Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) President and CEO Christine Duffy sent the following letter this afternoon to Tom Bethel, president of the American Maritime Officers, in response to comments he made on Fox News Channel’s Fox & Friends earlier this week:
Dear Mr. Bethel:
I am writing to express my concerns with comments you made on Fox & Friends this past Monday regarding the training and competency of cruise line officers and crew members. While I understand your self-interest in promoting U.S. maritime officers, whom CLIA members employ and hold in high regard, I cannot let stand the misinformation and inaccuracies that were presented without response on behalf of the cruise line industry.
All crewmembers, regardless of nationality, undergo rigorous training before serving on a cruise ship and participate in continuous drills and exercises to hone their skills – all aimed at ensuring the safety and well-being of passengers. In fact, officers from CLIA member lines have been trained at the STAR Center in Dania Beach, Florida that you used as a backdrop for your TV appearance in which you questioned cruise line officer training.
As you know, regardless of the line that employs them, every officer and seafarer must be certified for competence and proficiency under stringent uniform global training standards prescribed by the International Maritime Organization as outlined in the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978, as amended (STCW). These same requirements apply to seagoing American maritime officers.
Many cruise lines employ a number of U.S. captains and other officers in their fleets together with their counterparts from other major seafaring nations. Competent maritime officers of all nationalities are welcome to apply for cruise line employment. Cruise line officers are also paid very competitive wages, often in the six figures with extensive benefits. This level of compensation exceeds the target of $100,000 that you set out as a goal for the cruise industry in your interview.
Again, while it’s understandable that, as the head of the union representing a number of U.S. maritime officers, you take great pride in the qualifications of American crewmembers —as do we — it’s unfortunate that you chose to malign the competency of cruise line officers and crew, many of whom are in fact U.S. maritime officers. Going forward I would hope that you would present to the public a more accurate and balanced picture with regard to maritime officer training and qualifications.