American Maritime Officers Respond To Cruise Lines Industry Allegations Following Fox News Segment

Nation's Largest Merchant Mariner Organization Implores Cruise Line Executives to Hire More Americans

Apr 23, 2013, 05:00 ET from American Maritime Officers - STAR Center

DANIA BEACH, Fla., April 23, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The American Maritime Officers Association president says his April 15 live appearance on FOX News Channel's segment, "Remembering Titanic 101 years Ago Today," which highlighted concerns about the rising tide of marine mishaps, has drawn undue criticism from the cruise ship industry's lobbying group, yet, has ignited overwhelming positive public and professional support of putting highly-trained AMO-member U.S. merchant mariners in command of more passenger vacation vessels.

A few days after American Maritime Officers President Tom Bethel appeared on "FOX & Friends," the Cruise Lines International Association issued a news release in the form of an open letter from CEO Christine Duffy to Mr. Bethel. She wrote, "I cannot let stand the misinformation and inaccuracies that were presented without response on behalf of the cruise line industry."

AMO did not misinform the public and did not disseminate inaccurate information. "Watch the TV segment on the internet link at the end of this news release," says Mr. Bethel. "Check the facts."

"The live FOX News interview originated from AMO's Dania Beach, Florida STAR Center command bridge navigational training simulator," says retired U.S. Navy Captain Philip Shullo, AMO's STAR Center Training Director. "During the broadcast, the simulator projected a high-tech, 360-degree, animated moving image of busy New York Harbor, which FOX host Steve Doocey characterized as 'cool' and that I characterize as cool and critical to the development of a maritime officer's command skills."

At the beginning of the news segment, Mr. Doocey reported the status of the Costa Concordia criminal case and mentioned a series of other cruise ship incidents.

Mr. Bethel's opening remarks, "The first thing I'd like to point out is that none of these recent incidents involved an American flagged ship. And, none of these incidents involved an American officer."

AMO says Mr. Bethel accurately emphasized that most cruise ship lines are owned by publicly traded U.S. companies that hire mostly foreign officers and crew members from undeveloped nations and they register their vessels in foreign countries.

Foreign registry allows cruise lines to avert paying federal corporate income taxes and avoid potential litigation in American court rooms, according to U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller, speaking with reporters earlier this month when he reiterated his pursuit of an investigation of cruise industry practices.

CLIA's Duffy wrote to Mr. Bethel, "You questioned cruise line officer training."

In an April 12, 2013 AMO news release that appeared on 600 mainstream media websites, Mr. Bethelsaid, "The best-known cruise ship lines provide advanced training for their officers and crew members."

During the FOX interview, Bethel accurately stated, "American officers are the best trained officers in the world. And, they are the only officers, unlike their counterparts, that are licensed by the US Coast Guard."

Foreign officers typically receive certification from the country where the ship is registered, such as the African Republic of Liberia.

In the April 12 AMO news release and on FOX, Mr. Bethel accurately stated that highly-publicized, recent marine mishaps underscore the need for increased navigational, safety, emergency response and engineering repair training for officers and crews on all commercial vessels worldwide   -- training that all AMO-member officers already have.

On FOX and in two April AMO news releases, Mr. Bethel accurately explained that the majority of luxury liner problems involve steering and propulsion system and other mechanical malfunctions that may have been the result of improper maintenance and / or manufacturing defects. These malfunctions cause navigational, electrical and sanitary system failures and engine fires.

Mr. Bethel accurately informed viewers that there is a worldwide shortage of qualified maritime engineering crews and officers capable of conducting "underway," at-sea repairs.

Rather than simply complain about the engineering problem on TV, Mr. Bethel offered an on-air solution.

"AMO has stepped up to the plate to address this problem." He continued, "We've initiated a program whereby we're going around the country, looking for high school graduates that meet the qualifications. We're going to educate them. We're going to train them and we're gonna offer them opportunities in this industry, at a starting pay of $100,000."

The CLIA's open letter confusingly stated, "Cruise line officers are also paid very competitive wages, often in the six figures with extensive benefits. This level of compensation exceeds the target of $100,000 that you set out as a goal for the cruise industry in your interview."

Mr. Bethel reminds the CLIA that the $100,000 figure he mentioned on FOX News Channel is an average starting annual salary for new engineering officers and not some sort of a salary goal that AMO is proposing for cruise ship officers, as Duffy insinuated.

The CLIA CEO also wrote, "Many cruise lines employ a number of U.S. captains and other officers in their fleets."

AMO acknowledges that under the auspices of the 1920 Merchant Marine Act certain cruise ship voyages between one U.S. port and another must be commanded by American officers. This includes the popular Norwegian Cruise Lines of America Hawaiian Island excursions.

Mr. Bethel wrapped-up his televised interview stating, "American passengers, taking cruises today, I believe, would feel a lot more comfortable and a helluva lot safer if they knew they had American officers manning the bridge and engine room of the vessels."

FOX & Friends' Steve Doocey agreed, "I think you're exactly right." He then asked Mr. Bethel, "For people who are thinking about taking a cruise….they are safe, aren't they?"

Mr. Bethel responded, "They are safe. These vessels are safe and, for the most part, these vessels are well constructed. They have excellent navigation equipment on board them. But they will be a lot safer if they had American officers on the bridge and in the engine room."

CLIA's Duffy concluded her open letter to Mr. Bethel, "Going forward I would hope that you would present to the public a more accurate and balanced picture with regard to maritime officer training and qualifications."

Mr. Bethel's response, "Going forward AMO expects the CLIA's American leadership take the initiative to arrange meetings between American Maritime Officers and patriotic cruise line executives who have America's best interests in mind and the future of America on the horizon."

Finally Bethel says, "As far as allegations of inaccuracy and misinformation…. I urge everyone to watch the FOX & Friends news segment again by clicking the below internet link…To coin the FOX News network's slogan, 'We report. You decide'."


Bryan Glazer
President & Executive Producer
World Satellite Television News & Media Relations
New York CityPalm Beach
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SOURCE American Maritime Officers - STAR Center