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Pacific Central Region WorksTo Build Merchant Marine Support

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  • Pacific Merchant Marine Council
    Ahoy All, Thought you might enjoy this Sea Power, December 2005 article. This was published a full year before our council charter December 11, 2006. We have
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 10 1:17 PM
      Ahoy All,
      Thought you might enjoy this Sea Power, December 2005 article. This was published a full year before our council charter December 11, 2006.
      We have come a long way since then.
      Note this article's website, https://www.navyleague.org/sea_power/dec05-48.php, does not have proper internet certification.
      The Grant Maritime Technologies Program mentioned was terminated three years ago by the Twin Rivers School District.
      Phelps Hobart, President
      Pacific Merchant Marine Council

      Pacific Central Region Works To Build Merchant Marine Support


      By PETER ATKINSON, Deputy Editor, Sea Power Magazine, Navy League of the United States

      Pacific Central, Calif., Region Navy Leaguers have begun a concerted effort to marshal support for an often-overlooked maritime service under the organization’s umbrella: the U.S.-flag Merchant Marine.

      Over the summer, Region President Jeanne Sharkey formed a Region Merchant Marine Committee to explore opportunities for assisting Merchant Marine assets and programs in the area, which encompasses northern and central California and northwest Nevada. And since the spring, councils and individuals from the region have been reaching out to the local maritime industry and, by extension, the Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) and the Pentagon’s Military Sealift Command (MSC).

      Last March, various council members welcomed the MSC roll-on/roll-off ship MV Cape Orlando back to San Francisco from its deployment overseas. In April, the Pacific Division of the Stockton, Calif., Council adopted the training ship Golden Bear, which is stationed at California Maritime Academy. And in August, the Alameda, Calif., Council adopted MARAD and the Ready Reserve Force.

      “What we want to do is bring broad focus to the whole industry,” said San Francisco Bay Area President Michele Lockwood, a member of the Navy League’s national Merchant Marine/Maritime Industry Committee. “Its health and viability are crucial to our country’s economy and our national security.”

      The U.S.-flag Merchant Marine comprises the tankers, cargo carriers, container ships and other vessels that make up the American commercial maritime transportation system. They are owned by U.S. companies, and registered and operated under the American flag.

      In time of war or national emergency, the Merchant Marine becomes a vital “fourth arm of defense,” according to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, bearing the brunt of delivering military supplies overseas to U.S. forces and allies. It also can be called upon to provide disaster relief services, as it was along the Gulf Coast recently following Hurricane Katrina.

      Base closures throughout the 1990s shut down nearly all of the military installations in and around the San Francisco Bay area, leaving the Coast Guard as the primary service asset there. Pacific Central Region Navy Leaguers had been focusing much of their support efforts on the Coast Guard during the last several years, Lockwood said.

      But given the Merchant Marine’s continued, and significant, presence in the region, that focus is shifting. The Port of Oakland is the fourth largest container port in the United States, and the sprawling San Francisco/San Pablo Bay region boasts a thriving maritime industry — from cargo and cruise shipping to drydock facilities and shipbuilding.

      “We need to sell the economic importance of the maritime industry to the American public,” said Donald Hale, Central California Area president.

      The Region Merchant Marine Committee is geared toward providing a nucleus for regional support efforts, according to Sharkey. National Director William Stephens is chairman of the committee, Lockwood is vice chairman and Barbara Price, president of the Alameda Council, is treasurer.

      During the past several months, Lockwood has been giving presentations to civic groups and Navy League councils to stress the importance of the U.S.-flag Merchant Marine. She met with the Pacific Coast Maritime Labor/Management Consortium in June, and in September consortium members and others from the maritime trades participated in a Pacific Central Regional Meeting panel discussion about the recruiting and retention of merchant mariners.

      One goal of the Region Merchant Marine Committee is to sign up members of the consortium, a labor/management partnership representing five maritime unions and six maritime companies based along the West Coast, Alaska and Hawaii, as Navy League community affiliates. The Sailors Union of the Pacific and the Marine Engineering Beneficial Association already have become affiliates, and the consortium has voted to become one as well.

      “There is a huge pool of potential Navy League members in the maritime industry,” said Lockwood. “Whenever you have piers and water commerce, you have an opportunity for support, and an opportunity to recruit new members.”

      Another Merchant Marine Committee goal is to promote participation in the maritime trades, which are struggling with a dearth of qualified employees. The committee is lending its support to the Sacramento Council’s sponsorship of the Maritime Technologies Program at Grant Union High School in North Highlands, Calif.

      According to Phelps Hobart, the council’s vice president for public affairs, the program is designed to prepare enrollees as merchant mariners. Training is provided in classrooms, aboard ship and in specialized facilities for such operations as firefighting and damage control.

      The Grant Union program is based on a program begun by retired Navy Capt. Ray Addicott at Mar Vista High School in Imperial Valley, Calif. A former commander of MSC Pacific, Addicott’s program meets all U.S. Coast Guard requirements so students are immediately eligible to sail when they graduate. Customers of the program include MSC, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, and commercial industry.

      The Sacramento Council officially signed on as Grant Union program sponsor in September.

      The Pacific Central Region also is encouraging the formation of a Merchant Marine Congressional Caucus similar to the Navy/Marine Corps Caucus and Coast Guard Caucus sponsored and supported at the national Navy League level to educate Congress on the importance of the Merchant Marine and the maritime industry to national security.

      “What the maritime industry wants is the opportunity to sell their programs on [Capitol] Hill,” said Hale. “A need is there that should logically be filled by the Navy League.”

      The effort is still in its initial stages. Lockwood gave a presentation about it to the Merchant Marine/Maritime Industry Affairs Committee during the Navy League Winter Meetings in early November. She expects the Region Merchant Marine Committee and other supporters will spend the coming months working to build interest in the effort.

      “We have a little ground swell of support, now we just need to push it forward,” she said.

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