This is why sea year is not close to 84% (or 81%) restored

In my post explaining (and then criticizing) how MARAD arrived at its calculation for the percentage restoration of sea year, part of my criticism analyzed how few companies were participating in sea year compared to the number of companies participating prior to the stand down cancellation:

For the classes of 2012 through 2016, when sea year was normal, USMMA trained cadets on 360 commercial vessels operated by 67 companies. As of today, only 9 of those companies, operating only 153 ships, have been approved to participate in sea year. Only 3 additional companies, with a total of 11 ships, are pending. Companies like ExxonMobil, ConocoPhilips, Sea Bulk Tankers, Alaska Tankers, National Geographic/Linblad, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Alaska Marine Highways, KeyLakes (Great Lakes), and BG LNG Services – along with 46 other companies – no longer take Academy cadets. Clearly, the quality and opportunities offered by sea year in its current status are not close to what they were prior to the stand down.

Now comes an excellent editorial in the Maritime Executive explaining why so few companies are willing to jump through the hoops that MARAD has established for participating in sea year:

[C]ompanies are demonstrating a reluctance to take midshipmen. The reasons are twofold: resentment towards the Maritime Administration’s (MARAD) blanket allegations of rampant sexual assault and harassment aboard commercial ships; and an onerous, complicated process for re-applying to participate in the program.

In reality, shipping companies have strict policies in place to prevent sexual misconduct. During my tenure, midshipmen reported to company ships only after a three-day orientation on policies and procedures, which includes all sexual misconduct policies and reporting processes. If a victim were to report an incident, there would have been an immediate investigation and timely discipline. These standards are equivalent to or exceed those dictated by MARAD to participate in Sea Year.

The obstacle is a complicated approval process that overlooks companies’ robust policies. While these procedures may not word-for-word comport with the MARAD language, they have a strong history of successful application and easily fit within the new requirements laid out by the administration.

The author of the editorial proposes that MARAD recognize that many companies have strong SASH policies in place and be flexible in allowing those companies to use their tried-and-true, existing programs rather than forcing them to have a program in place that matches MARAD’s dictates.

That seems like a sensible solution. If a company has a program that is equivalent to what MARAD is requiring, then it should be permitted to carry Academy midshipmen.

Put another way, do you really think that companies such as Exxon-Mobil don’t have strong SASH policies in place?  They’d be sued out of existence if they didn’t.  (I chose Exxon-Mobil just because of its sheer size and did not intend to slight other companies by omission. The major U.S. shipping companies had SASH polices prior to former DOT Secretary Foxx, former Maritime Administrator Jaenichin and Superintendent Helis trashed the industry a little over a year ago without even first looking at the existing SASH policies the companies had in place.)

7/14/2017: Updated to correct a typo in the first paragraph.


  1. Don’t worry. They have the Kings Pointer and the Liberator to solve all their sea day problems!!!
    As an aside, my info is that over this last week, Liberator has been making day trips with the 2021 plebes and the Kings Pointer hasn’t moved. Can anyone confirm that.?
    BTW, my comment is not meant in any manner as a criticism of the ATRs , all of who are doing a great job ,under impossible conditions , in trying to get the mids the required number of sea days.

    • We should always remember that any criticism towards any issue at Kings Point should always point to one spot on campus. The desk of RADM James Helis. There is a lack of Institutional Control at USMMA with multiple problems, not just SASH, and it all points towards, and should stop, at the Super’s desk. There is a total and complete lack of accepting responsibility within Wiley Hall, at all levels, from Helis to the Vice Super who is a ghost and seemingly just collects a paycheck, to the Acting Dean who used a false reason to disenroll a Mid, to the Commandant who blamed the Mids for ostracizing Helis. Criticizing Mids, blaming shipping companies, whining about KingsPointSentry for pointing out the lies and deceipts, or any other excuse is a spineless attempt to divert away from Helis’ total and complete incompetency. We cannot move on and restore USMMA until the poor leader(s) responsible for the problems is/are fired.

  2. I should correct one thing above. The Liberator has been taking some non plebes seeking sea days on their daily trips. Don’t want to provide incomplete or incorrect info to anyone.

  3. There is also the small matter of revising the Safety Management Certificate (SMC) and re-issuing the Document of Compliance (DOC) in conformance to MARAD’s dictum. It was foreordained that many companies would not see any reason to amend or duplicate their internal policies, thus leaving many of their own employees bewildered. Also, these companies possess some pride in how they conduct their operations as independent commercial entities.

    I do not believe MARAD fully understood the serious implications of instituting such a wide-ranging policy shift, without consulting the maritime industry in advance, as the U.S. Coast Guard does with a comments period. Also, the matter on how this would effect the Sea Year program over the long term was never fully considered. Having this crucial cornerstone of governmental company accreditation revamped to such a degree was bound to leave many Midship(wo)men in the cold!

  4. The above analysis highlights the consequences of a failure of MARAD management to address the SASH problem at the Academy ‘bold enough and soon enough’ at the onset to avoid the plethora of adverse events that have transpired over the past year. Worse, the SASH problem was used by MARAD management to divert attention from the lack of effective leadership at the Academy to address the following five of fourteen MSCHE accreditation criteria: 1) Planning, Resource Allocation and Institutional Renewal; 2) Institutional Review; 3) Leadership and Governance; 4) Administration; and 5) Student Support Services. Please note that the five deficient accreditation criteria that caused the Academy to be placed on a warning status by MSCHE are inherent management responsibilities.

    As a result, MARAD alienated commercial shipping companies by alleging that midshipmen were subjected to rampant sexual assault and harassment aboard commercial ships, instituted a cumbersome re-credentialing SASH approval process for companies as a prerequisite to future Sea Year participation, and created a logistic nightmare in planning, scheduling and assigning midshipmen to commercial vessels.

    The figures above reflect an 87% reduction in the number of current Sea Year participating shipping companies with a corresponding 58% reduction in the number of currently available ships. Given the fact that the companies already have in-house SASH policies and procedures, which more than likely meet the intent of MARAD re-credentialing SASH requirements, companies are naturally reluctant to expend time and money to reformulate a duplicative MARAD-imposed administrative process simply to satisfy the bureaucracy.

    Using the metaphor, ‘the cover-up is worse than the crime’, it is evident that the adverse consequences of ineffective leadership resulting in the cancellation of the Sea Year will be far more difficult to correct than the time and effort that would have been required to directly address the SASH problem at the Academy at the onset.

    The lessons-learned from the experience this past year should serve the new Maritime Administrator well in advancing a management corrective action plan that 1) allows shipping companies to strengthen and reinforce their SASH policies and procedures, as appropriate, consistent with current best practices, 2) upgrade Academy leadership, as required, consistent with its Mission and MSCHE accreditation criteria, and 3) take whatever additional steps are necessary to put Kings Point on an institutional footing comparable to the other federal academies.

  5. Hold Jaenichen, Rodriguez, Fox, and Helis to account.
    Huge lawsuits against them personally, and against affiliated legal entities, should ensue.
    Without financial penalties, these damages can never be overcome, and restitutions should be afforded.

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