An Artificial Shortage
Areply to two [A Point of View] articles in Seapower
magazine, May 2015 issue:
“America Needs Mariners,” by
Paul Jaenichen [Maritime Admini-strator] and “A National Imperative,” by [RADM] Micheal Alfultis
[president of SUNY Maritime
Concerning the shortage of
licensed and certified personnel in
(and for) the U.S. merchant fleet:
Respectfully, sirs, balderdash. This
is a manufactured crisis.
The maritime colleges you mention are not just expensive, they
are horribly expensive. Can a U.S.
military veteran afford such a college, even on the GI Bill? I doubt it.
When costs (to the student) come
down, more people will attend. Is
it cheaper for a high-school graduate to become a brain surgeon or a
3rd Officer? I know which way I
Thousands of potential Merchant Mariners leave the U.S. Navy
every year. Very few of those veterans earn a U.S. Coast Guard license
The reason, as explained to me
in 1998: We would flood the market with licensed personnel if we
made it easy to get a license in (or
straight out of) the Navy. Hundreds
of thousands of potential employees would all be competing for a
few thousand jobs.
■ Example 1:
In 1998, I applied for a 3rd
Assistant Engineer license. I was
told that I needed to take an
advanced firefighting course in
order to qualify. My Navy training
was not considered adequate. I
paid for a trip to San Diego. I paid
to attend the advanced firefighting
My instructors were U.S. Navy.
The facility was U.S. Navy. Many of
my fellow students were U.S. Navy.
By attending this Navy school as a
civilian, I qualified to test for my
Merchant Mariner’s license.
■ Example 2:
I stood behind this guy at the U.S.
Coast Guard license center in
Honolulu. He was a captain in the
U.S. Navy. His employment history
included CO (commanding officer) of a nuclear-powered carrier.
Before that, he was a CO of a
tanker. At some point in his career
he had also been a chief engineer
on a nuclear submarine.
He was told that he could test
either for a deck license or for an
engineering license, but not both.
Huh? Why? The man had enough
sea time, even when cut into quarters, to qualify for both. This (U.S.
Coast Guard) policy is nuts, wasteful and abusive.
Want a cheap pipeline to produce qualified prospects for the U.S.
merchant fleet? Try the U.S. Navy,
and also the U.S. Coast Guard.
The U.S. Navy already administers advancement exams and (
postgraduate) [Graduate Record Exam-inations]. It would take (nearly)
zero extra budget for the Navy to
administer U.S. Coast Guard
If, for instance, the Navy encour-
aged its officers and enlisted to
acquire a QMED/AB [Qualified
Member of the Engine Department/
Able Seaman] certificate, an STCW
[Standards of Training, Certification
and Watchkeeping for Seafarers],
lifeboatman, and/or a 3rd Officer
license (perhaps as points earned
toward potential advancement in
the U.S. Navy), then suddenly there
would be no lack of eligible employ-
ees for the U.S. merchant fleet.
That said, it would still be diffi-
cult to acquire a Towing Endorse-
ment (for instance) in the U.S.
Navy. However, something could
be done to fix that. I’m certain of it.
I can hear the counterargument.
How many U.S. Navy veterans
wish for a job at sea? Yeah, OK.
Me, neither. I searched diligently
for a job — any job — on shore.
Somehow, I ended up at sea again.
I’m glad I did. But I wouldn’t have
If thousands of Sailors exit the
service with a Merchant Mariner’s
license or certificate, some of them
will seek employment in our
industry. Guaranteed. The U.S.
Coast Guard, our licensing authority, has chosen to make it difficult
to translate U.S. Navy qualifications and experience into U.S.
Merchant Marine licenses and certificates.
They have good reasons for this,
but it creates an artificial shortage
of qualified Merchant Marine
prospects. A small change in policy
could erase this artificial shortage.
Chief Engineer (limited),
2nd Engineer (Unlimited, Motors),
3rd Engineer (Unlimited, Steam)
U.S. Navy (retired)
The name and status of the Perry-class guided-missile
frigate Taylor (FFG 50) were listed incorrectly in the June
Maritime Matters section. The ship was decommissioned
May 8 at Naval Station (NS) Mayport, Fla., after more than
30 years of service. USS Kauffman (FFG 59) will be the
last ship of its class in the U.S. Navy prior to its decommissioning by Sept. 21 at NS Norfolk, Va., after more than 28
years of service.