A high-ranking U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) officer credited maritime labor for its all-around work and also described how the agency is constantly working to help ensure safety at sea.
USCG Assistant Commandant for Prevention Policy, Rear Admiral John Nadeau, addressed the MTD Executive Board on February 22. He began by acknowledging the maritime industry for its service and support during the recent government shutdown.
“Let me start by thanking you,” said Nadeau. “Thanking you for what you do for us, for what you do for all the veterans, for speaking out, taking care of us when we need it, taking care of those who have served, looking out and making sure we have the strong maritime community in this country which so dearly needs it. So, thank you.”
He then turned to a topic with which many assembled were all too familiar: the tragic loss of the El Faro and its 33 crewmembers. “Many of you know about the El Faro. It was a 40-year-old U.S.-flag steamship that sank on October 1, 2015,” he said. “The vessel had no outstanding deficiencies, and it was inspected by the Coast Guard just six months before it got underway. ABS (American Bureau of Shipping), who we rely on for many surveys, had been on only three weeks before to do some boiler inspections.”
After briefly describing the sinking, Nadeau focused on the Coast Guard’s plans for averting a similar crisis in the future. He said, “We want to learn from this, and we did. We learned a lot. The Marine Board [issued] 36 recommendations, a lot of which have to do with regulations, some of them policy…. One of the biggest things you’ll see is (eventual elimination of) open lifeboats. Unfortunately, this vessel still had open lifeboats. They’re still allowed, it was within regulation, but if you look back to the Marine Electric, back to the mid-80’s, it also had open lifeboats. We had tried to get rid of open lifeboats; we were not successful, as we could not – believe it or not – justify the cost of outfitting all ships with open lifeboats with closed ones.”
He also discussed some of the additional testing done by the Coast Guard on board U.S.-flag vessels that had already passed their inspections.
“We’re committed to continuing this work,” Nadeau stated. “The industry has been extremely receptive to us, and we are working in partnership with everyone to raise the level of safety.”
Changing subjects, he closed by saying, “This nation has a gift. And that gift consists of 95,000 miles of coastline, 25,000 miles of inland waterways, 50,000 aids to navigation markings, 360 ports throughout that allows thousands of vessels to move safely every single minute of every single day. And because we’re able to do that safely in this country – which most countries don’t have that gift – they generate $4.6 trillion in economic activity for this country every year. This system supports 23 million U.S. jobs. That is a tremendous gift, most people in this country don’t realize that, and we celebrate that and are proud to be a part of the team that stands up to protect this gift. To make sure it’s there in perpetuity, so that we have that gift…. This gift is crucial, not only to the economic prosperity of this country, but to our national defense.”