Resuming Sea Year on Commercial Vessels

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By MARAD 2017-02-16 21:34:48

[A joint statement from Thomas B. Crowley, Jr., chairman and CEO of Crowley Maritime Corporation and Joel Szabat, the executive director of the Maritime Administration.]

On Wednesday, Superintendent Jim Helis announced the resumption of Sea Year training for United States Merchant Marine Academy midshipmen aboard commercial ships.

Sea Year training aboard commercial ships is a hallmark of Kings Point. It benefits the midshipmen, the Academy, and the companies who employ them. The resumption of Sea Year, coupled with new standards to protect midshipmen, shows how a public-private partnership between the government, private industry and labor can work to the benefit of all.

In the wake of a series of reports that indicated problems with sexual assault, sexual harassment (SASH) and other coercive misconduct both at Kings Point and at sea, then-Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx ordered the suspension of commercial Sea Year until a “cultural audit” could recommend improvements to Kings Point and to the industry.

While there was a great deal of discussion around this sensitive issue, all parties shared the common belief that Sea Year is critical to the success of the Academy and its midshipmen, both of which are core components of the industry's future. We all agreed that all training needs to be conducted in a safe and respectful environment.

In that spirit, Crowley took the lead to assemble a consortium of fourteen leading maritime companies to find a solution. Just two weeks after the stand down, the consortium brought a proposal to address SASH to the Maritime Administration's “Call-to-Action.” MARAD and the Department of Transportation created a compliance team that established standards, and worked with the consortium and with labor to lay out workable criteria for the companies to achieve those standards. Based on the recommendations of the cultural audit, Secretary Foxx authorized MARAD to establish Sea Year eligibility requirements for companies to meet.

Working collaboratively, MARAD, industry and the unions have established requirements for companies providing Sea Year training opportunities for midshipmen. To meet these requirements, companies must now show that they have written policies and robust training demonstrating zero tolerance for SASH, that they will provide qualified mentors for cadets on-board the vessels, and have taken other measures.

And that is not all we are doing. MARAD and the consortium are on track to roll out computer-based “best practices” training this summer, which will benefit smaller companies without the resources to develop robust programs of their own. As required by law, MARAD is chairing a working group of representatives from industry, labor, the State Maritime Academies and Kings Point to recommend additional improvements to Congress in September. MARAD's eligibility requirements will be reviewed after six months and annually thereafter.

President John F. Kennedy once said that "a rising tide lifts all boats." These rising standards lift the entire maritime industry's efforts to eliminate sexual assault and other misconduct, and continually make our ships and workplaces a better place for the men and women who serve the industry, and the nation.

Long before the Sea Year stand down, leading maritime companies were committed to fight SASH and recognized that the goal is zero — no incident of SASH behavior is acceptable. The industry took the occasion of the stand down to move closer to that goal. The protocols that the industry and MARAD have developed will improve both the quality of the anti-SASH programs and each company's accountability when it takes on cadets. Crowley is proud to have played a part in developing these protocols, and to be in the first group of companies certified to meet the new federal standards to be "Sea Year Eligible" and to safely train the next generation of maritime leaders.

MARAD appreciates how the maritime industry and labor joined together for the Call-to-Action with a genuine commitment to improve conditions for cadets and crew at sea. MARAD is especially proud that many of the leaders in the companies and unions who worked to achieve the new standards are Kings Pointers themselves, while the government effort was led by former deputy maritime administrator Mike Rodriguez (KP '79) and associate administrator Owen Doherty (KP '81). Everyone involved in developing the new standards exemplified the Kings Point motto, "Acta Non Verba" — Deeds, Not Words.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.