National Mariners Association
124 N. Van Street Houma, LA. 70363
Captan Richard Block Secretary/Historian
Captain J. David Miller Master of Towing Vessels - IT/IS Services

A Brief History of the National Mariners Association

By Captain Richard A. Block


            Our Association was founded in April 1999 as the Gulf Coast Mariners Association (GCMA) which the corporation decided to change to the National Mariners Association effective Jan. 1, 2008 in light of our national rather than regional audience.  The AFL-CIO and four maritime labor unions(1) established us as to function as a non-profit membership Association and not as a labor union – a very fundamental distinction.  I can say that I was there from day one with Past President Penny Adams and Capt. Ray Adams and continue to believe that a union could serve many of the needs of many of our mariners. 

            Our Association was formed to stand on its own feet and represent the interests of our mariners.  On June 30, 2003, the four maritime unions ended their financial support and turned us loose as an independent Association.  Some people thought we “closed our doors” at the time.  However, if you examine the reports and newsletters on our website, you will quickly understand that this was never the case.

            Nor did the unions “abandon” us.  They simply could no longer afford to support a massive presence in the Gulf of Mexico area that generated few new union members for their proposed new union, “Offshore Mariners United” (OMU).  The retreat of the proposed union illustrated that mariners were beaten to their knees by big money that was willing to hire “union busters” to deny our mariners a voice.  This was unfortunate, because the union movement has a great deal to offer and because, when the unions pulled out, we found that the vast majority of mariners in the Gulf of Mexico were unwilling or unable to stand up for their rights because, to do so, brought with it a very real risk of their jobs and careers.  Only a few years later, we see that continued repression by both the boat owners and inept superintendence of the marine industry by U.S. Coast Guard regulators(1) drives many experienced mariners to leave the industry.  Nevertheless, our Association kept plugging away with the truth on the important issues and accepted small gains without generating headlines because those small gains are cumulative.  [(1)Refer to NMA Report #R-401-E.]

            While membership in an active labor union remains a choice for some mariners, an Association like ours could cope with many of the important issues that affect limited-tonnage merchant mariners in the anti-labor atmosphere that surrounds the limited-tonnage sectors of the maritime industry today.  Our goal always was to exert a positive influence on the decisions that affect up to 126,000 of our “limited-tonnage” merchant mariners who hold officer and ratings credentials as well as other merchant mariners the Coast Guard has no record of.  We keep in mind that all important maritime decisions are made in Washington, DC.   [(1)AMO, MM&P, MEBA, SIU]

Contemporary Mariner Associations


            During the mid-1990’s I watched, supported, and joined the American Inland Mariners Association (AIM), a non-union Association that successfully assembled over 300 river pilots under the leadership of Captain John R. Sutton as a professional mariners association.  Unfortunately, in spite of its successes and the perseverance of its President and Board of Directors, AIM was eclipsed by the “Pilots Agree” movement on the Western Rivers and Gulf Intracoastal Waterways in 1998.  Neither predecessor organization still exists but AIM serves as a model of a very effective grass-root, mariner-directed movement.

            I also joined the “Pilots Agree” movement under Captain Dickey Mathes.  “Pilots Agree” was a true grass-roots movement involving as many as 1,500 mariners on the Western Rivers and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.  However, I watched with dismay as the reaction to Pilots Agree by towing industry management forced many mariners to learn some very painful lessons both about their industry and about labor solidarity The International Organization of Masters, Mates, and Pilots (MM&P), a well-established professional union of “upper-level” licensed mariners, supported “Pilots Agree” with advice, encouragement, and financial backing.  Several hundred mariners joined “MM&P” as well as Pilots Agree.  MM&P stood by working mariners in hearings before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for seven years as it still stands by its working mariners today.

            “Pilots Agree” led inland mariners in the towing industry to stand up and fight for the right to organize.  Unfortunately, management refused to negotiate with their employees and turned against them.  A strike followed, 

and as the strike dragged on, paychecks stopped.  Since most mariners live from pay-check to pay-check, the movement gradually lost momentum as mariners broke ranks and eventually turned against each other in a scramble to salvage their own paychecks.  The result was devastating and long-lasting.  Mariners constantly remind us today that the employers’ repression of Pilots Agree members played a direct role in the personnel shortages the towing industry faces.  In fact, employers continue to crush any attempts by mariners to create meaningful organizations like the National Mariners Association that try to bring their issues to the attention of regulators (USCG, OSHA, DHS) or to Congress.  Our Association learned that our only hope to succeed in solving the major problems that trouble our limited-tonnage mariners was to continue to provide the our government with certain truths as seen from the perspective of our mariners no matter how unwelcome they may be.

            Although Pilots Agree is now a part of History, established maritime unions like the Seafarers International Union (SIU), the Inlandboatmans Union (IBU), the International Union of Operating Engineers, and the Sailors Union of the Pacific (SUP) have members who are limited tonnage mariners.  Other unions like the American Maritime Officers (AMO) and the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association (MEBA) worked closely with our association in the past.  Inland towing companies, for their treatment of mariners and failure to at least talk to them during Pilots Agree, reaped what they sowed in a continuing shortage of talented mariners on our inland rivers and waterways that will tighten as the amount of cargo they must move increases.


Who Are Limited-Tonnage Merchant Mariners?


            The simple answer to this question is that a limited-tonnage merchant mariner is any mariner that serves on a commercial vessel of less than 1,600 gross tons.

            Article 1 of the Officers Competency Certificates Convention (1936) – an international agreement – stated, “National laws or regulations may grant exceptions or exemptions in respect to vessels of less than 200 tons gross register tonnage.”  The treaty was ratified by the United States on Oct. 29, 1938 and became effective one year later on Oct. 29, 1939.(1)  [(1)Marine Laws, Navigation & Safety, 3rd ed., Vol. 2, art 729.]

            One year later, the Motorboat Act of 1940 brought motorboats under 15 gross tons under regulation by the U.S. Department of Commerce.  Early in World War II, wartime control of the U.S. Merchant Marine passed from the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation into the hands of the Coast Guard where it remained throughout the war; this assignment became permanent shortly after the war.

            For a mariner on a small boat who wanted to “carry passengers for hire” from 1940 to 1958, all he needed was a motorboat operator’s (MBO) license.  When I received my first license in 1955, I studied Chapman’s Piloting, Seamanship and Small Boat Handling, obtained a physical exam at the U.S. Public Health Service Hospital at no charge except for a completely wasted day, and was given an oral exam by the Officer in Charge, Marine Inspection (OCMI). 

            The clock was ticking and important changes were in the works shortly after the motorboat Pelican disaster on Sept. 1, 1951 off Montauk Point, NY.  The Pelican was a 42-foot wooden charter fishing boat that set sail with 64 persons on board in fair weather but with warnings issued for expected strong winds and stormy conditions expected later in the day.  Since the vessel admeasured 14 gross tons, it was not required to be inspected by the Coast Guard.  The Pelican’s passengers were overcrowded on board since a boat of this size ordinarily carried carry no more than 30 persons on exposed coastwise waters.  During the voyage, a storm arose, the vessel sank and only 19 survivors were picked out of the water.  The Coast Guard investigation concluded on Oct. 8, 1951 a month after the accident and listed 19 persons as “missing” and 26 “deceased.”(1)  [(1)NMA file #M-164.  Also: Clavin, Tom High Noon, ISBN-13-978-0-07-148659-0.]

Vessel Inspection and Credentialing


            Congress directed the Coast Guard to take first steps in reforming the small passenger vessel industry five years after the Pelican accident – a process that continues to this day.  New “small passenger vessel” inspection 

regulations were introduced, upgraded and perfected continuously from that date forward.  A new licensing scheme was instituted in 1958 and, as a result, the small passenger vessel segment of the marine industry cleaned up its act.

            Much the same occurred with the offshore mineral and oil industry in 1970 starting with its crewboats that were, in reality, small passenger vessels.  Congress moved forward in 1980 to establish the framework for manning, inspection, and licensing of larger offshore supply vessels in Public Law 96-378.  Ten years later liftboats were added.  In 1997, the Coast Guard finalized its regulations that would govern an entirely new class of vessels dubbed “Offshore Supply Vessels” (OSV) including crewboats.

            Since 2000, our Association touted the Coast Guard’s hard won “success” in inspecting approximately 6,500 small passenger vessels,(1) and over 1,200 Offshore Supply Vessels(2) to the towing industry as examples of the steps that they should follow to bring over 6,200 towing vessels under inspection.  Congress overlooked towing vessels for more than 40 years, but by 2004, it was difficult to continue to ignore a cascade of horrendous accidents involving towing vessels that took place between 1993 and 2004.  [(1)46 CFR Subchapters K & T.  (2)46 CFR Subchapter L.]

            The record will show that long before Congress mandated the inspection of towing vessels in September 2004, our Association pushed the inspection issue with the Towing Safety Advisory Committee (TSAC).  After Congress mandated the inspection of towing vessels, one of our Association’s most significant efforts lay in preparing NMA Report #R-276, Rev. 9 that deals with the inspection of towing vessels.  The report we submitted to the docket represented eight years of hard work on our part.  Many of the items documented in that report are the key to bringing towing vessels up to the safety standards that Congress demands of other types of commercial vessels.  On the way, we witnessed efforts by management to gut many issues, cut corners, and save money.  Especially troublesome was their success in uncoupling hours of service from towing vessel inspection regulations.  While the proof of the pudding will be the Final Rule on Towing Vessel Inspection expected in 2015, the battle over hours of service will continue beyond that date.  Our Association filed a petition on this issue and Docket #USCG-2014-0442 has been opened on our complaint.

            Our Association expected the Coast Guard to use the lessons they learned from fifty years of inspecting other small vessels and apply them to towing vessels to include a greater array of vessels where most of our mariners work.  However, a serious glitch occurred in 2007 when the report of retired VADM James Card tore into shortcomings in the Coast Guard’s vessel inspection program.(1)  We note today that overloading, over-work, safety and health issues are the same that cropped up for the past 50 years and must be resolved today for the good of mariners in the entire marine industry, not just for towing vessels.  [(1)Refer to NMA Report #R-401-E.]

            Captain Eddie” of the Pelican isn’t the first or last person in charge of a vessel that was too greedy or too helpful to leave people with money in their hands standing on the dock.  Even today, not all officers are properly trained, exercise common sense, or admit their shortcomings.  An outstanding example remains the towboat officer who never received adequate radar training and, even though he had a radar display in his face, lost his way in the fog and struck a fixed bridge causing the derailment of the AMTRAK Sunset Limited killing 45 people in 1993.  The Coast Guard and Congress shared in the blame for that accident by neglecting the towing industry and ignoring the industry’s stagnated training program for over 20 years.


Issues Presented to Congress


            We welcomed all mariners to support our Association and help us in perfecting those issues we presented to both the Coast Guard and Congress.  The issues that we devoted most of our time and effort to were issues that overwhelmingly affected limited tonnage merchant mariners although some may also have affected upper-level mariners as well.

            One area where our mariners are particularly sensitive to abuse has been with the National Maritime Center.  Few employees at the NMC have any sense of “institutional History” as existed before the regulatory upheaval of 2009 followed by another on Dec. 24, 2013.  The attitude appears to be summarized as: “If you don’t like our decision, you can ask us to reconsider.  If you don’t like that result, appeal” it.”  Given our nation’s hitching its star 

to STCW, there probably is even more to come!  Useless documents like the Transportation Workers Identification Credential (TWIC), increasing hassle to obtain a Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC), and the new Medical and Physical Standards dictated by the new “Medical NVIC” (NVIC 04-08) came into effect in September 2008.  Drastic changes to credentialing regulations in 2009 created pure chaos as they replaced older regulations and were enforced with newly hired personnel at the National Maritime Center with little understanding of the mariners they were attempting to regulate.  Our Association submitted two reports to Congress(1) that showed some of the effects of this regulatory turmoil upon our mariners.  NMA’s limited financial base at least allowed our Association to keep track of these changing conditions and regulations and to submit meaningful comments to the docket, at federal advisory committee meetings, and to Congress that reflected the experience and attitudes of our mariners.  The effect of these changes upon our mariners, especially in the towing industry suggests that new entrants in the industry should think very carefully about building a foundation for their future in the towing industry.  [(1)NMA Reports #R-428-D & R-428-D, Rev. 1.]

            In August and October 2007, I had the opportunity to testify before Congress – an honor last afforded to Captain Sutton as President of AIM ten years earlier.  I was again invited to testify again in September 2008 before the House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee following the M/V Mel Oliver oil spill in the Mississippi River and in July 2009 on the National Maritime Center and Mariner Credentialing.  Although the Coast Guard often chose to ignore us, we were fortunate that Congress understood many of our problems, and in 2010 and acted on them.

            Several of our Directors led the way in pointing out to Congress that mariners suffered from the absence of enforceable potable water standards.  As a result, Congress passed legislation that informed the Coast Guard of their responsibility to regulate potable water on commercial vessels.  Unbelievably, even with this legislation in force, the Coast Guard managed to fumble the ball and years later must be “prodded” again to do as Congress directed.  Consequently, we continue to urge mariners to report every case of substandard water for drinking, bathing, and cooking to us as this remains a very active project.

            On over thirty (30) occasions, we presented our mariners’ perspective to Members of Congress and their staffs in a number of reports.  These are highlighted in our Association’s Report Index – “Index R.”  On occasion, our mariners or Directors delivered these reports to individual Congressmen in person.  By reviewing Index R, whenever you find the word “Congress” in the title of the report, you can identify each of these reports.  We continue to bring important issues directly to the attention of Congress whenever the Coast Guard procrastinates, blocks our way, or simply ignores us.


Issues Presented to the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General

Coast Guard Investigations & Coast Guard Personal Injury Reporting


            On behalf of our Association, NMA attorney Mark L. Ross, Esq. presented evidence to the Federal District Court in Lafayette, LA, to the Department of Transportation Inspector General, and to Coast Guard Headquarters describing how one major maritime employer failed to report 44 serious mariner injuries as required(1) to the Coast Guard in writing within five days.(2)  He obtained this evidence by searching court records where injured maritime workers subsequently sued this employer.  The Coast Guard never punished the company in any manner for failing to do so.  A later study performed by the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General’s Office showed that other companies were equally lax in their reporting practices to the detriment of our mariners.  [(1)Required by 46 CFR §4.05-1(a)(6).  (2)As required by 46 CFR §4.05-10(a).]

            Using Coast Guard accident statistics supplied at an advisory committee meeting, the omission of these accident reports by ENSCO skewed the Coast Guard personal injury statistics submitted by the entire offshore boat industry during an eight-year period by approximately 25%.  Nevertheless, authorities from the local Coast Guard Marine Safety Office to the Department of Justice expressed complete indifference about enforcing requirements to report mariners’ personal injuries.

            Many mariners learn the hard way that after they are injured and are unable to work, they are quickly fired or simply forgotten.  Often they are abandoned without health or disability insurance coverage.(1)  This practice, if 

more widely reported, would play a larger role in dissuading individuals from taking a quick job in the marine industry.  [(1)NMA Report #R-202, Rev. 5.]

            There are many instances where vessel Masters filed personal injury reports with their employers but these reports were never forwarded to the Coast Guard within the five-day period as required by existing regulations.  There are additional cases where accident reports were fabricated months after the accident occurred and then filed with and accepted without question by the Coast Guard.  We believe our mariners, who are ineligible to receive “workmen’s compensation” for their injuries, inevitably suffer when an accident report involving their injury is thrown together months later and is accepted by Coast Guard officials without question.

            Consequently, our Association petitioned the Coast Guard to allow an injured mariner to submit his own report to the Coast Guard if he/she believes the “owner, agent, master, operator, or person in charge” (i.e., those persons currently authorized to submit such a report) either have not made or submitted the required personal injury report on form CG-2692 within the required five working days.  In addition to our original petition filed on Sept. 7, 2001, we filed an additional petition on Aug. 8, 2002 with the U.S. Department of Labor seeking “Improved Record Keeping and Accident Reporting for Lower-Level Mariners.”  We assert that the OSHA personal injury recording and reporting system – if enforced – appears to be far superior to the Coast Guard’s system and has clear benefits for our mariners.

            In a letter dated June 30, 2005, the Chief of the Coast Guard’s Investigation Division, stated in part: “We have opted to add a section to (the Marine Safety Manual), rather than draft a new policy letter, to ensure investigating officers understand the policy that all incidents reported to the Coast Guard are investigated.”  We deemed this response unsatisfactory.  Hiding comments in relatively inaccessible internal agency documents like policy letters or even the Marine Safety Manual does not provide the unambiguous regulatory protection our mariners need.  Consequently, it is of little value in protecting our mariners and requiring employers to properly document their employees’ on-the-job injuries.  NMA Report #R-350-Y covers this issue in greater detail.

            Our Association learned of a Congressional request of Dec. 16, 2005 by committees of both the House and Senate to audit the extent to which marine casualty investigations and reports result in information and recommendations that prevent or minimize the effect of casualties.  We indicated our interest in this audit.

            In response to our request, we were visited at our office by two DHS auditors from Boston.  We began to provide data that eventually comprised 15 volumes weighing approximately 22 lbs. – collected, evaluated and mailed over a six-month period representing the investment of considerable time, effort and postage.  Thereafter, I spoke with the Chief Auditor Mr. Richard Johnson on a number of occasions and visited him in Washington.  I was impressed with his professional attitude and approach to the issue, as well as his extensive knowledge and background in accident investigation and the maritime industry in general as a credentialed merchant marine officer.  The 2008 Inspector General’s report indicated that several thousand casualties were either improperly investigated or never investigated at all!  The “Casualty Investigations Program” is a critical part of the larger Coast Guard’s Marine Safety program – a program that Congress revised from the ground up in 2010.  Rep. Elijah Cummings openly complimented Richard Johnson on his 2008 report on Coast Guard Investigations during the Cosco Busan hearing.  The Inspector General’s concern stands in stark contrast to the Coast Guard’s policy of totally ignoring input from our nation’s 126,000 credentialed merchant mariners.

            Our Association reported on past problems with Coast Guard “Investigations” by reprinting two previous landmark reports on the Internet.  What is clear and outstanding is that that the Coast Guard should have handled these problems years ago but was remiss in doing so.  This should have been clear to Coast Guard leaders as their own reports illustrate.  These two reports appear on our website as:

            ●NMA Report #R-429-A, Rev 1.  U.S. Coast Guard Marine Casualty Investigations and Reporting: Analysis and Recommendations for Improvement by James G. Byers, Susan G. Hill, & Anita Rothblum.  Aug. 1994.

            ●NMA Report #R-429-B, Rev. 1.  Report of the USCG Quality Action Team on Marine Safety Investigations.  July 1996.

            Remarkably, the full extent of the collapse of the Coast Guard Investigations framework appeared in the DHS Inspector General’s Report #OIG-13-92 issued in May 2013 that reported: “The USCG does not have adequate 

processes or sufficient personnel to investigate, take corrective actions, and enforce regulations related to the reporting of marine accidents as required by Federal regulations and USCG policy….”  The shortcomings were shocking – and there was absolutely no mention of the failures to follow up Coast Guard personal injury reporting that we had carefully explained to auditors in our office in March 2012.  In effect, Coast Guard officials in Headquarters covered up problems that were well known almost twenty years earlier.  During the intervening years, the Coast Guard did little or nothing to correct the problems.  These remarkable shortcomings are a serious departure from the way that Congress expected the Coast Guard to handle casualty investigations.

            Our position on reporting personal injuries as taken from NMA Report #R-350, Rev. 6, “Issue Y” are as follows:

—   To review the Congressional intent of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 and to determine why the Coast Guard failed to effectively apply key existing OSHA regulations to the marine industry.

—   To enact additional safeguards that require employers to report, treat, and compensate all mariners and offshore workers injured on the job.

—   To reassign the personal injury data collection responsibility for health and safety issues from the Coast Guard to the Department of Labor.

—   To impose adequate deterrent civil penalties on employers who fail to report and track every “accident, injury, illness, and death” to a seaman, passenger, or other person on any inspected vessel.

—   To permanently separate reports of personal injury and illness from vessel and equipment casualty reporting.

 

Participation in the Work of Federal Advisory Committees

            From April 1999 to June 30, 2003, four maritime labor unions supported our Association’s participation at federal advisory committee meetings like the Towing Safety Advisory Committee (TSAC), the Merchant Marine Personnel Advisory Committee (MERPAC), and the National Offshore Safety Advisory Committee (NOSAC).  These committees give our mariners limited access to Coast Guard officials at the headquarters level.  However, sometimes that access simply is not enough because we are outvoted, marginalized, and our agenda is often sidetracked.  We had occasion to complain to Congress about inadequate mariner representation on TSAC and they responded by increasing the number of working mariners assigned to the committee – an important step in the right direction.

NMA’s Clear National Agenda

            Our Association always encouraged and helped each of our members to present his/her views on important issues.  This involved time, hard work, and a commitment to putting mariners’ thoughts on paper.  We learned early-on that unless we could reduce valid mariner complaints to writing that moaning, ranting, and unrecorded telephone conversations are simply lost to the wind.  On the other hand, written correspondence has a life of its own!

            In 2000, our Report #R-201 presented documentary evidence from 58 mariners that they were overworked and their work-hours were exploited.  Although this report was widely circulated, the Coast Guard Marine Safety Directorate chose to ignore the report.  In 2004, Congress mandated a Coast Guard study on Crew Endurance Management (CEMS) and received it a year later.  In 2010, Congress directed the Coast Guard to require all inspected vessels to maintain Official Logbooks and keep accurate records of mariners’ hours-of-service.  Four years later, the Marine Safety Directorate still had not acted on this requirement.  Our Association, using an accumulated series of reports compiled a Report to Congress(1) on violations of the 12-hour work day.  In May 2014, our Association petitioned the Coast Guard for a rulemaking on this issue, and Docket #USCG-2014-0442 was opened at our request.  After fifteen years, we still hope to put an end to the unlimited work-hour demands by many maritime employers.  Unbelievably, well into the 21st. century, we still must convince Congress that a 12-hour workday limit should apply to both Officers and Ratings.  [(1)NMA Report #R-370, Rev. 4.]

            Although the towing and barge industry trade association AWO pushed the CEMS concept to its limit, we suspect that their underlying aim was to justify an extended work day of fifteen hours for ratings (i.e., unlicensed engineers, deckhands, tankermen and cooks) and to further reduce crew size at our mariners’ expense.  While our 

Association supports the “scientific aspects” of the Coast Guard’s CEMS program, we do not support the continued abuse of our mariners’ health and safety by working them to death.  Our Report #R-412 shows one case where a major towing company literally worked Engineer Gary Duncan to death!  Report #R-412-A, Rev.1 reflects a near-death experience and permanent disability of Chief Engineer Leon Manderson on an OSV.  Our Association remains vigilant and active on the issue of fair treatment for our mariners and has no intention of backing off.

            Training and working with the trade union movement opened many doors for our Association during the past 15 years so that we are able to function in Washington in a limited way and present our issues to the Coast Guard, their “parent” Department of Homeland Security, and other Executive-branch agencies, as well as to Congress.  Nevertheless, it costs a great deal of money just to travel to Washington and cities where Federal Advisory Committees meet and stay for several days to conduct business.  This is where the support from donations became vitally important.  Since we are not a labor union, we cannot engage in collective bargaining with individual employers to obtain higher salaries, improved benefits, and better working conditions.  However, we refuse to turn our backs on documented mariner abuses by individual employers.

            Although many of our mariners express strong political beliefs, our Association does not engage in partisan politics.  Our issues are limited in number and are available in writing.(1)  [(1)NMA Report #R-350, Rev. 7.]

            It was unfortunate that far more mariners used our services than supported us with annual dues.  However, the day of the “free lunch” is over.  Mariners who need our active assistance must be turned aside and directed to our publications.  Donations will have to absorb some of our expenses simply to maintain an active website.  NMA’s work with a select group of attorneys ensures that mariners who are injured on the job can receive adequate legal advice and direction.  Unfortunately, representation by a qualified admiralty attorney is expensive.  Consequently, we emphasize the importance of safety in preventing injuries and death, and support and encourage reports from those Counselors who help injured mariners recover from injuries.(1)  [(1)Refer to NMA Report #R-350, Rev. 7, Issue “Y”.]

A Few Good Men and Women

            In the past, when we solicited membership in the National Mariner’s Association it was a family membership.  We wanted to represent mariners who were, or sought to become, professionals in the maritime industry.  We looked for supporters in the ranks of those who…

  • instinctively told the truth as they saw it;
  • intended to abide by existing laws and regulations as they knew and understood them;
  • were willing to use their knowledge and experience to work to change and improve laws, regulations, and policies wherever necessary;
  • were willing to learn anything they needed to know to perform their jobs creditably;
  • were not blinded by an inflated ego;
  • respected family values;
  • were willing to do a day’s work for a day’s pay,
  • were willing to exercise qualities of leadership whenever called for.
  • were willing to voluntarily share their knowledge with other mariners but expected to be paid when for their services when used as “trainers.”

            We still believe these are all “good” qualities and are goals worthy of attaining even as mariners slowly work their way along a career path.

NMA Publications – Research Reports and Newsletters

            Our Association prepared almost 230 active research reports that are in our library.  To the best of our ability to keep up with changes, we updated these reports when we obtained new information so as to maintain an updated overview of each topic including, in some cases, copies of recent government reports so we could quickly respond to public inquiries. 

For many years, Captain J. David Miller posted our research reports and newsletters on the NMA website’s home page.  In January 2008, he transferred the information on that website to a new NMA website with a new host.  NMA studied several dozen issues that concerned our mariners and reported in detail on each of them.  This was the key to our undertakings from the beginning and especially after we became an independent organization in mid-2003!  

            One of our most important works was the “Yellow Book” assembled by Captain Ray Adams and his crew in 2000 and is still available as our Report #R-201, Mariners Speak Out on Violation of the 12-Hour Workday.  The fact that the Coast Guard and management “stonewalled” the report and tried to obscure all it states and implies was to their great discredit.  The report gives a remarkable snapshot of how many of our mariners were mistreated fifteen years ago and shows how little has changed since then.  This obstruction also shows why NMA actively challenged the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Directorate’s to maintain continued “superintendence” over the U.S. Merchant Marine in light of their many failures.  We were not a voice in the wilderness on this issue and were not the only ones to see too many examples of the Marine Safety Directorate’s unbridled arrogance and lack of effective leadership to allow it to continue to victimize our mariners.  The violation of health, safety, and welfare as well as hours-of-service regulations and statutes led to our presenting the matter to Congress and to forcefully request rulemaking on these issues in 2014.  Our issues with the Coast Guard’s lack of attention to the industry’s lack of comprehensive personal injury reporting remains an important topic with the DHS Inspector General’s office at this time.

            One area where we expended much effort lay in publishing the “NMA News” a newsletter for mariners published every couple of months to keep our mariners posted on important issues.  We published 94 issues to date with a final issue scheduled.  Many articles in the Newsletter were instructional and intended to reflect “best practices” or direct mariners to areas to improve their knowledge and understanding of the industry.  We urged all mariners to spread the news that our newsletter was fully accessible on the website.  We were disappointed to find that availability of a printed copy “on the boat” appeared to have a much greater impact although the cost of printing and postage proved to be prohibitive!  We urged mariners to print copies of the newsletter on their own computers and share it with others to increase our support, but there were few signs that this was ever done.