ON THE WATERFRONT - JERRY A. ASPLAND DIVIDED AND DEJECTED, INDUSTRY IS ADRIFT WITHOUT LEADERSHIP

ON THE WATERFRONT - JERRY A. ASPLAND DIVIDED AND DEJECTED, INDUSTRY IS ADRIFT WITHOUT LEADERSHIP

A leader is someone who, after spending a considerable time in the jungle with a group of colleagues seeking their future, realizes something is amiss, climbs a tall tree, surveys the situation and yells, "Wrong jungle!" A leader must always chart a course and keep everyone in the right jungle.

But is there anyone in the U.S. maritime industry, either individually or as a group, who can climb the mast, survey the situation and yell, "Wrong ocean - wrong course"? I submit there isn't such leadership, and I cannot visualize any developing.There are many roadblocks preventing leadership in the maritime industry. Some are self-imposed. Others have existed for a long time and become tradition.

First, the industry is very fragmented. This fragmentation is used to promote disarray. I often hear, "When are you guys going to get your act together and speak as one voice?" Contrary to popular belief, this industry has a very strong and common mission. Our common mission is to transport and distribute goods for profit in a safe and environmentally effective way. This roadblock of fragmentation can be detoured around if we rally around this common mission, irrespective of our individual needs and wants.

TIME TO STOP COMPLAINING

Second, the self-esteem and pride of this industry is nonexistent. I believe we are the biggest complainers in all of U.S. industry. "Not making any money," "not a level playing field," "too much regulation," "government doesn't care," "young people are not entering the business" - the list goes on and on.

This industry needs to celebrate the positives: a very good education system (don't say there are no jobs - there are plenty of jobs in the maritime field other than seagoing jobs), the development of intermodalism, landbridges, the river system and the mere size of the logistics system. Without self-esteem, it will be impossible to find a leader. Self-esteem can be developed if we work together on small, positive projects. A perfect example is the development and operation of the Los Angeles-Long Beach Vessel Traffic Information Service. The maritime sector in the area - shipping, government and ports - came together to accomplish a needed task. They did it, and it is a showcase of cooperation and pride.

Lastly, this industry is cloaked in secrecy. We don't share information or resources that would make the system safer. I respect "secrecy" for commercial purposes, but information crucial to system safety has no business being kept secret. Perhaps this roadblock is beginning to crumble with the formation of alliances for commercial competitiveness. These will require information-sharing to succeed. If there is to be leadership, these areas of secrecy must be opened up so that the "leader" can lead effectively.

REVIEWING THE CANDIDATES

Now where could leadership come from?

* Trade organizations? There are many trade organizations in the maritime industry. Each represents its narrow view as dictated by its membership. However, with the current trends of alliances, consolidations and downsizing among their members, organizations must spend considerable effort in maintaining membership. In addition, sometimes they compromise positions to prevent members resigning. Many organizations are seeking new directions and

staffs, which adds to inaction. Trade organizations should not only provide broad leadership, but also resources for an emerging leader. But will maritime trade organizations emerge to support a leader? I doubt it, because they have

neither the will nor the member support to do so.

* The government? Because of its nature, it can't take a leadership role for the industry. But it could help support a leader. Congress could effectively and efficiently process legislation, regulation and research and development. At the same time, the administrative side of government could help maritime leadership by developing and enforcing regulations that allow competitive practices in the global economy.

* The maritime industry itself? Is this where leadership lies? Does the industry care? Maybe it's just willing to continue on this leaderless course, not caring which ocean it's in. Most industry people only want to talk about low rates; excellent subject, but rates have been low for 10 years. Industry personnel do not seem to want to step up to the plate and become leaders. It seems to me that industry just doesn't care as long as its backside is not gored. Maybe this is OK. But if so, industry should stop whining and get on with business.

I believe leadership has to come from industry.

Maritime leadership from an overall prospective is nonexistent in the United States. Currently, the system is a group of nomad tribes only trying to better their own lots. Protectionism and isolationism will not help the U.S. maritime industry. Today, what's needed more than anything is a leader to carry the banner of the general maritime industry in the United States. Do you believe a leader will emerge?