Cape Cod Lobsterman Eaten (and Spit Out) By Humpback Whale
A Cape Cod lobster diver is thanking his lucky stars to be alive after he was apparently eaten, and then spit out, by a large humpback whale. The story has...
By Clay Maitland
Shipping, it is often said, is a house of many mansions. It is characterized by different qualities, and varies according to the nationality of the ships themselves, and their owners. Here in the United States, however, one thing cuts across all of the niche markets and special interests: we need leadership. Nowhere is this more apparent then in the somewhat veiled circumstances of the firing (because that is what it was) of Admiral Philip H. Greene Jr. as Superintendent of the United States Merchant Marine Academy, also known as King’s Point, located on Long Island Sound, within sight of the New York State Maritime Academy, across the water in the Bronx. This has been followed by an order from the United States Maritime Administration (MARAD), closing down GMATS, a self-funded graduate training program based at the Academy. Now MARAD is taking away the Academy’s training ship, the KING’S POINTER, transferring it to Galveston, Texas, where it may be refurbished, and could be made available to the Texas Maritime Academy (Texas A&M) for its own training needs.
Admiral Greene’s removal is the third such incident in fairly rapid succession since shortly before the start of the Obama administration. While various reasons have been given, the fact that the superintendency of King’s Point has become more of a merry-go-round than the presidency of some Central American banana republics in former times has made the job highly unattractive, and the butt of sarcastic remarks.
Significantly, the present Maritime Administrator, David Matsuda, has been the subject of widespread dissatisfaction and, to a degree, open expressions of contempt. Mr. Matsuda comes from a career as a political staffer on Capitol Hill. His background lies in railroad regulation, and his lack of knowledge of shipping became apparent even before his appointment at the start of the Obama administration. It is said that he owes his position very largely to the support of Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey.
In bygone times, MARAD Administrators (as the head of the agency is described) were selected after a careful vetting by U.S. maritime unions, and leading figures in the private sector. Recently, the same unions issued a blast denouncing MARAD for the production and issuance of a report that graphically described the drawbacks of U.S. flag restrictions, particularly in terms of cost, in comparison with U.S-owned tonnage registered in foreign flags.
It is not clear why American maritime unions were willing to accept Mr. Matsuda’s appointment in the first place, particularly as they have now turned on him. It is also unclear why the U.S.-flag maritime industry, which is heavily staffed by alumni of King’s Point, is so docile in face of the steady amputation of essential parts of the Academy itself.
King’s Point is largely a product of the Second World War, at a time when mariners were desperately needed to crew the gray-hulled Liberty and Victory ships and tankers that, produced in huge numbers, made a major contribution to Allied victory. Today, it and the other American maritime academies maintained as state-chartered institutions, still produce large numbers of well-trained merchant mariners. But if the U.S. government is seemingly oblivious to the importance of the shipping sector, there is no sign that the maritime industry itself is willing to step forward in defense of its vital educational institution on the north shore of Long Island. It has been observed that the industry’s lack of leadership, and indeed lack of concern, resembles its response – or lack there of – on many other issues. The industry, in the United States and indeed overseas, is very short of individuals willing to take the risk of speaking out, and perhaps of being unpopular. This has sometimes been called “middle-managementitis”. As the world economic recession threatens the survival of many shipping companies regardless of the flag that they fly, there is a sense that much of the maritime industry here in the United States is running out of time.
In the United States, we need a strong and focused government maritime policy. This policy should contain the following elements:
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