came up with the idea! Of course, the bureaucrats and lawyers must have been thrilled with such a humongous generator of useless paperwork.

I suppose some will say it’s done some good. I am not one of those people. I went to sea for the freedom of the job. The ability to just do the work I love and NOT have to deal with all the stuff like the ISM and ISPS (and those 2 are only a small part of what the IMO saddles us sailors with now a days). I really don’t know of ANYONE who went to sea in order to deal with paperwork all day. 🙁

It’s a real shame, what they’ve done to the life of a sailor, and you know what the really sad thing is? They really believe they’re doing all this stuff for our benefit!

Carl Miller – Right to travel without a license plate

I agree with this guy in principle. We should NOT be forced to get a license plate. I have argued against being forced to get a drivers license in order to use the roads I have PAID for, the car I BOUGHT, the gas I PAID for. There is NO justification under constitutional law for the state (or any other government agent) to FORCE me to submit, to BEG their permission to travel freely!
I was BORN with the INALIENABLE RIGHT to TRAVEL. FREELY! That means I can move along a public road or any other public space without interference as long as I am not bothering anyone else. That goes for the airways too! The TSA and all its bullshit security theater is a HUGE violation of my rights and IS totally unconstitutional in every way! Where’s the warrant? Where’s the probable cause? What right do those government thugs in uniforms have to restrict you in ANY way in YOUR RIGHT to travel? The answer is NONE! They have STOLEN your rights from you!