by Mark Vessio, Intern, Center for Seafarers’ Rights
Interning at the Seamen’s Church Institute’s (SCI) Center for Seafarers’ Rights afforded me my first in-depth look into an industry I’d only read about before. The maritime industry accounts for the majority of the world’s commerce, yet many people know little about the industry or the individuals that keep it running. The complexities of this world are both intimidating and intriguing. This summer I was given the unique opportunity to feed my interest in maritime law by meeting and consulting the very lifeblood of the maritime world: seafarers.
The summer internship with SCI’s Center for Seafarers’ Rights distinguished itself from most other legal internships by allowing me not only to learn law and apply it but also to see firsthand how the law affects various sectors of the maritime industry. The majority of the internship involved advising seafarers from around the world concerning legal rights such as wages, shore leave, repatriation and medical care. This year was particularly interesting because it was the first year the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC, 2006) has been in force. Researching and reporting the effects of the MLC, 2006 pertaining to shore leave in the United States opened my eyes to a new experience. Seafarers’ jobs put them under tremendous amounts of stress, working steadily for months on end. Shore leave allows seafarers to get off these vessels—even if only for a small amount of time—and can be crucial to seafarers’ health. The denial of shore leave is one of the many issues seafarers face on a daily basis. If troubling issues like shore leave are not resolved, the international community could see a dip in the amount of individuals signing up for careers at sea—potentially highly detrimental to a global shipping market predicted to double by 2020.
Happenings outside of the office afforded me another set of unique experiences. I spent my second day of the internship learning about the equity and investment side of the maritime industry at the Marine Money Academy. Subsequently, spending two days with the Liberian International Ship and Corporate Registry, I learned about ship registration procedures and flag state responsibilities. I also spent two days with the United States Coast Guard Sector New York where I learned about port inspections, the implementation of maritime conventions and the measures the Coast Guard takes to keep US ports and waterways safe. Travelling to Washington, DC, I got the opportunity to listen in on an inter-agency panel concerning the maritime industry and maritime domain awareness. The Director of SCI’s Center for Seafarers’ Rights and I also met with the Coast Guard to discuss the Coast Guard Authorization Act and provisions pertaining to seafarers’ rights.
The most rewarding experience outside the office by far was visiting ships with SCI’s chaplains. Firsthand interactions with seafarers allowed me to understand how the laws and regulations I study and research on a regular basis affect seafarers’ daily lives.
Through this internship, I have realized the important role SCI plays in the lives of seafarers everywhere. Whether providing legal assistance or simply supplying seafarers with phone cards, SCI has a positive impact on the entire international maritime community.