By Herman J. Molzahn Vice President, Shipyard Operations The American Waterways Operators, Inc.

Apart f r om t h e 24 major deepsea shipyards, t h e r e exists a segment of the U.S. maritime indust r y composed of more than 300 small- and medium-sized commercial shipyards located throughout t h e nation on t h e East, West, and Gulf Coasts, the Great Lakes and t h e W e s t e r n r i v e r s . Although these shipyards employ only between 40,000 and 50,000 workers, their economic contribution to the nation is f a r g r e a t e r than t h e i r size would indicate. These s h i p y a r d s a r e responsible f o r building and repairing the tugboats, towboats, and barges for t h e fuel-efficient domestic water t r a n s p o r t a t i o n industry, the supply boats, crewboats, and other specialized vessels for t h e offshore service industry, and t he vessels for the fishing industry.

The American Waterways Shipyard Conference was organized as part of t h e American Waterways Operators, Inc. in 1976 to address the many problems faced by this segment of t h e industry.

Some of t h e major problems that sent shock waves throughout the industry were: the 1972 Amendments to t h e L o n g s h o r e m e n 's Act; the shortages of material created by the Arab oil embargo in 1973-74; and establishment of t h e O c c u p a t i o n a l Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

In the early 1970s, several attempts were made to bring the i n d u s t r y together such as the formation of an Ad Hoc Committee to fight the Longshoremen's Act. However, these efforts did not achieve the desired results.

In 1975, a group of nine shipyard e x e c u t i v e s f o r m e d t he "Shipyard Steering Committee," and elected Edward Renshaw, president of St. Louis Ship, as t h e i r first chairman. They approached t h e board of directors of The American Waterways Operators, Inc. and asked them to expand the scope of AWO's trade association activities to include s h i p y a r d s . T h e t w o g r o u p s reached an agreement to employ a professional staff person to administer the new shipyard activities, and in 1978 the shipyards were granted Conference status in AWO, which gave them maximum flexibility and autonomy in the conduct of t h e i r affairs.

Thus, in five short years, the common problems faced by t h is segment of t h e i n d u s t r y have bonded more than 70 of these small- and medium-sized shipyards into the American Waterways Shipyard Conference. In addition, several major shipyards are also members of t h e AWSC because they are partly engaged in this segment of t h e industry.

The Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act is still the most critical issue facing t h e AWSC. The liberalization of benefits engendered by the 1972 Amendments to t h e Act— coupled with indexed benefits and a bloated life insurance and retirement program—have created a situation where payments for not working often exceed salary.

The industry has exhausted i ts administrative remedies to t h is problem with the Department of Labor, and i t h a s brought actions in the Federal courts, many of which have gone all t h e way to the United States Supreme Court.

C h i e f J u s t i c e B u r g e r has described the Act "as about as unclear as a n y statute could conceivably be . . .", and Justice William Brennan called the Act a " . . . j u r i s d i c t i o n a l monstrosity...".

The only permanent solution to t h e problems in the Longshoremen's Act rests with Congress to undo what is wrong with the Act.

The House has held more than 20 days and the Senate has held one day of oversight hearings on the Act, and numerous amendments have been introduced, only to die in committee.

Meanwhile, t h e Longshoremen's Act continues to sap the financial and economic viability of t h e industries covered by it. Before 1972, only about 10 percent of t h e work force in small- and medium-sized shipyards fell under the jurisdiction of t h e Act.

A f t e r t h e 1972 amendments, with its shoreward extension of cov- erage, 90 percent of a shipyard's work force has come under the coverage of the Act.

W h i l e a t t e n t i o n to the Act waned in the latter days of the last Congress, the AWSC backed a narrow jurisdictional amendment t h a t would r e t u r n the Act's coverage to the water's edge for small- and medium-sized shipyards as it existed prior to 1972.

The Senate attached it as a nongermane amendment to a Housepassed bill, and it was passed by t h e entire Senate. The AWSC made a valiant effort to get this amendment to a conference committee; however, the effort had to be abandoned in the fleeting moments of the 96th Congress to avoid killing the underlying bill.

The AWSC, however, emerged as a political force, having brought a n a m e n d m e n t to the laborcoveted Longshoremen's Act closer to passage than any previous effort by other groups.

The AWSC is also a member of the Longshore Action Committee, a group of more than 60 organizations seeking broad ref o rm of the Longshoremen's Act.

This committee supports H.R. 25, a bill to amend the Act t h a t was introduced early in the 97th Congress by Representative John H.

Erlenborn (R-Ill.).

Despite the serious problems facing this segment of the industry, the vitality of the shipyards represented by the AWSC has been the envy of many foreign shipyards. Several attempts to enter the U.S. markets were u n c o v e r e d by the AWSC and blocked. One method tried by several foreign companies was to obt a in United States Federal Government assistance through the F a r m e r s Home Administration (Department of Agriculture) and t h e Economic Development Administration (Department of Commerce) to finance the construction of foreign-owned shipyards in the United States. These shipyards would be fully qualified to produce U . S . - f l a g v e s s e l s that could enter the domestic trade under the Jones Act.

Another attempt to enter the U.S. market involved the construction of vessel sections in Korea. These sections would be shipped to the United States on t h e r e t u r n t r i p of bulk coal carriers, and the sections would be assembled and passed off as Jones Act vessels. This attempt was also blocked by the AWSC.

A l t h o u g h t h e foregoing attempts were u n c o v e r e d and blocked by the AWSC, it illust r a t e s the need for industry vigilance, intelligence, and action t h a t can only be provided by an alert and aggressive trade association.

Without such an organization, i n d i v i d u a l c o m p a n i es would not even be aware of the danger until it was too late.

The AWSC has also been active in urging the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to reduce the regulatory burden on the industry. Several programs have been inaugurated by the AWSC t h a t could set the stage for i n d u s t r y self-regulation in t h e area of occupational safety and health. First, a comprehensive set of t r a i n i n g programs are under development, s t a r t i n g with t h e new employee and going to t h e supervisory and professional levels. These programs are being developed under an OSHA "New Directions" g r a n t t h a t the AWSC received in 1980.

Second, the AWSC has urged OSHA to consolidate the three shipyard standards — shipbuilding, ship repairing, and shipbreaking — so that a vertical standard, expressed in performance r a t h e r t h a n specification terms, can be developed. A vertical standard f o r s h i p y a r ds would contain only those standards that are appropriate for shipyards, and all others would be eliminated. An initial step in this program was taken recently by OSHA when it published a proposed rule-making for a vertical standard for the marine terminal industry. And third, the AWSC has started a quarterly Occupational Injury and Illness Survey that will provide a baseline and statistical proof that our industry's safety and health programs are working.

When the foregoing items are completed, the AWSC will approach OSHA with a program for industry s e l f - r e g u l a t i o n . The Reagan Administration has said that it intends to lift the regulatory burden from the back of industry. The AWSC is eager to participate in this effort. Under the proposed plan, qualified shipyards can periodically certify to OSHA that they are in compliance with the s t a n d a r d s and t h e r e b y preclude unannounced OSHA inspections. This would restore the management prerogative of deciding how to attain s a f e t y and h e a l t h objectives, rather than allocating time and resources to meeting questionable regulations that may not provide a safer workplace.

The shipyard industry has operations that are under industry self-regulation. One notable example is the marine chemists program, which is highly regarded by both industry and government.

It should also be noted that this is one of the most hazardous areas of shipyard work, and it is accomplished with a near perfect safety record.

The AWSC is active in many other areas which are important to the industry. A review of the committee structure and the scope of their activities will present a more comprehensive picture of the AWSC.

The activities of the AWSC are guided by the nine-member Shipyard Steering Committee whose m e m b e r s s e r v e for three-year terms. Each year the AWSC elects a S t e e r i n g C o m m i t t ee member as chairman. The chairman automatically becomes a director in The American Waterways Operators, Inc., and a member of the board of directors' Executive C o m m i t t e e . In this way, shipyard activities are coordinated at the highest levels of t h e a s s o c i a t i o n . The recently elected chairman of the AWSC is John Buursema, president of Twin City Shipyard, Inc.

So far, six committees have been established to take action against nationwide problems affecting the industry and to monitor programs for the benefit of the industry. The Industrial Relations Committee, c h a i r e d by John Chantrey, vice president, Avondale Shipyards, Inc., monitored and participated in drafting the reform legislation to the Longshoremen's Act. In addition, they have commented on regulations and testified at hearings conducted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

As Avondale Shipyards is also an active member of the Shipbuilders Council of America, Mr.

Chantrey also acts as liaison for the activities of these two associations.

The AWSC is an association member of the Shipbuilders Council, which also facilitates coordination at the staff level.

This committee also conducts the annual Wage and Benefit Survey of shipyard production employees that has proven to be a valuable tool in labor relations.

The Economic and Commercial Committee, under the chairmanship of Robert W. Greene III, president, Jeffboat, Inc., is responsible for gathering industry data through the annual Shipyard Survey. This information is tabulated for the last 10 years.

The annual Shipyard Survey contains such information as the number of vessels built and repaired, e m p l o y m e n t statistics, availability of materials, and revenues.

The profile of the industry developed by this survey serves as the foundation for conference testimony before the various Congressional committees and administrative agencies and provides the industry with an important marketing tool.

The Vessel Repair Committee, c h a i r e d by John W. Sansing, president, Newpark Shipbuilding and Repair, Inc., concentrates on matters affecting the repair of vessels. E x a m p l e s i n c l u d e the Coast Guard's proposed rule-making concerning waterfront facilities and the application of proposed tankerman regulations to gas-freeing facilities. Other areas include the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed regulations on hazardous waste, and other regulations that would affect gas-freeing plants and drydocks.

Committee members represent the industry on several technical committees of the National Fire Protection Association, which promulgates shipyard and tank vessel fire protection standards. They are also working closely with the NFPA and the Marine Chemists Association to develop the marine chemists training c u r r i c u l u m.

This committee also takes the lead in supporting the marine chemists function as an area of industry self-regulation.

The C o m m i t t e e of Counsel, chaired by Dwight Miller, St.

Louis Ship, keeps the membership abreast of cases relating to the Longshoremen's Act, OSHA, manufacturers' liability and other matters. The Committee provides a clearing house for legal information pertaining to shipyards, and it advises the AWSC as to whether it should enter certain judicial matters either as a plaintiff or as an amicus curiae.

The Shipyard Safety Committee, chaired by Vincent Laverghetta of St. Louis Ship, was awarded a $50,000 planning grant under the OSHA "New Directions" program. The purpose of the grant is to assess the safety and health needs of the industry and to establish a safety training program for the new employee before he encounters safety and health hazards on the job. Also included is a guide for shipyard management explaining how to use the program effectively, how to adapt the training material to individual shipyards, and how to evaluate the impact of the training on new employees.

The Shipyard Safety Committee plans to apply for a developmental grant to produce additional shipyard safety training programs for supervisory and professional personnel. The developmental grant will also establish the AWSC as a center of competency for shipyard safety within a three- to five-year period, a f t e r which the activity will be financially self-sustaining. The committee has also published and distributed a "Catalogue of Safe- ty Training Aids" to the AWSC membership. A quarterly injury and illness survey has also been started to pinpoint hazards so that the committee can develop corrective actions in a timely fashion.

The Membership and Public Relations Committee, now chaired by Neal S. Platzer, president of Platzer Shipyard, Inc., has conducted several membership campaigns over t h e p a s t s e v e r al years, and as a result of their efforts, the AWSC has more than 70 members.

In conclusion, the AWSC members invest part of their earnings and their time to keep up with the tide. AWSC members are constantly aware of developments in the industry, and the AWSC provides them with the tools they need for a more efficient operation.

Through the AWSC, the members' horizons are extended beyond their offices and shipyards.

By belonging to and supporting the AWSC, shipyards can serve the industry better. In turn, the AWSC, through its members, is shaping an environment that will assure the long-term growth and prosperity of this segment of the shipyard industry for the benefit of the nation.

Other stories from June 1981 issue


Maritime Reporter

First published in 1881 Maritime Reporter is the world's largest audited circulation publication serving the global maritime industry.