“There is nothing more enticing, disenchanting, and enslaving than the life at sea.” — “Lord Jim” by Joseph Conrad
The sea has been a prime site for exploitation from 1500 B.C. Phoenician slave-rowed boats through ships of today.
Seafarers and sailors often pay an unseen price in our world of cruise and cargo ships. The Golden Ray comes to mind. Away from family for months, isolated, with little social interaction while employed in a largely unregulated industry. Coming mostly from former colonies, seafarers easily can serve as cogs in the wheels of the maritime business.
In 2015 there were 1.6 million seafarers, led by the Philippines and Indonesia. The Russian Federation, Ukraine and India rounded out the top five. China’s seafarers have limited international roles.
At Pier 39 is a 659-foot-long ship with a crew’s lounge 30-feet wide, a small living quarters for 28 Filipino crew members, each with separate cabins. The small group rarely gets off the ship over their nine month contracts, thanks in part to U.S. regulations.
U.S. immigration allows a 29-day period to visit our ports, even though they have been screened. This crew spent almost two weeks in New Orleans waiting for the load. They were able to get off only one day.
A week sailing, and another waiting off Galveston for the grain to arrive. Twenty-nine days expired, so the crew wasn’t allowed off. Unable to use the internet, spend money at the box stores, or pick up packages, they could only stand at the rail and look across the wharf into our town.
Cruise line companies reported 2018 yearly profits as: Carnival, $3.2 billion; Royal Caribbean, $1.8 billion; and Norwegian, $954.8 million.
Their employees’ median salaries for long hours were: Norwegian, $20,101; Royal Caribbean, $19,396; and Carnival, $16,622.
CEO pay: Norwegian, Frank Del Rio, $22.6 million; Carnival, Arnold Donald, $13.5 million; and Royal Caribbean, Richard Fain, $12.4 million.
Exploitation is treating someone unfairly to benefit from their work. CEOs make over 1,000 times more than an average worker. Unfair?
Number of employees for each company: Carnival, 154,161; Royal Caribbean, 77,000; and Norwegian, 33,200. Yes, this will be on the final exam.
We should appreciate the largely unknown people who play such critical sea-related roles in our community. Seafarers need friends in ports of call.
In Galveston, the friend since 1839 has been the Seafarers’ Center in the 1870’s John Koobbel Building. Bought by the Moody Foundation in 1977, it’s on 20th Street, just steps from busy wharves.
Chaplain Karen Parsons, Kimberly Hall, Denise Hightower-Aguilar and volunteers humanize seafarers who place themselves in jeopardy for weeks at a time on the high seas transporting bananas to wind turbines, to provide for their families.
On these vessels are fathers, brothers, uncles, and sons, mothers, sisters and daughters who labor far from home and look to the center as a place of respite and reconnection.