Saturday, February 23, 2013

AN AWARENESS


 
In MY BLOG LIST NAUTICAL LOG has added a new link to an interesting website and for some an important one International Cruise Victims.  We were directed to this website through Cruise Law News the website of a maritime lawyer in Miami, Fl.

He has just posted a short article about the desire of the United States Government to more closely control the cruise ships sailing out of United States Ports.  His article gives the impression that there is no control by the Federal Government at present over the foreign-flagged and foreign registered companies operating these cruise ships.   These vessels all sail under IMO-STCW Regulations which apply equally to all ships whether they are U.S. flagged or foreign-flagged vessels, the Regulations are enforced by the Flag State and by USCG as the Port State in United States Ports.   The suggestion that this U.S. control is to raise standards is nonsense it is actually to tax the corporations creating yet another source of revenue for this Administration to spend frivolously.

NAUTICAL LOG would suggest that should that control ever happen, which is highly unlikely, it would be extremely detrimental to the cruise industry and further would destroy the cruise industry sailing from United State Ports as we know it today - with the loss of thousands of U.S. jobs.  As an example of what could and would happen NAUTICAL LOG would point to what happened in the State of Hawai'i when this actually did occur, at present there are no more Hawai'i based cruise ships sailing out of Honolulu, Oahu or even the shorter lived Inter-Island Ferries. Then there is the less than stellar watchkeeping during the last few seasons of the small U.S. flagged U.S. manned cruise vessels in Alaskan Waters with groundings due to not reading the tide tables correctly, missing turns, and hitting charted underwater obstructions and getting to close to calving glaciers.  This year the 2013 Summer Season will have even more big cruise ships transferred to these Alaskan Waters in addition to the small ship operators.  The Ports and fjords will be crowded and strict discipline with first class watchkeeping will be required if incidents are to be avoided, this is an area of strong tidal currents, large tidal range, fog, heavy rain and even snow at the beginning of the season which starts around Easter.  Then add in the tugs and tows, the numerous fishing vessels, the B.C. Ferries under the Canadian flag, which has had some serious problems of its own and the Alaska Ferries under the U.S. flag.  These ferries are on dedicated routes and set courses to give the service required on this coast by keeping a fixed schedule.  All other vessel operators should be very familiar with their routes and schedules, then last but not least their are the private vessels many of whom do not even seem to know the Nautical Rules of the Road much less follow them.

The article also states that there is no Federal oversight of these vessels so let me state from personal experience as a Safety Officer and Staff Officer in U.S. based foreign-flagged cruise ships this statement is less than accurate.  It is now a decade since NAUTICAL LOG retired but in the meantime the International Regulations (IMO-STCW) have increased and tightened considerably.

During the 25 years NAUTICAL LOG sailed in U.S. based cruise ships we dealt with the USCG having Inspections every three (3) months with full Fire and Lifeboat Evacuation Drills, in addition we had regular shipboard visits from NTSB, USCG, FBI, ATF and the DEA had "undercover agents" on board every voyage sailing as passengers.  As the Safety Officer one became particularly aware of the DEA Agents because they would appear in the crew quarters and thus have to explain themselves as to why they were there.  Now one might not call this "oversight" but it sure was "awareness."  On arrival in a U.S. Port the U.S. Customs, Immigration, Agriculture and Health Agents all boarded to exercise their Rights to inspect the vessel going wherever they wanted too.  If there had been an event during the voyage add to these NTSB, USCG, FBI, local Fire Rescue Department, local County Police, since the Ports are usually County owned and the State Police.  Quite a crowd all of whom acquired full "awareness" of the vessel if not "oversight."

As we have said  here before there are always at least two points of view to every happening in life and this point of view is based on the personal experience of NAUTICAL LOG.

Good Watch.

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