Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday Morning Mariner: The legal response to Deepwater Horizon

US Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar met with drilling company executives last week to hear their concerns about the government's "slow pace" in issuing drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico. It's the latest chapter in the story of the US government's response to the Deepwater Horizon sinking and spill earlier this year, a response which has been controversial at times.

The drilling mortarium. In the immediate aftermath of the spill in April, the Obama administration declared a moratorium on all drilling. When a federal judge struck that down, Salazar in July declared a new moratorium based on new facts and allowing the drilling industry a say in the process. This last moratorium was lifted last month, but many small operators in the Gulf of Mexico say the government is too slow at issuing new permits.

The CLEAR ACT. In July, the US House of Representatives resurrected a 2009 bill and passed it as the Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources Act of 2010, or CLEAR Act. The Act was sent to the Senate in August but may not be taken up before the current lame-duck Congress adjourns next month. If passed, CLEAR would
  • reorganize the current government bureaucracy to put leasing and enforcement functions in separate departments
  • eliminate the $75 million cap current placed on liabilities related to oil spills
  • require oil company CEO's to certify that their companies' well designs are safe, that their blowout preventers have redundant systems and backups for all contingencies, and that the company has a backup in case all the preventer systems fail
  • require third-party certification of the above systems
The bill has been criticized by people in the industry and some lawmakers, who say the bill will be a disproportionate burden on smaller operators.

Lawsuits and claims. The spill has resulted in more than 130 lawsuits and 23,000 individual claims. BP and other companies involved in the incident have been paying some claims directly to those affected by the spill. There have been some complaints that the response is slow, but companies say the large number of claims -- legitimate or not -- slows down the process.

The next two years should see a number of lawsuits in the case on a number of issues ranging from wrongful death to the Endangered Species Act. Sorting things out could take awhile: The 1989 Exxon Valdez spill still has pending claims and lawsuits.

Read the full text of the CLEAR Act here.

For information on how to file a claim, check the following websites:

If BP or the GCCF denies your claim, or it goes unsettled more than 90 days, try

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Maritime Superpowers: The Dutch Republic

The country now known as The Netherlands became a world economic power in the 16th and 17th centuries, holding its own in the both markets and battlefields against such powerhouses as Spain, France, and Great Britain. Today The Netherlands is still one of the major shipping powers of the world.

Early years. Since Charlemagne's time, the various small cities and countries comprising modern Netherlands and Belgium were part of the Holy Roman Empire. The city of Bruges became a major seaport in the late Middle Ages thanks to a canal that connected it to the North Sea. Long a major wool market, the city had expanded its wool trade to the British Isles in the 12th century. A trade agreement with Genoa in 1277 made Bruges the major northern European port for Mediterranean goods. By the 14th century, silting in the area now known as the Hey Zwin nature preserve cut off Bruges, so the center of trade moved first to Antwerp, then eventually to Amsterdam.

Amsterdam was ideally situated for trade to the North Sea, the Atlantic, and the Baltic. The city was only a small fishing village as late as the 12th century, but it soon became a major trading center for grain, wood, hides, beer, wine, salt and crockery. Fishing -- including whaling -- remained important to the local economy, however, so important that warships were sent out in later years to guard the herring fleet.

Independence. Amsterdam also became a destination for refugees from all over Europe in the 1500s: French Catholics, Portuguese Jews, German Protestants, all fleeing religious persecution. Many went to work in the yards or on the ships that were key to Dutch maritime growth. The Holy Roman Emperor had granted the Dutch the right to build warships in 1488 for the purpose of protecting their growing merchant fleet, a decision his successors would come to regret two centuries later. Several factors led to the generations-long struggle between the Dutch and the Spanish-dominated Empire: religious differences, taxes, and disagreements over the imperial succession. In 1648 the Dutch fleet defeated the Spanish at Gibraltar, and the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands was born.

The Dutch East India Company. The Dutch were well into their struggle for independence in 1595, and looking for ways to cut off imperial trade. The Portuguese, now part of the Empire, had for years held a monopoly on spices from the Far East. They had created a scarcity, intentionally or otherwise, of many of those spices, especially pepper. Most galling was the way Dutch merchants had been shut out of the profits. So several investors put together an expedition of four ships under explorer Cornelis de Houtman to find away around the Portuguese stranglehold on the spice trade.

De Houtman's expedition to West Java was a disaster, beset by disease, desertion, pirates, and de Houtman's general lack of respect for the natives. While his voyage barely broke even, it gave huge psychological boost to Dutch ambitions, and for the next several years dozens of ships headed to what is now Indonesia. The Dutch government took a hand in 1602, chartering the Dutch East India Company to conduct the country's trade in the Indian Ocean area. It was a huge success, frequently returning investments at eighteen percent or more and dominating European trade in spices, textiles, tea, sugar, and other goods for two centuries. At its height it had nearly twice the ships of its largest rival, the British East India Company (4700 compared to 2600).

The Dutch Empire. In large part due to the success of the East India Company, the Dutch Republic built a world-wide empire of colonies in not only southeast Asia but in South America (modern Guiana and Brazil), south Africa, west Africa (modern Ghana), and North America (New Amsterdam, now New York City).

Although slavery was forbidden in The Netherlands, it was permitted in the colonies and Dutch ships did a brisk business in the African slave trade to the Americas. During the so-called Golden Age of the Dutch Empire, more than 10,000 ships registered in Amsterdam engaged in transporting slaves to the New World.

Decline and fall. Dutch economic success made for jealous neighbors, and a series of wars with Britain and France commenced almost as soon as the Republic gained independence from Spain. Internal disagreements ultimately weakened the Republic, though, leading to a reduced ability to project its power overseas. Corruption and scandal in the East India Company lead to its dissolution in the late 1700s. In 1795 the Revolutionary French Army invaded, ending the Dutch Republic.

The Netherlands today. Like most European powers, The Netherlands lost the last of its colonial possessions in the decades following World War II, although some if its Caribbean colonies remain part of the Kingdom of The Netherlands for some purposes. The country itself remains a major maritime power, with more than 600 ships sailing under the Dutch flag. The port of Rotterdam, southwest of Amsterdam, is the busiest port in Europe and vies with Shanghai and Singapore as largest port in the world, serving more than 36,000 ships and handling more than 400 million tons of cargo in 2008.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Monday Morning Mariner: Diesel Emissions Standards

If you own, operate, service or build marine diesel engines, you probably already know that emission standards for these engines started getting tighter in the the mid-90s, and the regulations, both national and international, are ratcheting up almost every year for the next several years.

In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates air pollution and sets standards for machinery that produces pollution. I once had an EPA lawyer as a passenger on several cruises who was surprised that the agency didn't inspect our vessels. I told her I had never in more than a decade seen an EPA inspector and had never heard of anyone who had. In the ever more restrictive regulatory environment, that may change, and soon.

The EPA divides marine diesel engines into two types, those with a cylinder displacement below 30 liters, and those with a cylinder displacement 30 liters and above. The first type includes everything from the smallest diesel engines up to the main propulsion on tugs, towboats, and small freighters and passenger vessels. These engines may even include the auxiliary engines on larger vessels. The second type -- so-called Category 3 diesel engines -- includes the main propulsion on most large ships. The stated goal of the new regulations is to reduce both the sulfur particulate emissions (PPM) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) content, both of which "contribute to public health problems."

Requirements for small diesel engines. The new regulations require that emissions of PPM be cut but 90 percent of current levels and that NOx emissions be cut by up to 80 percent by the time the rule is fully implemented. The rules also include:

  • the first-ever emissions standards for remanufactured engines with capacity more than 600kw
  • emission standards for newly-built engines, which began in 2009
  • emission standards for newly-built engines with "high-efficiency catalytic after-treatment technology" built beginning in 2014.

Requirements for Category 3 diesel engines. Larger engines built after April of 2010 will have to meet the same standards called for in Annex VI of the MARPOL treaty (International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships). Not only will newly-built engines have to conform to these standards, all large marine diesel engines will have to meet emission requirements reducing NOx by 80 percent beginning in 2016.

Compliance strategies. There are several ways operators and engine manufacturers are trying to comply with the regulations:

  • Use of biodiesel. Biodiesel produces much reduced PPM, NOx is another matter. Some laboratory studies show more NOx emissions in biodiesel than in standard diesel, while some "real world" studies show the opposite. Almost all the studies were conducted in a non-marine environment.
  • Electronic controls. Replacing mechanical valves, cylinders, and fuel injectors -- the latter often combined with high-pressure pumps -- with electronically-controlled ones can not only reduce emissions, but increase fuel efficiency.
  • Repowering. Several manufacturers such at MTU, Lugger, and John Deere are building diesel engines specifically geared to meet the new emission standards, but other companies are looking at alternative ways to meet the requirements. A recent trial by Foss Maritime found significantly reduced emissions, fuel costs, and engine hours by switching to the engine/battery hybrid technology similar to that used by automobiles like the Prius. Smaller vessels are finding microturbine gas engines efficient and needing less periodic maintenance.
  • Processing emissions. Generator exhaust in particular can be reduced by filtering it with water, or using catalytic or heating elements.

For a study on the health effects of diesel emissions from the The Annals of Occupational Hygiene, click here.

A comparison of the sulfur PPM from various types of diesel fuel can be found at DieselNet here.

For the EPA's information page on NOx, click here.

The text of the EPA rules regulating marine diesel engines can be found in several parts of the Code of Federal Regulations Title 40.
  • For marine engines under 37kw, check here and here.
  • For marine engines 37kw and above check here and here.
  • For marine engines more than 130kw check here.

For the text of Marpol Annex VI check here.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Misunderstood Mariners: Samuel Eliot Morison

"America was discovered accidentally by a great seaman who was looking for something else; when discovered it was not wanted; and most of the exploration for the next fifty years was done in the hope of getting through or around it. America was named after a man who discovered no part of the New World. History is like that, very chancy." -- Samuel Eliot Morison, The Oxford History of the American People (1965)

Historian and mariner Samuel Eliot Morison was born into a wealthy Boston family in 1887. He attended the prep schools typical of his class, then moved on to Harvard, where he would eventually rise from undergraduate to full professor of history in 1925 after teaching stints at Berkeley and Oxford.

In 1930, Morison and Henry Steele Commager co-wrote the textbook Growth of the American Republic. It's publication would lead to charges that Morison and Commager were racists and apologists for slavery which, they wrote, "there was much to be said for." Throughout the 1950s the two would resist calls to change the tone of the book before finally relenting in 1962.

Morison was an avid sailor, and combined that interest with his academic specialty when researching Admiral of the Ocean Sea, his biography of Christopher Columbus. With some friends, in 1939 Morison outfitted the barkentine Capitana ("near enough to Columbus's ships in rig and burthen") and attempted to re-create Columbus's voyages as nearly as possible because, he wrote in the Preface:
[No] biographer of Columbus appears to have gone to sea in quest of light and truth. And you cannot write a story out of these fifteenth- and sixteenth-century narratives that means anything to a modern reader, merely by studying them in a library with the aid of maps. Such armchair navigation is both dull and futile. It may be compared with those ancient books on natural science that were compiled without field work or experimentation.
Admiral of the Ocean Sea won the Pulitzer Prize in 1942.

At the outbreak of World War II, Morison convinced Franklin Roosevelt to let him document a detailed history of the war as it progressed, so Morison joined the US Navy Reserve as a Lieutenant Commander as part of the project. He served in both theaters of the war, taking part in actions in North Africa and the South Pacific, including the battle of Guadalcanal. Following the war he completed his 15-volume history, later abridging it to one volume for popular release under the title The Two Ocean War.

Morison was promoted to Rear Admiral by the Navy and awarded the Legion Of Merit. In addition to a second Pulitzer for a 1959 biography of John Paul Jones, Morison had a guided-missle frigate named after him, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964.

Morison died in 1976.

Works by Morison available at Googlebooks are

Googlebooks offers parts of the 15-volume History of United States Naval Operations in World War II here. The series can be purchased from the University of Illinois Press, the US Naval Institute Press, or SeaOcean Books.

The Wellington, New Zealand Evening Post published an article about Morison's then-upcoming voyage on the Capitana here. The Harvard Crimson reported on the voyage's return here. Morison's own account of the voyage, written for Life magazine, can be found at Googlebooks here.

Jonathan Zimmerman, Director of the History of Education Program at Steinhardt School of Education, New York University, touches on the Growth of the American Republic controversy in his article "Brown-ing the American Textbook: History, Psychology, and the Origins of Modern Multiculturalism" in the Spring 2004 issue of History of Education Quarterly here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Marine Mammal Protection Act

Maybe you've seen the insurance company's commercial: The mother and calf humpback whale swim through the ocean while the announcer intones about how whale song albums released in the 1960s lead to the worldwide protection of whales (and therefore, by some leap of logic, you should buy their insurance). Indeed it was songs by Judy Collins, The Partridge Family, Country Joe McDonald and others that increased awareness of the plight of whales and other marine mammals, leading the US to adopt the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).

Called the first legislation to take an "ecosystem approach" to wildlife management, the act led to protection of not just endangered but all marine mammal species, and regulated taking, which is the harassing, hunting, capturing, killing, or collecting (or attempting to do any of these things) of marine mammals.

Rules for mariners. Actions by vessels near marine mammals are restricted by regulations adopted by federal agencies under authority of the MMPA. Specific regulations can vary from region to region, but many wildlife watching captains adhere to "Code of Conduct" which calls for staying at least 100 yards from animals, not staying with any individual animal for more than 30 minutes, not cutting off an animals from its group, and not trapping an animal between the vessel and the shore. In southeast Alaska, this code of conduct was adopted into law in 2001 and expanded, forbidding vessels from maneuvering if within 100 yards of a humpback whale, and forbidding "leap-frogging," maneuvering a vessel in front of a whale to try to get it to surface. In Glacier Bay National Park, there are even more stringent rules, including speed limits in "whale waters" whether whales are present or not. On the US east coast, the "no go zone" is expanded to 500 yards around right whales. Other MMPA regulations forbid feeding, touching, or swimming with marine mammals.

Criticisms: MMPA goes too far. Some fishing industry groups say MMPA regulations put animals before people. Gray seals were raiding the pens at some New England fish farms, but the MMPA forbid the fish farmers from doing anything to control the seals. Native American groups have expressed concerns that the law infringes on their traditional and treaty rights.

Criticisms: MMPA doesn't go far enough. The US Navy has been taken task twice, once for using sonar that adversely effected whales, and once for a program to train dolphins to guard a submarine base. Other critics say the act should be expanded to include mammals held in captivity, like at Seaworld.

For a summary of the MMPA, click here. For the complete text, click here.

The National Marine Fisheries Service publishes specific regulations for marine mammal watching here.

The private Pacific Whale Watch Association publishes it guidelines here; they are a little more straightforward than the government publication.

If you like songs with whales in them, try these YouTube videos:

Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday Morning Mariner: Jones Act Update

It is necessary for the national defense and for the proper growth of its foreign and domestic commerce that the United States shall have a merchant marine of the best equipped and most suitable types of vessels sufficient to carry the greater portion of its commerce and serve as a naval or military auxiliary in time of national emergency, ultimately to be owned and operated privately by citizens of the United States. --Merchant Marine Act, 1920

It is important for Presidents to support the Jones Act…I have…supported the Jones Act and will continue to do so as President. --President George W. Bush (2006)

The Jones Act is a vital part of our national defense and supports American workers. As President, I would fully enforce it. The Jones Act should be waived only under rare circumstances… Furthermore, maintaining the American merchant marine fleet is vital to our economy and national security. I would oppose any move to undermine this Act. --Senator Barack Obama of Illinois (2008)

Today I am pleased to introduce legislation that would fully repeal the Jones Act, a 1920s law that hinders free trade and favors labor unions over consumers. --Senator John McCain of Arizona (2010)

A media and public uninformed about the maritime world is one of the reasons I started this blog, and the need for it was never more evident than in recent coverage of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and how clean up efforts were hindered by the Jones Act (for a primer on the Jones Act, see my post Keeping Up With The Jones Act, Part 2). Among the mainstream news outlets getting it wrong were the Christian Science Monitor (see its coverage here) and The Wall Street Journal (see its coverage here). As Transgov Consulting's Richard M. Biter wrote in the August issue of Marine Log

[The] perception that is coming through to the public is that the US has received a large number of offers for assistance from the international maritime community but some obscure 90-year-old law is stopping help from coming to the rescue.

At the time Biter wrote, there were fifteen foreign-flagged vessels assisting with the cleanup, but none required a Jones Act waiver. When all was said and done, the US received help from six different countries or international organizations for the Deepwater Horizon cleanup.

The Jones Act does not unilaterally stop foreign-built vessels from operating in US waters but requires that, for the most part, cargo and passengers carried between US ports be carried on ships 1) built in the US, 2) crewed by American merchant mariners, and 3) registered and flagged in the United States. The Act does make some exceptions. Vessels captured as prizes in war, forfeited by law (such as in drug seizures), or recovered from wrecks may qualify for a coastwise endorsement whatever their origin. In some cases, a foreign-built vessel extensively refitted in a US shipyard may qualify. The US president has the authority to grant exemptions in specific circumstances, such as George W. Bush did following Hurricane Katrina. In the case of oil spills, US law specifically grants an exception in 46 US Code section 55113:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, an oil spill response vessel documented under the laws of a foreign country may operate in waters of the United States on an emergency and temporary basis, for the purpose of recovering, transporting, and unloading in a United States port oil discharged as a result of an oil spill in or near those waters, if

(1) an adequate number and type of oil spill response vessels documented under the laws of the United States cannot be engaged to recover oil from an oil spill in or near those waters in a timely manner, as determined by the Federal On-Scene Coordinator for a discharge or threat of a discharge of oil; and

(2) the foreign country has by its laws accorded to vessels of the United States the same privileges accorded to vessels of the foreign country under this section.

The Open America's Waters Act. On June 25 of this year, Senator John McCain introduced a bill that would change the wording in the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. McCain has long been a Jones Act critic, saying the Act puts an undue burden on consumers in Hawaii, Alaska, and Puerto Rico. He said in 1997, “I would like to see the Jones Act repealed, but I don’t think that’s likely. I don’t think I would get twenty votes if I were to bring it to the floor.” With Obama remaining President for two more years and Democrats retaining control of the Senate in this month's elections, it's unlikely the Open America's Waters Act will even come up for a vote, let alone pass.

If it were to become law, McCain's act would remove the requirement that a ship be built in the United States to be issued a coastwise endorsement. It would not be a full repeal of the Act, however, and other provisions of 46 US Code would remain in place. McCain's proposal would not change the Cargo Preference Act which requires that US government-sponsored cargos be carried (at least in part) on US-built vessels. Current immigration law and merchant mariner documentation and licensing laws would also remain the same.

Reporter Dave Michaels of The Dallas Morning News did a great job getting the story straight here.

Richard M. Biter's op/ed piece "Jones Act: Death or Rebirth" which originally appeared in Marine Log can now be found at here.

Find the complete text of the Open America's Waters Act at Senator McCain's website here.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Maritime Superpowers: Venice

I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs; A palace and a prison on each hand; I saw from out the wave of her structure's rise As from the stroke of the enchanter's wand: A thousand years their cloudy wings expand Around me, and a dying Glory smiles O'er the far times, when many a subject land Look'd to the winged Lion's marble pines, Where Venice sate in state, throned on her hundred isles." --Lord Byron, Childe Harold (canto IV, st. 1)

Early years. The city of Venice was founded by refugees, subjects of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire fleeing the Lombard invasion of northern Italy in the seventh century AD. Although the city nominally remained subject to rule from the Byzantine capital at Constantinople, Venice's power grew until it became a de facto independent state following its breaking of a siege by Charlemagne's son Pepin in AD 811.

The Middle Ages. Under its elected doges (dukes), the Republic of Venice began its maritime empire with an agreement with the Holy Roman Emperor Lothair I, who granted Venice trading rights in exchange for its efforts to fight Slavic and Saracen pirates. This sort of arrangement -- military assistance for favorable trade concessions -- became Venice's standard method of extending its trade reach and wealth at home. In the 11th Century, for instance, Venice supported Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos in his war against the Norman states in Apulia, earning an exemption from taxes for all Venetian merchants doing business in the empire. These tax breaks were key in growing rich from lucrative trade in spices and silks between Europe and the Levant and Egypt.

The Crusades. Two hundred Venetian ships carried the troops in the First Crusade to the Holy Land. In return, Venetian merchants were granted virtual autonomy within the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. Venetian ships were still needed by the time of the Fourth Crusade, but the crusaders were unable to pay. The Venetians made the crusaders work for their passage, first by re-capturing the rebellious city of Hadar in Dalmatia, then capturing and sacking the imperial capital at Constantinople in 1204. The sack not only enriched Venice -- it has been called the most profitable single sacking of a city in world history -- but gained the Republic important territories in the Aegean Sea.

The Renaissance. By the dawn of the Renaissance, Venice had a fleet of more than 3,000 ships, built at the Arsenal shipyard and had established the world's first-ever exchange business in Venezia. The Republic's power was spreading in all directions, with military conquests usually going hand in hand with increased trade and wealth. Even seeming setbacks were often turned to the Republic's advantage, however. For instance, when Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Empire in 1453, Venetian merchants not only managed to keep many of their trade privileges in the city, but eventually won similar privileges in other Ottoman ports. By the end of the Fifteenth Century, Venice was the second-most populous city in Europe (after Paris) and the richest city in the world, having grown rich not only on trade, but on its own homegrown silk, jewelry, and glassblowing industries.

Decline and fall. Such wealth and power was bound to create jealousy, and in 1508 Pope Julius II formed the League of Cambrai, an alliance of neighboring states set on removing some of the Republic's rich territories from its possession. The League would not last. Some territory was indeed taken from Venice, but Julius had a change of heart, realizing that Venice was the only Italian state capable of resisting the Ottoman Turks or a large European power like France. In the end, it was considered a military victory for Venice, but it marked the end of Venetian expansion.

Wars with the Turks, Austria, Spain and the Barbary pirates would mark Venetian history for the next two centuries. Meanwhile, Genoa and other Italian cities challenged Venice's trade superiority in the Mediterranean as Spain, Portugal, France and Britain found trade routes to the East that bypassed the ancient "Silk Road" through the Levant. The ships of the Age of Exploration were also much cheaper to operate than the galleys Venice had been using for a millenium, and could operate farther from shore, further shortening trade routes. Such ships also carried smaller crews and did not require the huge numbers of conscripted rowers the galleys needed. Venice's territory and fleet shrank, until only eleven ships remained to resist Napoleon when he marched on and captured the city in 1797. This marked the end of Venice's thousand years of independence; the city would pass back and forth between various Austrian and Italian kingdoms for the next ninety years until the formation of modern Italy in 1866.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pay Day

The passenger, a high-ranking Canadian civil servant, joined me on the darkening bridge, his third or fourth glass of pinot noir swirling in his hand. "You sailors don't make the same kind of salary as you might on land," he said. "I guess that's the price you pay for working at such a romantic occupation." This was, without a doubt, the most subtle way anyone had ever asked me how much money I make. I didn't answer, of course: I was raised to believe that even asking that question was rude. Instead I said that most mariners probably consider the long weeks away from home and family a greater price than any perceived shortcomings of their paycheck. People are curious, though: how much money do mariners make?

The short answer is, it varies a lot. As James Laurence Pelletier writes in his Mariner's Employment Guide:
Earnings vary widely depending on the particular water transportation position and experience, ranging from the minimum wage in some beginning seaman or mate positions to more than $100,000.00 a year for some experienced captains and ship engineers. In general, annual wages within the water transportation industry are generally greater than in comparable shore side positions even while only working six to eight months a year.
My first job, as a steward on a small cruise ship, paid $35 a day, plus tips which typically earned me an additional $200 to $300 a week. This was on a US-flagged vessel: at the same time, a steward or waiter on a large "flag of convenience" cruise ship was making $300-$500 a month plus tips. This kind of disparity increases as you rise through the ranks: the captain of that small cruise ship, with fewer than 100 pasengers, earns twice what some captains of many full-sized cruise ships with hundred of passengers make.

For all that, the small cruise ships are the service sector of the maritime industry and, like the land-side service sector, pay is relatively low: ordinary seamen (starting deckhands) still only earn $500 to $700 a month, engineers up to $5,000/month, while captains will earn upwards of $350 per day. The Chief Steward, sometimes called the Hotel Manager in this industry, can expect to earn $25,000 - $45,000/year. All these figures are based on work year of 180 to 245 days.

Yachts. Crew on private yachts make out a little better than their colleagues in the small passenger industry. A deckhand on a large yacht can expect to start in the $2,000/month range, the chief steward $3,000, the chief engineer $4,000 - $7,000, and the captain $7,000 - $11,000. These figures are based on a 100-ft yacht with a crew that works at least nine months a year. Captains on "superyachts" (180 feet or more) can earn $20,000/month or more.

Tips. Yacht crews also earn tip income from charters equal to 15- to 20-percent of the cost of the charter. For comparison, a 150-ft. yacht charters for $150,000 to $200,000/week, and carries a crew of 10 to 12, so an average gratuity for that week would be $3000 - $4000 per crew member. Crews on small cruise ships may earn from zerono to several hundred dollars a week, depending on the cruise line's policy.

Work boats. An ordinary seaman can expect to start as low as $90/day, possibly even a bit less on some inland barges, tugs, and towboats, and work their way up to $275/day or more as captain. A licensed engineer on a similar vessel may make nearly as much as the captain. Most such vessels will not have a steward's department, but may have a designated cook who earns $22,000 to $35,000 annually. Typical "hitches" for such crew range from day work only to a couple of week on followed by one to two weeks off.

Off-shore supply vessels. Pay tends to be a little better here than closer to shore, with OS pay starting up to $180/day, $400/day for chief engineers, and about the same for captains. Captains on seismic vessels with dynamic positioning certification and other specialized skills can earn up to $1,000/day. These crews tend to work a 4-week-on/2-week- or 4-week-off schedule, although some will work 6-and-6.

Deep sea vessels. An OS sailing full time may earn a base pay of less than $20,000, but it's more typical -- with overtime -- to earn in the low $30,000 range. It's not unheard of for OSs
to earn as much as $45,000/year. The pay range is about the same for a chief steward on a deep sea vessel. The captain on such a vessel will typically earn at least $400/day, same for the chief engineer. Such crews will generally take a day off at the end of a hitch for day every worked; this is sometimes required by maritime union rules.

Military vessels. President Obama approved a 3.4-percent pay raise for US Navy and Coast Guard mariners last December. Deckhands with less than two years experience start as low as $1447/month, but a Navy Captain (rank O-6) with more than six years of service earns just over $6800.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Monday Morning Mariner: Experience Requirements

US merchant mariners hear so much about training requirements that sea service, actual time on the job, often gets overlooked as a license requirement. Here's some comparisons between merchant mariner service requirements and those in other industries. Time requirements are expressed in hours, based on an eight-hour day as defined by the US Coast Guard. For example, a near coastal OUPV ("Six Pack") captain's license has a sea service requirement of 720 days, translated here as 5,720 hours.

US truck drivers (carrying a Commercial Driver License, or CDL) more than 26,000 lbs.: No experience requirement.

US train engineers: No experience requirement.

US commercial co-pilot: 250 hours (350 hours for regional carriers)

US air taxi captain: US airline transport pilot: 1,500 hours

US OUPV inland: 2,880 hours

US uninspected (1600 - 5000 grt) fishing vessel captain: 5,720 hours
Also master near coastal or oceans 200 grt

UK yacht captain 500gt: 7,200 hours.

US tug captain: 11, 520 hours.
Also master near coastal or oceans 1600 grt.

UK yacht captain 3000gt: 14,400 hours.

US or UK unlimited master: 17, 280 hours.

Some of the information comes from the "Ask Amy" column in the May 2010 edition of Dockwalk.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Cities Beneath The Sea: Atlantis

For in front of the mouth which you Greeks call, as you say, 'the pillars of Heracles,' there lay an island which was larger than Libya and Asia together...Now in this island of Atlantis there existed a confederation of kings, of great and marvelous power, which held sway over all the island, and over many other islands also and parts of the continent.
-- Timaeus, Plato, 360 BC

In five millenia of human seafaring, tales of mythical islands and continents abound, but none holds on to the popular imagination like the lost continent of Atlantis. The first mention of the Lost Continent is in the fourth century BC, in Plato's works Timaeus and Critias. It was only in the 1800s, though, that people really began to take the possible existence of Atlantis seriously, primarily after the publication of Ignatius Donnelly's Atlantis: The Antediluvian World in 1882.

Origins. Although Plato's works suggest that Atlantis sank into the sea in a single day around 9,000 BC, scholars who believe the story is based on true events point to the eruption of the volcano Thera, on the island of Santorini, around 1,600 BC as a more likely date. Modern studies of the Thera eruption estimate it threw four times as much material into the atmosphere as the 1883 Krakatoa eruption, causing a similar "Year Without A Summer" and causing crop failures as far away as China.

Not all scholars believe the fall of Atlantis necessarily describes a natural disaster, suggesting it may be a metaphor for the fall of Troy (twelfth or thirteenth century BC) or even events in or near Plato's own lifetime.

Evidence. There is no evidence that a land mass the size that Plato describes ever existed in the Atlantic. Although the Azores islands lay in the general area described in Timaeus, those islands are the peaks of very steep underwater mountains that reach more than a mile off the nearby sea bottom.

Ignatius Donnelly. Although many writers in the centuries following Plato wrote about Atlantis, it was usually in metaphorical terms. In 1882, American real estate speculator and politician Ignatius Donnelly published Atlantis: The Antediliuvian World. Donnelly's book took the legend of Atlantis quite seriously, citing archaeological and other evidence that Atlantis was the source of the classical Greek religion and the progenitor civilization of Egypt.

Nazi Atlantis. In the same period Donnelly published, many others were also writing seriously about Atlantis, including Austrian philosopher Rudolph Steiner, American psychic Edgar Cayce, and Ukrainian spiritualist Helena Blavatsky. It was Blavatsky who put forth the notion that the Atlanteans were the "Root Race" that was succeeded by the modern "Aryan Race." This latter concept was seized on by both German and Italian fascists a generation later, including Alfred Rosenberg and Heinrich Himmler. Himmler organized a scientific expedition to Tibet in 1939; its goal may have been to find "Aryan Atlanteans."

Modern Atlantis. More than 6,000 books about Atlantis are currently in print in the English language. Atlantis has been located in Indonesia, the Great Lakes, and Antarctica. Lately, there has been a spate of speculation that the Maya took much of their science from Atlantis, tying the lost continent to the scare over the "end of the world" in 2012.

The classic Benjamin Jowett translation of Plato's Timaeus can be found at Project Gutenberg here.

The complete text of Donnelly's Atlantis: The Antediluvian World can be found at Project Gutenberg here or Google Books here.

Humorist Charlie Pierce covers the career of Ignatius Donnelly in his book Idiot America: How Stupidity Became A Virtue In the Land Of The Free. Click here for a free excerpt.

For a YouTube video asking the question "Has Atlantis been found on Google Earth?' click here.

For a brief SciFi Channel video on the Nazi search for Atlantis, check out DailyMotion here.

British singer-songwriter Donovan (Donovan Leitch) recorded his hit "Atlantis" in 1969, echoing Donnelly's themes. Find a TV performance of the song -- backed up by the Smothers Brothers and Peter, Paul and Mary -- here.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


We were eastbound in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, enjoying a smooth ride on the last night of what had been a relatively calm nine-day positioning up the coast from Cabo San Lucas. Near the Port Angeles pilot station, the mate came up to relieve me as we passed two tugs fairly close, but we had plenty of clearance and in a few minutes all the vessels would be safely on their separate ways. After the mate took the watch, I went back to my quarters and there on the desk was my phone, with a text message from my mother: "You're getting awfully close to the James T. Quigg!" Somewhere in Texas, Mom was watching my progress thanks to the Automatic Identification System (AIS) installed on most ships.

How It Works. AIS is a digital VHF radio system, which transmits data about a particular ship to AIS units on other ships. Most transceivers on commercial vessels have range up to fifty miles over the surface, but this can be enhanced in high traffic areas by repeaters on land or in Earth orbit.

An AIS transceiver has three types of information: static information about a vessel, such as its length, draft, and beam; passage-specific information such as destination and cargo; and always-changing information such as speed and course. The first two types are programmed into the unit by the vessel's navigators, the last time comes from interfaces with other bridge instruments such as GPS units. When an AIS unit on one vessel receives a signal from the unit on another vessel, it calculates even more information, such as CPA (closest point of approach) and time to CPA.

Uses. When AIS was first being developed, it was seen mainly as a collision avoidance and communication aid. In the rush of anti-terrorist legislation passed after the September 11, 2001 attacks, AIS was adopted as a security measure and its implementation moved up. Today it is used by vessel traffic systems, commercial vessels, and even recreational boats to identify vessels and coordinate their movements. AIS is frequently tied into a vessel's electronic chart, radar, or both to help with ease of identification and collision avoidance.

Concerns. For a bridge officer, the AIS can be just one more piece of equipment to be inaccurate, fail, or set off alarms at inopportune times. Especially if used with electronic charts, it can be a source of "fixation," or the use of one instrument (often with a brightly-glowing screen) to the exclusion of others. I once heard an Alaska pilot on a cruise ship repeatedly hailing another vessel by the wrong name because the other vessel's AIS was misprogrammed; before AIS he would simply have hailed the vessel by it's course and position if he couldn't otherwise identify it.

Another concern is the public availability of AIS information. Mom was able to see the vessels close to me through a website that collects and displays AIS information worldwide, and if Mom can see it so can pirates and terrorists. To my knowledge there is no case of a pirate or other criminal using AIS information to facilitate a crime against a vessel, but it's probably only a matter of time.

For more on AIS, check out the US Coast Guard's Navigation Center website here.

Read Professional Mariner columnist Capt. Kelly Sweeney's concerns about AIS here.

PMY: Power & Motoryacht writer Tim Bartlett makes the case for recreational boaters using AIS here.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Monday Morning Mariner: Engineer Licenses

Back in June I wrote about changes the US Coast Guard is planning for mariners in general, and deck officers in particular (click here to read it). There are also changes planned for US-licensed engineers and some of them are more sweeping than those planned on the deck side.

In some ways the new regulations (actually, full implementation of the 1995 STCW convention to US mariners) will simplify and modernize things. For instance, the metric term kilowatt (kw) will replace horsepower, at a conversion rate of .75 kw per 1.o horsepower. So, 1,000hp = 750 kw. This kw sea service will also be the only thing used to evaluate the level of your license, tonnage of the vessel served on will no longer be relevant.

Other major changes for engineers:

Similar to the changes made to unlimited deck licenses, a mariner holding a Third Assistant Engineer's license could move all the way up to Chief Engineer with three years of sea time, as long as a year of that was as a watchstander or an equivalent position of responsibility (while holding a First Assistant's license), depending on the vessel's manning requirements.

Mariners holding Designated Duty Engineer tickets may no longer serve as chief engineer on vessels more than 500GRT/1200GT propelled by machinery more than 750kw (1,000kw) unless they hold the TEAs (Training, Education, Assessments) required by STCW. Even then, they only qualify for a Third Assistant's license.

For a flow chart explaining the new engineering license structure, click here.

To view the public comments section these proposed changes, including US Coast Guard representatives explaining the changes, click here. The video of the Seattle session includes representatives from small tug operators addressing their concerns regarding the new licensing requirements.