Seamen’s Church Institute of New York and New Jersey

With a presidential election behind us, I look forward in 2009 to a new era of American leadership in making shipboard careers more attractive. Bold leadership will be required. Although the economic downturn will slow merchant shipping’s growth and tighten many belts, the crisis of recruiting and retaining skilled and reliable people for shipboard careers will continue.

The U.S. Coast Guard has set a course toward enhancing cooperation with the maritime industry at all levels and improving seafarers’ job satisfaction. More work is needed, however, especially by other federal agencies and the maritime industry. The U.S. must set the tone that investing in seafarers is essential to strengthening the maritime industry and the world economy.

Some tangible steps for U.S. leadership in 2009 include:

-- Ratifying and implementing the Maritime Labor Convention, 2006. This convention will ensure that all seafarers can enjoy decent working and living conditions, and it will enhance crew recruiting and retention.

-- Ratifying and implementing the Seafarers’ Identity Document Convention (Revised), 2003. This convention will strengthen maritime security, raise seafarers’ status and improve seafarers’ shore leave opportunities.

-- Adopting mandatory measures to prevent abandoning seafarers. The U.S. initiative in the International Maritime Organization and the International Labor Organization, if adopted, will raise the bar of shipowners’ financial responsibility and terminate shameful practices of abandoning seafarers.

-- Cooperating with other nations to deter piracy and caring for seafarer victims of piracy. Eradicating piracy and setting up a resource center for piracy victims will require international collaboration by industry and governments.

-- Reducing seafarers’ risks of criminal prosecutions. Seafarers should not be unfairly prosecuted for acts that would not be crimes in other occupations. The U.S. Seamen’s Manslaughter Act should therefore be repealed

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