DANIA BEACH, Fla., May 8, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The American Maritime Officers Association, the nation's largest professional merchant marine organization, says today's widely published letter by U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller, demanding the cruise line industry answer questions and provide details about safety procedures, mechanical problems and the number of U.S. residents employed by each shipping company is a substantial step in generating public awareness and political support of AMO's efforts to put Americans in command of American-owned passenger vessels – vessels that are mostly commanded and crewed by foreigners.
"Although the best-known cruise lines are publicly-traded U.S. corporations, these companies register their ships to foreign nations and, rather than employ American officers, the vast majority of captains, deck and engineering officers are from other countries and the crews are from undeveloped nations," says AMO President Tom Bethel. "The reason cruise lines hire foreigners is because most of them are willing to accept lower wages and fewer benefits."
Bethel, who began his career as a ship's engineer and is now one of the nation's leading maritime executives, says, "For years, AMO has attempted to convince American cruise line CEOs to employ its U.S. officers." He continues, "It's frustrating to know that although all AMO-member officers undergo training that exceeds all international standards and, unlike their foreign counterparts, all AMO-member officers are documented, licensed and vetted by the U.S. Coast Guard, yet, they are denied employment opportunities in the cruise industry."
Bethel, emphasizes, "As Senator Rockefeller detailed in his letter to the Cruise Lines International Association and its member CEO's, since the deadly grounding and partial sinking of the Costa Concordia cruise ship in January 2012, there has been a rising tide of marine mishaps involving cargo and passenger vessel collisions, life boat drill fatalities, sanitary system breakdowns, steering failures, propulsion problems and engine room fires, all of which underscores the need for increased safety, emergency response, navigational and engineer training – training that all AMO-members have."
None of these recent nautical incidents involved AMO-member officers or American-flagged ships, according to Bethel.
Senator Rockefeller's open letter not only highlighted concerns about mechanical malfunctions and officer and crew training but also sounded an alarm that some cruise ships may not be providing enough lifeboat seats for everyone aboard. "That's frightening," says Bethel. "It is Among the reasons for so many deaths, more than 1500, during the infamous Titanic cruise ship disaster, is because there were only enough life boats for a 52 percent of the passengers, officers and crew members."
In his letter sent to CLIA, Mr. Rockefeller, Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, explained that while the cruise line companies are incorporated in the U.S. they register their ships in foreign countries, such as Panama, The Bahamas and the African Republic of Liberia. This allows the cruise ship companies to avert paying federal corporate taxes and protects them from potential litigation in U.S. courtrooms. "It also allows the cruise companies to circumvent the 1920 Merchant Marine Act, which, among other things, requires ships traveling between U.S. ocean ports and along interior rivers and lakes be crewed and commanded by Americans," says Bethel.
Later this month, on National Maritime Day, May 22, 2013, AMO plans to launch a public awareness and nationwide recruiting campaign aimed at new high school graduates interested in receiving scholarships for educating and training them as engineering officers of which there is a global shortage.
"Many of the recent headline-grabbing, at-sea incidents were triggered by engine breakdowns that may be the result of manufacturing defects and/or improper maintenance," says Bethel. "AMO can immediately provide qualified marine engineering officers to fill the global gap and is building a new generation of engineers for tomorrow, which is why today's shipping company executives and American political leaders should consider doing what Senator Rockefeller is doing -- helping to preserve and grow the American maritime industry, rather than let it sink it -- buying ships from other countries and employing non-Americans."
Contact: Bryan Glazer / World Satellite Television News & Media Relations / New York City – Palm Beach / 212-673-4400 / 561-374-1365 / [email protected]
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ROCKEFELLER LETTER (SEE ITEM #15)
SOURCE American Maritime Officers - STAR Center