MARAD Cancels Cadet Shipping

John Konrad
Total Views: 11711
November 3, 2021

by Captain John Konrad (gCaptain) Last night, during an “industry call” that began with a plead not to share this information with journalists, the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) announced it would “pause” the next cycle of cadet shipping, citing the ongoing Midshipman X sexual assault and sexual harassment scandal. The letter comes just days after the chairmen of six congressional committees wrote a letter to Department of Transportation Secretary Buttigieg calling for the resignation of the Superintendent of the US Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) and the immediate suspension of cadet shipping nationwide.

The letter contains strong promises to fix the problem and to ‘ensure perpetrators are brought to justice’ but makes no mention of the enormous white elephant in the room which is the fact that USMMA is only one of seven maritime academies in the United States that operate with MARAD taxpayer support. This letter does not address the hundreds of young cadets from the other six academies who ship out on the same US-flagged commercial ships as USMMA students. The letter does nothing to help recent college graduates who sail aboard these same ships. The letter also does not mention serious allegations of harassment aboard MARAD’s fleet of federal training ships which they are obligated to administer under the United States Code Of Federal Regulations 46 – 310.4.

When asked about the training ships and state school cadet shipping programs, MARAD would only provide a short off-the-record statement deflecting our questions to other organizations.

The following are the questions posed by gCaptain that continue to go unanswered:

What federal entity is in charge of investigating the alleged rape of a USMMA student?

It’s been almost over a month since Midshipman X’s report went public, why have arrests not been made?

Has Midshipman X been interviewed?

Has Midshipman X’s sea partner been interviewed? Is he cooperating with investigators?

What federal entity is in charge of investigating the alleged rapes and sexual harassements of state maritime academy students?

What federal entity is in charge of investigating the assault and hospitalization of a cadet aboard the MARAD owned training ship Empire State detailed in this MLA report?

Has MARAD cooperated in the investigation of this incident?

Maritime Legal Aid claims that no reports of assaults have been made by captains of MARAD’s training ships to the USCG in 30 years. Have reports of sexual assault been made to the ship’s owner MARAD as per 46 CFR 310.4.?

The following is the letter sent to USMMA Midshipman yesterday.

Dear Midshipmen: 

We write to you today with an update on the letter sent a few weeks ago from DOT and MARAD about our commitment to work with all of you to address sexual assault and harassment (SASH) at United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) and throughout the maritime industry. As we promised, over the past several weeks, we have met, spoken with, and heard from many of you to discuss both how Sea Year is organized and conducted and the larger issue of SASH at USMMA and throughout the maritime industry. U.S. Transportation

Secretary Pete Buttigieg, as well as the three of us, have also had meetings with Academy leadership. faculty, and staff, alumni: leaders from the maritime industry, maritime labor, and the state maritime Academics, and leaders from the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Transportation Command, the U.S. Coast Guard, and experts in the field of SASH in both military and academic settings. In addition, we have closely examined the policies and procedures regarding SASH currently in place at USMMA and in the maritime industry. 

We are awed and inspired by your thoughtfulness, poise, and passion for service. We also know that you sought appointments to the Merchant Marine Academy precisely because you want to pursue careers at sea and ashore that will advance the security and economic wellbeing of our nation. We understand that obtaining sea time is a critical part of USMMA’s education and essential to the credentialing process and that it is the USMMA’s long-standing tradition unique among U.S. maritime academics of providing all sea time on commercial vessels that led so many of you to choose USMMA.

We have also heard from many midshipmen and alumni-women and men—how much they valued their training at sea. We also believe that USMMA midshipmen must have a safe and respectful environment in which to pursue their studies on land and at sea with zero tolerance for SASH. To achieve this, we must implement strong measures to prevent SASH, remove barriers to reporting if these crimes do occur. ensure perpetrators are held accountable and brought to justice, and provide unwavering support and assistance to survivors. 

Our conversations have generated many recommendations for both immediate and longer-term measures to improve safety on campus and at sea for King’s Point cadets and for all mariners and we look forward to receiving your feedback and additional ideas in the days ahead. 

Over the past few weeks, we have made significant progress towards implementing several of these measures, and are deeply grateful for the creativity, dedication, and hours of hard work by USMMA, MARAD, and DOT staff, and the leadership of the U.S. Coast Guard, maritime industry, and maritime labor. 

On Friday, the chairs of the Congressional authorizing committees with jurisdiction over USMMA officially asked us to formalize these measures into a public written action plan that includes detailed steps that will be taken to strengthen protections for cadets at sea before cadets sail again. We will develop this together with the entire maritime community for review by the leadership of these committees. 

In light of this, we have made the extremely difficult decision to pause the next Sea Year sailing temporarily. It is our hope to have a plan quickly that unites the entire maritime community and that we can present to Congress so that you can resume sailing in December. This decision was one of the most difficult we have faced. 

We know that all USMMA midshipmen and their families are counting on us to take every possible step to keep them safe while also ensuring they complete the training they need to pursue their chosen careers. 

We recognize that this comes at a time when you have already been tested through nearly two years of profound disruptions and adjustments resulting from the COVID pandemic. While we know that this decision will be disappointing to many, we also expect that as leaders who have chosen the path of service, you will support it and each other. 

We are committed to continuing to work with midshipmen, faculty, staff, alumni, the state maritime academics, carriers, labor, the Coast Guard, and the Congress to strengthen safety throughout the maritime industry and to foster an inclusive climate in which assault, harassment, and discrimination are not tolerated. We are also committed to ensuring that you receive the education and training that is needed to graduate ready to embark on careers throughout the maritime industry and in the U.S. military.

As part of that engagement, we will be establishing a midshipmen advisory committee that will work with our USMMA Advisory Board to give you a voice in decision making.

Finally, we understand that one of the reasons that midshipmen have hesitated to come forward to report incidents is fear of retaliation. We want to remind all midshipmen that you have enrolled in an institution that is educating you to lead with integrity, honor, and dedication. Retaliation has no place in our community and will not be tolerated. We appreciate your commitment to supporting each other.

USMMA leadership will convene a series of meetings this week—including an all-hands meeting with midshipmen on Wednesday and a town hall with the broader Kings Point community later in the week to provide everyone an opportunity to continue these critical discussions. (Details will follow for both.)

This is a challenging time for USMMA and for the entire maritime industry. We stand in unwavering support of all survivors of SASH at sea and throughout the entire campus, and we pledge to continue to work closely with you as we navigate the way forward.


Polly Trottenberg,
Deputy Secretary USDepartment Of Transportation

Lucinda Lessley
Acting MARAD Administrator

VADM Jack Buono
Superintendant USMMA

OCR text from a 2 November 2021 US DOT Letter to USMMA Midshipmen.

While this letter is detailed and heartfelt it feels almost criminal that MARAD has sent no letter to the families of midshipmen at the other six academies who sail as cadets aboard the same exact ships as USMMA cadets. Nor have they provided any support or guidance to the recent graduates of USMMA who continue to sail aboard these same ships today. Nor has MARAD provided any updates on the investigation or possible arrest of Midshipman X’s alleged rapist. Nor have they begun investigating allegations of sexual harassment aboard MARAD owned training ships under the command of MARAD’s uniformed USMS officers.

While it is clear that MARAD is taking the Midshipman X case seriously, it is also clear that it’s an organization that is out of touch with the commercial shipping industry it is federally mandated to advocate for. This has been a problem for decades but is violently acute today considering the intensity of Midshipman X’s allegations, the depth of national security concerns and global inflationary pressures caused by the worst shipping crisis in decades.

Related Book: The Abandoned Ocean: A History of United States Maritime Policy by Andrew Gibson and Arthur Donovan

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