MATSON HIRES FIRST MICRONESIAN MARINERS

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Guam training program produces Pacific cadets

By Letitia Law-Byerly HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Marianas Business Journal, August 17, 2009) - The Micronesian Shipping Commission, the tri-partite regional body that regulates and reviews international shipping services to and from the Micronesian islands, recently made some strides to achieve one of its longtime goals of placing shipping cadets from the islands aboard commercial vessels operating in the region.

In April, the MSC, in partnership with Matson Navigation Co., selected and placed two citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia as cadets on board Matson’s feeder vessel, the M/V Islander. The M/V Islander is a Norwegian-flagged ship, staffed by European officers and crewed mostly by Filipino seamen. The FSM cadets are the first mariners from Micronesia to work on a Matson ship. Their tenure on the feeder vessel, which calls on Kwajalein, Ebeye and Majuro in the Marshall Islands, and Kosrae, Pohnpei and Chuuk states in the FSM, is for 12 months.

More recently in June, the MSC placed the first Palauan cadet to work on a Matson Guam-to-U.S. West Coast surface transportation carrier. The Palauan cadet, a U.S. citizen, was hired as a third mate on the Matson ship. Len Isotoff, general manager of Matson’s Guam office, told the Journal, a second Palauan cadet, also a U.S. citizen, is currently in training at the Philippines Maritime Academy and upon graduation, will be considered for placement on another Matson trans-Pacific vessel when the cadet receives his merchant marine documents from the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Journal also learned that Kyowa Shipping Company of Japan, which operates services from Asia and Guam to Micronesia, is also engaging two FSM citizens to work on board Kyowa ships for a one-year period. The selection of the two cadets for placement on board Kyowa vessels was also made by the MSC. The arrangement was formalized at the annual MSC meeting held in July in Palau, according to an e-mail from Richard P. Sablan, vice president and managing director of Marianas Steamship Agencies, Kyowa’s shipping agent on Guam. Kyowa and Saipan Shipping Co. of the Northern Mariana Islands are principals of Marianas Steamship Agencies and MSA Logistics on Guam. Kyowa Shipping has a service contract with Horizon Lines to transship U.S. cargo to the Micronesian islands.

All the surface transportation companies that do business in the western Pacific region attend the annual MSC meeting, according to Isotoff. The MSC reviews carrier performance and addresses issues that might impact surface transport to the islands. Isotoff said, "Matson is supportive of and committed to working with the MSC on its program and goal of [placing] qualified cadets from the [freely associated states] countries of Micronesia on U.S. flag ships." But Isotoff added "there is still a ways to go in making this possible and requires a government-to-government approach.

"To work on U.S. flag ships, you must be a U.S. citizen with merchant marine documents issued by the U.S. Coast Guard," said Isotoff. "There are other considerations such as crewing contracts and the Jones Act, which is our federal statute that deals with cabotage."

The MSC appointed Moses Nelson as its full-time executive director to oversee the work of the commission. The MSC was formed more than 15 years ago by a treaty ratified by the FSM, Palau and the Marshall Islands. Senior government officials, usually at ministerial level, representing each of the three entities sit on the commission. The chairmanship of the commission rotates among the three signatory countries. According to an Asian Development Bank report, "The MSC, which meets annually, controls market access for international shipping service to and from the Micronesia region. Access is regulated through an Entry Assurance System. The commission approves five-year licenses or [certificates], known as Entry Assurances, which cost US$5,000 per year. Applicants must submit performance bonds of between US$75,000 to US$1 million, depending on the size of the vessel." The MSC’s secretariat office is in Palikir, Pohnpei. MBJ

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