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On this the Deepwater Horizon Anniversary of the worst oil spill in United States history that of the Transocean  BP drill platform in the Gulf of Mexico.  The response to which was less than steller by a United States Coast Guard which repeated all the mistakes of the Exxon Valdez disaster plus adding in a few new ones - the Media had a field day and still are from anniversary coverage.  Since the USCG became part of the Department of Homeland Security their added missions seem to have overwhelmed the original purpose of having a USCG.  We now have RHIB's manned by young bosun's mates not yet of legal drinking age racing around with powerful weapons and flashbangs playing at being maritime law enforcement officers.  In recruiting areas well known to seafarers and boaters one can add in latino machismo to the volatile mix of youth, inexperience, weapons and gungho-oorah this latter encouraged by those in command.  It is hard to pay very much attention to some kid in a uniform consisting of navy-blue combat fatigues and paratrooper boots who has no idea how to address and speak to a boater with more experience than he/she has years of age.  Because they are in this confrontational style uniform they need education on how to approach, address, inform boaters and others of a situation and then resolve it in a professional manner.  It is clear that at present they do not have these skills and quickly by their attitude and uniform style increase any tension instead of easing it.  Sadly on approaching an Officer one finds similar attire, attitude and is usually met with superiority, thus the respect level for the USCG is dropping rapidly.  The USCG Auxilary, which the general boating public comes in contact with at marinas and launching ramps, is similarily uniformed but not armed.

When USCG are involved in boating accidents, as we have seen recently, they are excused by their peers in the USCG jury, even when deaths have occurred, to a point of miscarriage of justice.

With this background is it any wonder since the USCG are the Flag State and Port State enforcers of international maritime safety rules and regulations in the United States that a change has occurred. 

The Det Norske Veritas (DNV) President Tor E. Svensen stated:

"Year on year improvement in ship safety is now turning into a negative trend.  This is extremely  worrying and requires a stronger focus on competence development both onboard and onshore.  Statistics show that the accident frequency has started rising from a historic low.  This trend is supported by increased pay-out from insurance companies.  Technology, rules and compliance will never bring us to the expected level of safety without focusing stronger on the human element."

Of course his remarks were addressed to a worldwide trend thus includes the United States which with a little effort could be a leading example to maritime nations.  The recent grounding of the MS Oliva on Spinners Point in the Tristan da Cunha Group is perhaps an indication of how far basic skills and safety have sunk to.  When a vessel can end up so far out of position in the middle of this island group on a course from Santos, Brazil to the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa is unbelievable, fails any navigational explanation and boggles the mind of any seafarer with just basic experience.  Adding this DNV report on the safety shambles to the debacle of the counter piracy efforts one can see that these are not good times for either world trade or seafarers.

Good Watch.

Please remember the seafarers held captive by pirates off Somalia - let us work with India to free them.


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