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license for 1 year, or to be an inspector of hulls, he had to be a master for 1 year, or sailed at least 1 year as chief mate. These men were brought up in the industry. Their whole life was in the industry. They know the industry. They know the men who are competent. Since the advent of the Coast Guard that is becoming less and less apparent with the result that we can see in a very short while the affairs of the merchant marine being conducted entirely by men who themselves have never sailed a day in their lives on board a merchant ship.
I have had the extreme displeasure of appearing before some of these hearing units. You find the presiding judge is also the jury. Sure the man has the right of appeal. There are so many appeals the Commandant is so bogged down with work that decisions are months getting back. Why are those appeals? Because of the rancor that exists between the Coast Guard and the merchant marine. There is no merchantman that objects to anybody reviewing his record. I want to reiterate no one is more interested in maintaining discipline than the Masters, Mates, and Pilots. We do not stand for any drunkenness or inefficiency.
During the war the Coast Guard were intrusted with conducting examinations and issuing licenses, and although the training was not thorough, it must be said to their credit they did an outstanding job. I am not ready to say our organization is not ready to say because a man has a license he is competent any more than you gentlemen who are members of the bar, to say every member of the bar is competent. But because the Coast Guard issued those licenses they are placed in the position of, if they declare a man incompetent, who gave him the license in the first place? I would say under these conditions they cannot possibly be impartial. That is how these boards are constructed.
I say this, in any group of officers, if a master is involved in a dispute with the chief mate, anyone would give the master the benefit of the doubt, and the chief mate with the second mate, and second mate with the third mate, and on down, officers and crew, which immediately puts the officers against the unlicensed personnel.
If an officer does not like the way they are conducting themselves he says "I will have you brought before the Coast Guard," and the Coast Guard is being made the whipping boy. We do not think they belong in that picture. If they were out of the picture many conditions would disappear. I would say the worst elements would disappear. During the war they were hastily trained. It was just something to do. We had hundreds of boys 16 to 18 years of age, being too young for military service, come into the Merchant Marine. Because of their extreme youth and inexperience they are liable to go ashore and run afoul of the law. I cannot say we are not going to continue it, but I think we can handle it more effectively with the log book, with the penalties we may impose and furthermore with a better cooperation with the unlicensed personnel unions.
The cooperation between the officers' union and the unlicensed union is becoming better and better. I attended a meeting of one of the unlicensed unions less than a week ago and I noticed with a great deal of pleasure that charges had been preferred against various individuals in different ports and recommended that they be put in the "social register” for 99 years, the “social register” being a joking term.
So, I would definitely say with the Coast Guard hearing units out of the picture the number of cases would disappear to a minimum.
I will go further than that. From time to time we have an unfortunate marine disaster. Who does the Coast Guard call upon then for its outstanding counsel? Who did the Coast Guard have as their senior judges and examiners in the case of the fire on board the Erickson? Two former merchant marine officers. There is no question about it, these questions go beyond the scope of men who have not sailed aboard a merchant ship. If a man is brought up on deck before a man who has sailed on merchant ships, he knows whether there is any lying; and another thing, the average seaman has to go outside and get counsel. In many cases the unions do not get counsel because they believe this is not a matter for attorneys and not a matter of law. This is a matter of conditions involving life on ships, because if a man is delinquent, he is delinquent, and ought not to resort to legal loopholes to get out of it.
Mr. KEFAUVER. Would you mind if I asked you a question, Captain? Mr. Chairman, may I ask?
Mr. GRAHAM. Certainly.
Mr. KEFAUVER. These hearings units, how many members do they consist of?
Captain Ash. The majority of them consist of one judge and jury. He is the senior judge and prosecutor. The prosecutor may often be the investigator.
Mr. KEFAUVER. What is the usual rank of the Coast Guard officer?
Captain Ash. Depending upon the seriousness of the case. I would say the majority of them, the ranking officer would be a lieutenant.
Mr. KEFAUVER. Do they wear uniforms when they hold hearings? Captain Ash. Not in all cases. Very, very seldom since the war.
Mr. KEATING. It was very much better so far as you are concerned before 1943 when these hearings were not being conducted by the Coast Guard?
Captain Ash. Yes, sir.
Captain Asi. I have two more notes I would like to cover very briefly.
Mr. GRAIIAM. Proceed then.
Mr. LEWIS. Who was responsible for placing the merchant marine under the Coast Guard ?
Captain Ash. Under the Second War Powers Act, when it was necessary to place all vessels of war under Navy control, particularly the convoying of cargo and vessels. The administration of inspection, port security control, that was all turned over to the Navy, who turned it over to the Coast Guard.
Mr. LEWIS. That was during the war?
Mr. LEWIS. How does it come the Coast Guard still has jurisdiction?
Captain Ash. We do not know. We want to know why it has not gone back to the Department of Commerce where we feel it right fully belongs.
Mr. LEWIS. By “we” you mean the merchant marine ?
Mr. KEFAUVER. Do you think the officers of the merchant marine would feel the way the men do, or do they differ with the position of the men, or do you know?
Captain Ash. I do not understand your question. Do you mean the officers on the ships feel the Coast Guard should be out of the merchant marine?
Mr. KEFAUVER. Yes.
Captain Ash. The answer is an emphatic yes. They have gone on record for it by a referendum vote many times. I mean the merchant marine.
Mr. KEFAUVER. You are a captain? Captain Ash. I have been in command of ships in the early part of the war and the latter part of the war. At the beginning of the war I was executive officer at both officer candidate schools for the merchant marine, which we took over from the Coast Guard. We were continually having difficulties with the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard had embarked on a program of raising the professional standards of the men. To that we subscribed. However, that could be done during peacetime. We advocated that. We were caught between two problems; one, to teach the men what would be required to know of the Coast Guard requirements and, two, teach them what they would have to know to be of use to the master of a ship. We were continually going down to the Coast Guard to get revisions.
I have had the unique opportunity to have handled those men. The biggest majority of the merchant marine officers are men that have been brought up before the forecastle. Starting with the day of issuing wartime certificates they were hastily trained. We were sure they would have had some experience under the department regulations and a minimum amount of time was required before you could stand for the next highest grade, and only as of a few days ago a rule came out these wartime regulations would be discontinued, effecive May 1.
Captain Richmond has stated, I believe they had hearing units in foreign countries. During the war many ships did not come back for months, just shuttled back and forth across the channel, coastwise. It was necessary to establish offices in foreign countries. Now I am sure it is not going to be necessary much longer and we will have absolutely no use or need for maintaining Coast Guard offices in foreign countries. I cannot see any purpose for it.
Mr. LEWIS. How long have you been on the sea?
Captain Ash. I started going to sea, sir, in 1927. I sailed as a deck boy for the munificent sum of $20 a month. I received my first license as a third officer in 1933 and continued to work up
and received my first master's license in 1939.
Mr. KEATING. But you were a master until last year!
Captain Ash. The last vessel I left was October 17. I had been in command pretty steadily.
Mr. GRAHAM. I hate to break this meeting up. Gentlemen, after consultation with fellow members we can meet on Friday, May 2. We can start at 10:30.
(Whereupon, at 12:10 p. m., the subcommittee adjourned until 10:30 a. m., Friday, May 2, 1947.)
CONDUCT OF DISCIPLINARY HEARINGS BY COAST
GUARD COMMISSIONED OFFICERS
FRIDAY, MAY 2, 1947
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D.C. The subcommittee met at 10:30 a. m., pursuant to adjournment, in room 345, Old House Office Building, Hon. Louis E. Graham (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. GRAHAM. The committee will come to order, please.
In order to accommodate Mr. Volpian, who resides in New York, we are going to take him out of order so that he may be free to go when he has to. Mr. Volpian.
STATEMENT OF JOSEPH H. VOLPIAN, WELFARE CHAIRMAN, SEA
FARERS INTERNATIONAL UNION OF NORTH AMERICA
Mr. VOLPIAN. Mr. Chairman, my name is Joseph H. Volpian. I am chairman of the Seafarers International Union of North America and reside in New York.
The Seafarers International Union of North America number approximately 90,000 unlicensed seagoing personnel whose sole means of livelihood are derived from their service on merchant vessels, which sail on all oceans and the Great Lakes. Our membership has a very real interest in the proposed bill, H. R. 2966. The writer of this brief has been in charge of the welfare department of the union since 1943. His office is at the union headquarters in the city of New York. Part of his duties as welfare officer includes his appearance before the Coast Guard hearing units on behalf of accused seamen. He has appeared in at least 200 cases of alleged misconduct before the Coast Guard. The writer is present at the request of his union to oppose the passage
of the above bill. The union is as much interested in disciplining its members for infractions of the rules and laws aboard vessels as are the Coast Guard and the operators of the ships. We have a set-up in our constitution where anybody who is charged with misconduct aboard a ship can be tried and punished according to the gravity of his offense. We realize that when a seaman does not perform his duties as he should, it places an extra burden on his fellow crew members and at the same time injures the reputation of the union of which we are all proud. The writer has been going to sea since 1923 and has sailed in the black gang or engine room department of ships during this time. He has come to know seamen, being one himself. He is familiar with the duties of the officers and the problems that exist aboard ships and, therefore, can, without fear of contradiction, speak upon maritime matters from the viewpoint of the unlicensed personnel.
The merchant marine has always been a civilian occupation long before our government was formed. The only time it might have been considered an arm of the military was during the last two wars when it came under the jurisdiction of the Navy. It differs from a military organization in that there is no drafting or enlistment among the men. A seaman can sign for one trip and at the termination of the voyage quit or make another trip if he sees fit. If his superior officer does not choose to employ him for a further trip, he can let the man go. There are no provisions made for pensions or any other benefits that a soldier or sailor would be entitled to as a result of being a member of the armed services.
The United States merchant marine has always been under the jurisdiction of the Department of Commerce. This, in our opinion, is the proper place where it belongs because all the activities of the merchant marine has been in aiding the exchange of goods through water-borne commerce from one country to another and from one coast to the other.
The Congress has passed certain laws which have been on our books for many years, whereby adequate provisions have been made to enforce discipline. For instance, if a crew member without permission stays ashore one day from the vessel, the master is allowed to “log” or fine him 2 day's pay for the day he missed. There is a logging or penalty provided for every infraction of the rules. In addition, if the offense is serious, the master can place the man in irons and feed him on bread and water for as long as he sees fit. The master may restrict a seaman to the vessel and not allow him shore liberty to which he would be entitled when the ship reaches a foreign port. If in the event a seaman misses his vessel, he immediately forfeits all his pay together with all his personal belongings. No where else in the world are such strict penalties imposed, for these infractions. If a person who works ashore fails to appear on his job for a day, all he loses is his day's pay. If he decides to quit the job for some reason, he does not forfeit his back pay or his personal belongings but is entitled to them regardless. The law also provides that the master is in sole command of the ship and all of his crew is answerable to him. The law, while being very strict in its provisions, has been adequate to handle all problems that arise on a vessel. In addition, a seaman is answerable if he commits a felony to the Federal authorities and is subject to severe fines and imprisonment if he violates the law.
At the inception of the last war, the late President of the United States, realizing that victory could not be attained except with the cooperation of the merchant marine and to expedite the transfer of war goods to our allies, placed it under the jurisdiction of the Navy. This was not done to discipline seamen because discipline has always been maintained on merchant vessels, but it was done primarily for the purpose of the movement of ships where the military authorities deemed they were necessary.
The Coast Guard, likewise, which is regularly attached to the Treasury Department, was also put under the jurisdiction of the Navy and the Navy turned the merchant marine over to the Coast Guard.