Watch: gCaptain’s Impassioned Call For Change

John Konrad
Total Views: 252
September 15, 2020

It’s time, to be honest. gCaptain is overwhelmed and the industry is breaking.

(Note: This is part one of a two part video. Click here to watch PART2)

And here’s why…

Right now gCaptain is working on stories about
The 2 million barrel VLCC New Diamon on fire and drifting.
150,000 Mauritians protesting the Wakashio bunker spill.
a cable layer that’s currently in flames
The Waymon L Boyd dredge explosion in corpus,
The delayed salvage of the Golden Ray.
The Stellar Banner grounding investigation.
The Hoegh Xiamen explosion in Jacksonville.
The Alanis and Florence Spirit collision in Canada
Multiple hurricanes bearing down on the GOM
China challenging freedom of navigation
A total collapse of the cruise industry
Mass layoffs offshore and at big companies like ABS
Multiple US shipping companies near collapse
The Bonhomme Richard Fire.
The navy responders refusing harbor tug help.
Why the USS Zumwalt cost $8B and doesn’t work.
Why the Bonhomme Richard $8B vessel is not protected by a single fireboat.
The USS Fitzgerald NTSB report finally being released 3 years later.
Why the Navy is continuing its gangway up order after suicides.
The abysmal state of the MARAD and sealift fleets.
The fires aboard our only 2 icebreakers.
An explosion in Beirut
Sexual assault allegations at numerous maritime academies.
Diversity and inclusion initiatives.
Hundreds of thousands of mariners stuck at sea,
and a IMO ‘expert’ who’s telling people that carcinogens are “nature’s skin cream’.

And that does not include what I haven’t mentioned publically.

The list just goes on, and on.

But the straw that broke the camel’s back and caused me to film this video today was a message from a friend about a death aboard a Pacific Drilling Rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

For the first time in gCaptain history, I told someone that a single life does not matter. That gCaptain can not investigate that death that we don’t have time.


What has stuck most in my mind since COVID started is the one man in our industry who has fought harder than the rest. Captain Robert Cook, president of the Organization of Black Maritime College Graduates who has been fighting for the advancement of his members for 27 years.

27 Years.

27 years and countless young, bright, talented OBMG cadets have graduated, entered our industry and have risen to the ranks of Captain, Chief Engineer, and Pilot. Not bad. I’m a captain myself, and proud of that achievement. But look around the board rooms of our industry’s leadership and you will see his job is not finished.

I have daily discussions with Ally Cedeno of Women offshore and she works harder than anyone I know and has so much more work to do. In 1974 WISTA was formed and that same year Kathy Metcalf first walked down the passageways of King’s Point, among the first women to attend any service academy.

46 years and there is so much more to do.

Meanwhile, a battle has been fighting on social media over sexual harassment and rape and nobody is certain of the facts but everyone acknowledges it’s shaking some of our most valued institutions to the core.

So I traveled to Susan B Anthony’s house then walked to WEB DuBouise’s childhood home and then read his books. This led me to other books by Robert Caro about Robert Moses and Lyndon B Johnson. Books about strong men who did great things but also made mistakes.

And it led me to a speech by then US Senator Hubert Humphrey which I think resonates with the situation the maritime community faces today… so I reworked it a bit and turned on the camera.

Admiral Buzby , shipmates, fellow Americans:
I realize that in speaking in favor of an investigation report on mariner rights and the state of the US Merchant Marine that I’m dealing with a charged issue — with an issue which has been confused by emotionalism on all sides of the fence. I realize that there are here today friends and colleagues of mine, many of them, who feel just as deeply and keenly as I do about this issue and who are yet in complete disagreement with me.

My respect and admiration for these men and their views is great. It is now far greater because of the sincerity, the courtesy, and the forthrightness with which many of them have argued in our prolonged discussions since I published my last article title “This is not a drill“.

Because of this very great respect — and because of my profound belief that we have a challenging task to do here — because good conscience, decent morality, demands it — I feel I must rise at this time to support a report — the investigation report — a report that spells out our situation, a report that the people of this country can and will understand, and a report that they will enthusiastically acclaim on the great issue of the merchant marine.

Now let me say this at the outset that this proposal is made for no single region. Our proposal is made for no single class, for no single racial or religious group in mind. All maritime regions, all of the industry segments, all political parties, shared in our precious heritage of American freedom. All the states and all the regions have seen at least some of the infringements of that freedom — all people — get this — all people, white and black, all groups, all racial groups, all shipowners, all shipyards, all servicemen of all branches, all ordinary sailors, able-bodied sailors, and bosuns. All Masters and Chief Engineers. All tugboat, ferry, and launch drivers. All commercial fishermen. All drillers, roughnecks, and roustabouts. And all land-loving citizens who drive on highways, choaked by exhaust fumes and traffic have been the victims at the time[s] in this nation of — let me say — vicious discrimination against the US Merchant Marine.

Make no mistake these problems are not limited to the borders of America’s economic exclusion zone. This is a global problem a problem created by the siloization of industry segments.

Silo-iz-ation that’s the critical word. That is the root of the problems that face us today. That’s the malignant tumor growing in the heart of the US merchant fleet.

The most dangerous idea ever created by man can be boiled down to three words Divide and Conquer

Divide and conquer is a critical term. Is a political and sociological term. It is the gaining and maintaining power by breaking up larger concentrations of power into pieces that individually have less power than the one implementing the strategy. But it is more than a term it is an idea. An idea that was created by man and can be dissembled by men.

It is an old term that dates back five hundred years. It was used by Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Louis the eleventh, the British empire, the dutch empire, most empires. It was used by the Romans to fraction the Jewish nation and by Hitler to murder them. And it has been used by Americans too.

This is not a history lesson. I am not interested in laying blame or focusing on the past. What I’m interested in are the facts. And the fact is that an insidious compilation has lead to the division and conquering of American merchant marine interests and has resulted in the destruction of US-flagged shipping.

You never see tanker captains at cruise events.
You don’t see cruise ship owners at US Navy events.
You don’t see Naval officers at marine money events.
You don’t see hedge fund managers at tug boat events.
Etcetera, excetera, etcetera.

This is not just a domestic issue. Maritime interests have been fragmented and siloed throughout the world and sailors from each country have little opportunity to communicate beyond passing arrangements on the VHF.

I call on the global community to unite under the banner of truth but action needs to start here today.

  • A decade ago American’s were 12th in marine finance, today – thanks to hedge funds, derivatives, and finch we are #1.
  • A decade ago we had no media voice. Today we have the most read maritime publications in the world.
  • A decade ago American top technology companies were infants, now they are 25% of the global market cap.
  • A decade ago we had no votes in the IMO, and while that’s still true, the top three flags, Panama, Liberia, and the Marshall Islands are all located in North America.
  • A decade ago our nation’s top concern was terrorists. Today the pentagon’s top worry is supplying our troops in peer-to-peer conflicts across vast oceans.
  • A decade ago spam was just an annoyance. Today America leads in cybersecurity both at land and on the sea.

We have the money, we have the voice, we have the technology, we have the votes, we have the support to do great things. We just need to do them.

There is one more thing we need. In my paper last week, which caught the attention of the top levesl of our government. I said what we need most is a leader. In dozens of conversations last week I realized I am wrong. We have great leaders.

We have Admiral Buzby, who got us new training ships, but special interests have slowed him down.

We have Secretary Chao, a female minority of the highest intellect and deepest heart, but she get’s villainized by the press for conflicts of interest when she supports shipping.

We have Peter Navarro, Larry Kudlow, and less recognizable names in the White House working on maritime solutions.

We have other advocates in Washington who deeply understand shipping including Wilbur Ross, General Lyons, Admiral Schultz, Rear Admiral Wettlaufer, Admiral Thad Allen, Ryan Moody at ABS.

We have academic leaders like Jack Bouno, Mike Alfultis, Sal Mercogliano, and astronaut Fossum.

And we have leaders on left too like Dr. Sylvia Earle and Astronaut Kathryn Sullivan of NOAA. And Nishan Degnarain of Forbes.

We have green ocean leaders like Bob Kunkel, Jim Lawrence, Antoon Van Collie, Bethann Rooney, Mike Stamatis, Eric Johansen, and Dr. Sam Yohalem.

We have technology leaders from shipowners Bezos and Musk and Schmitt to regional leaders like Mark Huang, Alissa Peterson to startup CEOs like cargometric’s Scott Borgerson and blkSAIL’s Mohamed Saad Seddik.

And so many more I can think for. We have smart talented leaders of US Shipping companies, Maritime Unions, port authorities, banks, hedge funds, and technology clusters.

We have Leaders.

We have the leadership to win. We don’t need another leader, we need a statesman! A uniting force that can deliver America a plan not created by him but created by connection. A statesman who can work domestically on a coordinated response and lead the world shipping community,

A statesman who forges bonds.

A statesman who forges bonds on the anvil of truth.

I can not begin to list the number of wrong assumptions the average American Mariner and industry insider thinks are true.

Ask yourself these questions:

Why are marine highway initiatives failing?
Why are American ships so costly to produce?
Why were marine hospitals closed and mariners stripped of benefits?
Why is MARAD so ineffective?
Why are naval ships running into each other?
Why is the US Flagged Shipping failing?

These are questions I have pondered. And they are questions I have asked people at all levels of our industry and most of the answers I get are wrong.

We need a statesman who’s willing to investigate the truth. Not true with the purpose to convict but the truth so we can identify problems and find solutions. We need to move forward with the facts in hand and use them to enrich – not punish – stakeholders.

Discuss this video on our forum here:

Impassioned Call for saving the US Merchant Marine

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