The Jones Act vs Puerto Rico

I usually try to avoid the news. It only upsets me and there’s not really anything I can do about any of it. It frustrates me and makes me angry.  I’ve been getting my news from the internet, mostly emails and posts from friends.

Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot about how the Jones Act is supposedly “strangling” Puerto Rico. This is just another instance of ‘yellow journalism’, or as it’s more likely to be called these days “fake news’.

At least the NY Times got it straight about what the Jones Act covers: shipping from one US port to another must be on ships built in America, owned by Americans, and crewed by Americans. Yes, it is a cabotage law, and protectionist. But they’re far off target on the rest of what they had to say about it.

Yes, our ships do cost more. There are reasons for that. Mostly because our costs are generally higher in the USA than in many of the countries around the world which we compete with for shipping.

WHY are those costs so much higher? Regulations for one. Why do so many owners register with “flags of convenience” like Liberia, Panama, Marshall Islands, etc? I’ll tell you why- because they can get away with running their ships a hell of a lot cheaper!

If that means treating their crew like dogs, so be it. If that means running an old rust bucket until it breaks apart, so be it. If that means ‘cheating’ on the pollution regulations in order to evade paying for proper disposal, so be it.

Do you think the price of anything is the same in China as it is here? How about India?

Fact is, crew costs (which shippers insist is their highest expense) is negligible if you can use crew from any of a number of ‘third world’ countries. I see advertisements every day offering jobs for $200/day for unlimited ships officers. Less than peanuts to any American officer, but I notice dozens of foreigners begging for every one of those jobs. 🙁

Who could afford to work at a job like that here, when it costs us hundreds of dollars a year just to keep our documents current? Not to mention what it costs to get a mariners credential in the first place (tens of thousands if you’re wondering). And remember, most other countries subsidize their seafarers, the US does nothing to help us at all. Reagan even took away our promised health benefits.

Our wages are higher across the board, because our cost of living in America necessitates that. The people who work in our shipyards have to be able to survive here. Do you think our naval architects, welders, painters, engineers, machinists, electricians, etc should all work for $20/day like they do in many of the countries our ships compete with?

Mr. Chen, a qualified shipbuilding engineer, said he earned 8,000 yuan a month—around $1,165 today, and three times as much as China’s migrant workers earn on average—during the golden years.

That quote was from an “Investors Alert” article about how the Chinese shipyards are hurting due to the global slump in shipping. I’m sure Mr Chen is making even less money now (the $1,165 per month comes out to a little more than $7/hour on a 40 hour week). How many of our professional engineers would work for $7/hour? Or should even be asked to??? 

I hope you’ll realize that we would have a total of 0 people to work in our shipyards to build our ships OR on our vessels to deliver the goods to Puerto Rico or anywhere else covered by the Jones Act (coastal US shipping- one US port to another). We would have about 0 American ships left after a few years, once all of our old ones gave out.

They would all be replaced by cheaper foreign ships, with cheaper foreign crews.

Yep, we could all save a few more pennies at Walmart, but is it really worth it?

The Jones Act was intended to ensure that we would always have a fleet. A certain amount of American ships. Ships we could depend on in any circumstance.

It was intended to ensure that we would always have the capacity to build the specialized military ships so that we could defend ourselves without having to depend on somebody else’s fleet. It was intended to ensure that we would always have trained shipyard workers to build those ships and crews to sail them.

Do you realize that during the Gulf War we could barely supply the troops? Plenty of our ‘allies’ refused to allow us to use their ships. We were also very, very short on people to crew up the vessels we did have. They were calling out old men from retirement (and waiving their need for current documents).

The NY Times article makes light of the fact that there are no more U-boats cruising our shorelines, like that’s the only threat we have to worry about. They pretend the Jones Act is obsolete because we aren’t at war.

Anybody remember the “War on Terror” we have supposedly been fighting since at least 9-11??? The reason we’ve had to give up our rights to freedom and privacy because there might be terrorists lurking around every corner?

Every American mariner is required to take security training, we are required to pass a background test (we must get a TWIC), we must swear an oath…

I do solemnly swear or affirm that I will faithfully and honestly, according to my best skill and judgment, and without concealment and reservation, perform all the duties required of me by the laws of the United States. I will faithfully and honestly carry out the lawful orders of my superior officers aboard a vessel.

Do you really want to eliminate the Jones Act and all the good it does? To save a few cents (maybe)?

Puerto Rico is suffering in the wake of Hurricane Maria, but it has nothing to do with the Jones Act! There are hundreds of thousands of supplies stacked up in the ports. Items delivered by both US and foreign ships. None of them had any trouble delivering their cargo because of the Jones Act.

The problem on Puerto Rico has to do with the infrastructure on the island, NOT getting supplies to the island. Don’t throw out the Jones Act and all the behind the scenes good it does for everyone in this country, just because a few people (and the NY Times) don’t understand it.

What’s Happening

I know I haven’t been posting here as much as I’d like. Nothing’s wrong. Mostly I’ve just been lazy.

I got off the rig really late last Thursday. I knew I was going to miss my flight, so I changed it to the next day and booked a hotel in New Orleans. Goes to show me what good it does to plan anything in advance.

I thought I got a really good deal on my flight home from New Orleans by purchasing it in advance. I only paid $65 ($32 for the fare, the rest was taxes/fees). I wound up paying an extra $45 to change it to Thursday night, which would have been fine for a normal crew change. But then I had to pay an extra $40 to change it to the next day since we didn’t even leave the rig til around 2230 Thursday night! Cost me $85 to change it and only $65 to buy it- WOW have the airlines got some scam going!

on the boat getting ready to head to Fourchon and home!

I spent what was left of the night at the Maison Dupuy in the French Quarter. Since I didn’t get there til 0330 Friday morning, I didn’t really get to spend much time there, but what I saw of it, I liked.

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I spent a couple of hours wandering around the French Quarter. Got my fix of coffee and beignets and had to hurry back to the airport for my flight home.

flying in to Houston

I got home late Friday and was too tired for anything but a quick look through the months pile of mail blocking my front door. I spent most of the weekend catching up on both sleep and mail. Tuesday I went to painting class (they were on hiatus for the summer) and the dentist in the afternoon.

I’m not sure what happened there. I went in to fix an old filling (nothing was bothering me). Since that operation, a different tooth has been hurting when I chew on that side of my mouth. Hating the thought of having to make another dentist appointment!

I haven’t really been doing much of anything. Today I’m planning to break out of my torpor and go to the Summertime Bikes & Blues Festival. I’m not a ‘biker chick’ by any means, but I do think some of them look pretty cool. I like a lot of the kinds of people that like bikes, and I like the whole ‘freedom’ thing they promote.

I usually like the music (this year I’m disappointed they canceled a friend of mine’s band). I’ve never heard of any of the bands this year, so just hoping they’ll be up to the usual standard. The food is pretty good, with all kinds of different vendors, from BBQ to shrimp kebobs, popcorn and candy apples. Of course beer and lemonade. 🙂

I hope to have some more pics tomorrow. Next week might be busier. I’m waiting to hear if I can go back to work or not since I left under not quite the best circumstances. In any case, I need to finish up my (2016) taxes. 🙁

Share Your World

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to join in on Cee’s Share Your World challenge. I enjoy seeing what everybody comes up with for answers to her interesting questions.

Complete this sentence: I want to learn more about … so many things! I want to learn how to really play saxaphone (I played in the school band 30 years ago, 1st chair, but I don’t consider that playing saxaphone). I want to learn more about how to play piano. I want to learn how to speak Spanish better, and how to speak Russian, and Korean, and Chinese. I want to learn more about writing- how to make interesting characters, how to make the story ‘come alive’. I want to learn more about photography- especially how to use lightroom and photoshop to their full extent. I could go on, but you get the idea. 😉

On a vacation what you would require in any place that you sleep? Number 1 thing I’m concerned with in any place I sleep is safety/security. I want somewhere I can rest without too much concern over myself or my stuff.

What is your greatest extravagance? I don’t really consider myself ‘extravagant’ in anything, but I will spend money on things I really enjoy: books, travel, music, photography.

What inspired you this past week?  Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination. I’m not sure it was this week, but I don’t keep up with the news much when I’m offshore. I do remember the stories of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and the Texas Navy and Cajun Navy coming to the rescue. The stories of people coming from all over to help where they could was pretty inspiring. I hope the same is going on in Florida after Irma, but I haven’t heard.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Check out the original post and join in with your own stories. 🙂

Happy Talk Like A Pirate Day!

Sadly, I forgot all about this until this afternoon. Usually I get reminders in my email from the people who started the whole thing. For some reason this year I didn’t get any notice.

Anyway. I hope my crew of scurvy dogs will grab a pot of grog and have some fun with this. 🙂

As Chumbucket reminds us…

This is the day to let your inner pirate out to play. Swagger, growl and let the world see the buccaneer inside.

Have a peek at a few videos (hopefully you can get them to show up- I can’t do videos from out here).

The Five As – a quick and dirty Pirate Talk Lesson

Cap’n Slappy’s Random Phrases

Dress Like a Pirate (On the Cheap)

And, Wooing Wenches, Ol’ Chumbucket and Mad Sally give a lesson in love.

Change of Plans

Things are always up in the air with me lately. I was supposed to come out here for 6 weeks as DPO. I came out as DPO and after a few days, I was informed that I was really supposed to be MSL (marine section leader). Basically MSL is the same thing as a chief mate.

Whoo-hooo! I got promoted. But I didn’t want to be. I probably would have refused to take the job in the first place if they had told me the truth about what they wanted.

The company who hired me and the client who hired them both refuse to pay me as MSL tho I have been doing the job now for a couple of weeks (since last crew change). So. I am leaving.

How many people do you think are happy to do the work of one job and get paid a much lower rate for another job? I think only very young people trying to break in, to prove themselves. Or really super desperate people who have given up their pride and principles and have nothing at all to live on. We all do a lot of things we may not like to when it comes down to survival. Thank goodness I have not got to that point yet this time around.

I’ve worked too damn hard, for too damned long in order to earn my license. I don’t like the fact that they seem to think it’s worthless here.

I will go home after only 4 weeks of work. Very disappointed with the whole operation.

Oh well, it’ll be nice to be home for a while. I just hope it’s not such a long while! I need to find another job asap!

I’m hoping hurricane Harvey didn’t do much damage to my property. It would be nice to be able to stash some of this paycheck (just in case).

SoCS: Vol

Linda’s challenge today for Stream of Conciousness Saturday is…

Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is: “vol.” Find a word with “vol” in it, and use it in your post. Have fun!

My first thought was ‘volvo’, I don’t know anything about them. I’m not really into cars, especially not newer models. Then I thought of ‘volunteer’. I volunteer sometimes at our local Seamans Center (in Freeport, TX). I haven’t been able to lately. I’ve just been too busy. I don’t really understand that, since I have hardly been working.

Usually I work offshore. I’m gone for weeks at a time and then home for a while. When I’m home, I have to catch up with all the things I didn’t get to do while I was gone.

Since I haven’t been working, I figured I’d be able to get a lot done. It hasn’t worked out that way at all. I spend so much time looking for work! I also found a couple of part time jobs so that takes up even more of my time.

Oh well. I will continue to volunteer when I can. As a seafarer for most of my life, I appreciate how much any Seamans Center is worth to a sailor. Maybe not quite so much as in the old days, when we had to wait to go ashore and then go find a telephone office. We’d have to wait in line for hours to call home.

Now we have phones on board and some people even have cel phones so they can call home once the ship gets near enough to land. The Seamans centers still offer phones to call home. Now they also have internet access (a BIG plus).

It’s a friendly place in a strange port where you can go hang out and be comfortable.

Anyway, volunteer was only my first good thought. My next thought, and the one I really wanted to write about was voluntarism.

That is at least as important to me as volunteering. In a way they’re connected. I strongly believe that we should all follow the principle of voluntarism. I think it’s the best way to live together as a society. Everyone free to live the way they want, with no one else forcing them into a mold they don’t fit into. All doing the things they really want to do. The way I understand voluntarism is- living life through voluntary actions.

That means I am against the use of force. I agree with the Libertarian NAP (non-agression principle- which does allow for defense of self and others). I do not think any (responsible) human being has the right to control another as long as a person is not harming anyone. There are all kinds of arguments that can be thrown out there, like ‘what does it mean to be responsible?’, ‘what does it mean to harm someone?’. etc, etc, etc.

Serious libertarians spend hours debating such questions. I am just a libertarian ‘lite’. I want to live a peaceful, prosperous life. I want to live as a free human being. I want everyone else in the world to have the same ability.

So many people think it would never work. But it has worked in the past. If you look at the most prosperous, the most advanced societies on the planet you’ll find out that they also had the most liberty. Just compare North and South Korea for a good idea of what I’m talking about. People who are free to live as they chose can get very creative and they do mostly find ways to get along.

I was reading something just the other day about an ancient city. I think it was in Turkey somewhere. The article mentioned that it was, in fact, an anarchy. If this wasn’t a SoCS post, I would go and look it up (I will do that later and post on it). 😉

In the meantime, check out my sticky post at the top of my blog. Take the quiz and see where you stand on the idea.

Thorny

Here’s my response to the Daily Posts’ prompt: thorny.

😉

Actually, I have been dealing with a thorny situation, as in these 2 meanings of the word…

4. painful; vexatious:a thorny predicament.

5. full of difficulties, complexities, or controversial points:

a thorny question.
 As all my long term peeps know by now, I’ve been stuggling to find work since I was laid off by Ocean Rig in September 2015. Due to the low price of oil, their contracts had been cancelled and so they just laid off their crews en mass. I’m not even elgible for unemployment since they are not a US company. Jeez, after more than 30 years of paying into it, I can’t get any help when I need it!
Since Ocean Rig laid me off, I’ve spent enourmous amounts of time and energy looking for work. Preferrably on a boat of some sort. Any kind of boat. Any kind of work. I’ve worked my way up from deckhand to unlimited master and was applying for anything from galley hand (dishwasher and potato peeler) to captain.
Since September of 2015, I have had a total of 1 month as DPO in November 2015. One month as AB in August 2016. One month as DPO in May this year, another month as mate, and then this hitch that I’m on right now.
So yeah, I’ve been pretty desperate to find work. I was happy to get this job for 6 weeks. Yesterday was hump day- halfway. I signed on as DPO (dynamic positioning operator) 3 weeks ago. The vessel is a drilling rig. We have been anchored just South of the MIssissippi Delta (along with a fleet of other laid up rigs), since I got here.
There was some talk of a contract when I came out, but that hope seems to have faded (tho you never know- we could get called to go to work tomorrow).
The problem is this: I was hired to be a DPO. I am being paid as a DPO. Onboard the ship, I have been performing the duties of a chief mate (MSL- marine section leader). There is a big step up in duties and responsibilities (tho the DPOs have plenty as it is).
The company will not pay me as a MSL, they say they only want a DPO. That is not really the way it works on board any vessel. You have a Captain(Master), and then you have a chief mate who is second in command. There are legal ramifications. You really can’t just say you won’t do the job. I guess the people in the office don’t understand how things work in the maritime world (tho they damn sure should!).
I am a licensed mariner. I worked hard as hell for a lot of years to earn that license. I don’t think it’s right for a company to take advantage of someones desire for a job to use them for one thing (their license) and pay them for something less. Even worse is to hire them as one thing with no mention of the other until it’s too late. You can’t just walk out the door! We’re 20+ miles offshore, it’s a long way to swim. 🙁
So, the thorny problem: I really need the work. I’m almost 2 years behind on my bills/plans for my life. I also don’t want to allow someone to use the license I worked so hard for. The deal is, they want a licensed officer on their vessel, they have to pay for one. That’s just the way it works. Or, it should be.
There are way too many companies out there today taking advantage of financially desperate mariners. It’s sad.
I want to work. I need to work. But, I also need to be able to hold my head up high and stick to my principles.
What would you do?
PS- Sorry about the awful way this post runs together, I can’t figure out how to get it to make paragraphs again! Any clues??