We will begin with the American Sail Training Association.

CAPT KABAK: Good morning, Capt. Proctor, Mr. Gould, Mr. Harden and Ms. Medina.

My name is Captain Jonathan Kabak. I’m a member of the ship operations and safety committee of ASTA. We’d like to thank you for the opportunity to come in today.

I grew up sailing in the ASTA fleet of educational sailing ships and have progressed through the limited license scheme to hold a 500 ton ocean Master’s license for steam motor and auxiliary vessels and STCW endorsements. In addition to working on the educational sailing fleet, I have worked in the passenger industry and the pollution response industry.

ASTA will be submitting written response, but felt it was important to come in today. ASTA’s membership is comprised of 200 operators, most of which are not for profit organizations. Their primary mission is to offer sail training and sea education programs to youth and adults. Our diverse fleet of tall ships range from those in tall waters to those which go far afield. The United State Senate has commended ASTA for “character building and international goodwill.” The very foundation upon which our members’ programs are built are proper fundamentals of proper seamanship and safety afloat. In pursuit of this endeavor, many of our member vessels have been designated sailing school vessels under Subchapter R. Our crewmembers commit themselves to the traditions, values and teaching that are part of a life at sea.

Perhaps more relevant to these proceedings is the role a sailing fleet plays as a source for apprentice mariners. Most of our vessels have students who have gone to maritime academies or have used the hawsepipe route to licensure to just about every sector of the US fleet. At this critical juncture, we are deeply concerned that the proposed changes to the CFR may substantially inhibit our ability to take students to sea and serve in the critical role of introducing people to the sea of tomorrow.

Recent changes have made it difficult for our vessels to undertake the voyages they’ve safely made for decades. Mariners have completed thousands of dollars in course work, yet are ill-suited to stand watch on the deck in the elements aboard a sailing vessel. For us, the hawsepipe has been reliable. The primary training route that we have depended for hundreds of years. The excellent safety record in the sail training fleet is a testament to the fact that the formal training that is now being required of mariners is already standard aboard our vessels.

With this in mind, we’d like to offer the following comments regarding the difficulties that will arise following the implementation of the proposed changes for 46 CFR.

The majority of our vessels are small tonnage and by definition, all sailing school vessels must be less than 500 gross tons. These vessels undertake international ocean voyages to train youth and to be ambassadors of goodwill. It’s already the case that to guarantee a vessel of less than 100 gross tons has no issue with foreign ports control the masters and mates must hold 500 ton ocean licenses and STCW endorsements regardless of the tonnage of the vessel. The licensing and rating structure as proposed in 11.401, 11.410, 11.424 and 12.420 would essentially make the already onerous process of finding a qualified crew essentially impossible and will result in the end of this type of voyaging.

With the elimination of the 500 ton ocean master and the less than 1600/3000 licensing path described in proposed rules 11.410 through 11.414, the small pool of competent officers will be disastrously reduced. In our sector of the merchant fleet, with the vast majority of vessels under 100 gross tons, the new sea time requirements to take any one of those vessels on an international voyage would necessitate sailing on vessels over 150 gross tons of which there are very few. Such a regulation puts an undue burden on our mariners to sail on particular vessels and is not a logical progression for sailing as master upon oceans in a vessel of less than 100 gross tons.

The issue of tonnage comes into further question when one looks at the assessment that must be performed for STCW. Currently, all assessments must be conducted on vessels over 100 GRT. This seems out of line with the relevant tonnage needed for sea time set at the proposed level of less than 75 GRT for everything but master. Furthermore, if a mariner also wanted to qualify for an AB/RFPNW, they would need time aboard a vessel of over 200 gross tons. This seems to be a paradox. We need higher tonnage to get an AB than you do to earn a 1600/3000 ocean Master.

We’d like to see further clarification of proposed rule 12.420. Does this rule mean that on vessels under 200 GRT/500 GT that ABs do not need RFPNW to satisfy port state control on a foreign voyage? Furthermore, is six months the full qualifying time for RFPNW regardless of which AB a mariner is applying for?

In light of this, we would like to suggest the following: That the minimum tonnage requirements outlined in 11.412, 11.413 and 11.414 be lowered to greater than 50 GRT and greater than 75 GRT, respectively.

If this is not possible, than a tonnage calculator should be created where additional time at over 75 GRT can equal the 6 months of time over 150 GRT. Here to upgrade from Chief Mate or Mate to Master 1600/ 3000. If the 200 tons threshold must remain for RFPNW, then a similar calculator should be created for this requirement. We also suggest that the tonnage required for vessels used in STCW assessments be lowered to greater than 75 GRT.

We ask you to recognize at the unique role of a Subchapter R sailing school vessel is much like the maritime academy school ships and be recognized that mariners can conduct assessments for all STCW training regardless of the tonnage of the vessel.

In closing, I’d like to highlight the fact that the IMO and MARAD have recognized 2010 as the year of the mariner. One of the many reasons for doing this is to raise awareness in careers in the merchant service.  I am a product of a proud tradition carried out in ASTA sailing ships that offer sea education programs. However, my generation may be the last one to progress in a rational and coherent system from trainee to master.  ASTA is concerned that under the proposed changes, ocean licensure will become unattainable to all but a select few. With the additional time, this will be doubled for some ocean licenses and a big cost of training mariners like myself will not be able to afford to work in the ASTA fleet. Because of this, our member vessels will have to drastically alter their operations or worse cease to operate at all.

At a time when we’re seeing shortages in qualified mariners, proposing any delay into the maritime industry seems shortsighted and detrimental to the entire US fleet.

Thank you again for the opportunity to comment today.