mike french's Blog

Race Scarred

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Much has been written about the Maritime Labour Convention of late. In fact, until recently, for many the term “ratified” meant having rodents eat the gear that yachties had in storage.  Although, it has to be said that the MLC’s preeminence as a discussion point possibly has been usurped recently by that other favourite, the Manilla amendments to the STCW convention.  Much of the discussion about the MLC has centered on the likelihood of legislative changes to the design requirements of new yachts. Of course this is understandable given that we all rightly fear the reaction of yacht owners to being told that they will have to give up their own space in favour of providing the crew with more operational space for unimportant things like eating and sleeping.

However, the MLC does in fact have many elements that will undoubtedly affect the way we operate in the yachting sector. It’s not just about giving the crew bunks big enough to make sleeping with a basketball player a viable option. The MLC is often referred to as “The Seafarers Bill of Rights” and it seeks to regulate the standards of employment terms and conditions of all seafarers including yacht crew. As such the MLC should protect the rights of all crewmembers irrespective of their race or ethnicity. This is an important topic and was raised again recently by reports (unsubstantiated) of the deportation of ‘foreign’ dayworkers from Fort Lauderdale.

 

The CBP or Customs and Border Protection Agency were indeed patrolling the docks at the boat show. What is alarming is that they appeared to have lists of people or boats they were targeting.  In essence, they were acting on “intelligence” and were not simply out there looking for yachties to send home. This is sad because the “intelligence” the CBP received came from people who thought they were doing the right thing by getting rid of the foreigners and who further seemed to think that this was in the interests of all those U.S. citizens connected with the yachting industry in Fort Lauderdale. In fact in this regard it was as useful as suggesting that the Israelis and Palestinians simply stop being silly and start getting along peacefully in order to stop the conflict in the Middle East. (Such was the misunderstanding of the complexity of international trade as with a global industry such as the yachting business.)

 

Those that sought to retaliate against foreigners invading their territory missed the point entirely; our fight should be against prejudice and discrimination itself rather than seeking to invoke protectionist measures in any one place.

 

What’s interesting and relevant to my point is the fall out this issue caused. There seemed to be a clear polarisation of opinion around whether or not U.S. citizens where discriminated against in the yachting industry. Now while the vast majority of comments rendered on the subject could be categorised by anyone with a brain cell as blatant xenophobia, I decided to do some research into the racial diversity of the yachting industry. After careful collation and interpretation of my admittedly amateur and informal research, I discovered that one has more chance of being run over by an aeroplane while crossing a road than actually ever meeting a black crewmember.  Forget Americans being discriminated against, statistics would seem to indicate that black people have it much worse. 

 

In a cosmopolitan industry where the great majority of crewmembers are not in any obvious way prejudiced against anyone, it seems strange to think that there is some form of de facto race filter at work. It does, however, appear to be the case that colour or ethnic background remains a bastion of employment entitlement in the yachting sector. 

 

Where does the MLC fit in to this equation? Well as I mentioned the MLC seeks to ensure that employment terms are racially blind. In fact the MLC defines “...the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation....” as a fundamental right and principle. 

 

So returning to my point about how the MLC might impact other areas of the way in which we presently do business in yachting, it would seem likely that our “normal” requirement to specify the nationality, age and gender of our future crewmates will not be allowed once the MLC is ratified. In fact the MLC might mean – by my estimation – that putting a photo on our resume is against the law. Now, this will be quite a shock to many.

 

The yachting sector has observed many modern phenomena over the last few years. We have seen plastic bottles banned on many boats, although some would say this is an efficacious measure designed to resist the plague of half empty bottles being left around the boat by the deckies. There are even some boats that now allow female crewmembers to enter the bridge without a duster in hand. 

 

As the Twenty-first century marches on and yachting sector is inevitably caught in the grip of further rules and regulation, it will be fascinating to see whether or not yachting can confine its racial competition amongst crew to support for their teams at the Olympics.  After all, the race divide rightly belongs on the track and nowhere else.


Difficult to legislate morality. Racism is the result of poor education. Perhaps MLC and a higher standard of education among yacht captains will level the field. It really is quite shocking how segregated yachting is....
Posted by: junior at 17/12/2010 15:28


We do not have a problem with foreign crew who enter the US legally as a listed crewmember aboard an arriving or transiting yacht. What we have had a problem with, for over the 20 years, are foreign nationals who fly in on a visitor visa (not eligable for employment), camp out at crew houses and establish gainful employment at boat yards or walking the docks soliciting employment in violation of their visa. With a shrinking yacht employement environment, I applaud CBP and ICE for ENFORCING our IMMIGRATION LAWS.
Posted by: Flagrante Delicto at 17/12/2010 16:45


I am always amazed at the narrow mindedness of some, specially since we work in a global industry. Many crew actually feel they are Global Citizens, due to this nomadic lifestyle the industry somewhat forces us lead. Though sometimes this train of thought goes against some folks ideas.
Mike French, I applaud your article for bring out in the open some of the true issues this industry has. The ILO MLC has been out to read for quite some time and yet people are only now starting to read it, let alone comprehend it.
It does worry me, what impact it may have on Owners but I feel it is a move in the right step.
Posted by: BPO at 17/12/2010 18:01


@ Flagrante Delicto. So what about all the USA yachties that are dockwalking and dayworking all over the Med. Do you really want to open that can of worms. Its a two way street, like it or not.
Posted by: Marty at 18/12/2010 00:26


This is indeed a topic of much controversy in my opinion. I am not aware of any other industry where it is ok to ask a person to state their nationality on their CV. Some may remark that it is necessary in order to know if the person has the necessary visas to enter and work in a specific country but this should be covered by asking for visa information. What other purpose that asking for your nationality on your CV serve. Discrimination does not only exist against specific races, whihc is very obvious, but also against married couples. Does hiring a single person gaurantee longevity? So what does stating your marital status on your CV serve but to satisfy another prejudice?
Regarding Xenopobia, this practice is so common that it is going unoticed in the industry. Pardon the generalization but British captains like to hire British crew members. Australian Captains like to hire Aussie crew and so on. When dock walking it is more beneficial to ask "what country is your crew from?" rather that "are you looking for any new crew members?"
I really hope that this changes and this industry will modernize and become more open minded...the same goes for yacht owners.
Posted by: Not a Yachtie at 18/12/2010 00:33


The article is about RACISM not nationalism. Stop with the Nationalism. A British captain who hires British crew is not breaking any known laws or etiquette . To refuse to hire qualified British Asian or British Black crew is racism.

To form a crew composed of a wide range of nationalities does nothing to address the mono ethnic crew profile on yachts.

And dont be naive. Young Single crew are preferred on yachts because they are Free and malleable, with few entangling commitments to complicate the yachts schedule.
Posted by: junior at 18/12/2010 04:58


Im black in yachting ,I have a yachtmaster coatstal, AEC, Padi open water, Advanced fire, advanced medical, advaced sea survival and skills craft(engineering) I even attemted my Y4(yes without sea time, yes it was stupid but I thought if I showed interest....)

I have been looking for work for 16 months now , I paid for all these caurses hoping to improve my chances of employement but it seems that skin colour reasignment would have been a better investment.

Im a great worker, I even have some boats that will wait up to six weeks just to have me come daywork for them because they dont want anyone else,sometimes I also help out at IYT with training of fresh deckies ,only to watch them get jobs while I get left behind . BUT it seems that thats all im good for(daywork).and even with daywork,I only get it through people I know, those who dont know me give the work to the white guy after they said NO to me.

Many peolpe say 'no its not true yachting is not racist' but how would they know if they never have and never will experience it? And Im not talking about minor discremination cause of nationality ,Im talkink of real RACISM.

Three times i was called a kiffir(nigger) at Waxy's buy Yachties who thought I could not understand them, last time was only a month ago.

So far I know of 5 blacks in yachinng and we are all unemployed . X has been looking for two and a half years ,Y last daywoked in May ,Z has been looking for over 13 months.All great people and excellent DAYWORKERS...Lord help us

thats all

Cheers
Posted by: x at 18/12/2010 18:39


My owner won't have any black crew working on his yacht. He's black. Is this racism?
Posted by: Jeremy at 20/12/2010 08:36


My Godfather. Prepare yourselves for more bollocks in the form of the new MLC, more useless dribble, more xenephobic supporting rubbish, more waste of time, more pathetic twists to interpretations....I could go on and on.

But it riles me immensley that a minority of seemingly American crew have kicked off this "they are taking our jobs" stance and are running around like headless chickens performing a pathetic dance.

As in one of the blogs above someone quite rightly mentioned about deporting Americans who walk the docks in the Med´which they do. I don´t ask them if they are here legally. I wish them every chance to get employed and I and all my crew give them the time of day when they knock on my passerail. They are under strict instructions to greet everyone professionally. They do that anyway because that is the calibre of my multi-national crew.

Someone also mentioned about yachting being truly global, IT IS. Foreign crew are globally recognised and yachts hire all nationalities anywhere in the world. So what if Poms like to hire poms, Kiwis like to hire Kiwis, it is a personal choice, period. It seems there are a few sick individuals trying to ruin it for others.
Get a life.

With the MLC code, I can see that the only thing being allowed on a CV is the persons first name. Why? Well the surname will go because you might be able to tell if the person was Arab or Catholic, the age will also go because you might discriminate that the person is too old or too young, Marital status will also go because you might be able to see that the young Stew´is single and hit upon her, the Nationality, well that will be the first to go because that could be a true discrimination factor that one, sex, Male or Female, well that will also go because the person the yacht advertised was for a deckhand, now a Female OR Make can apply for that one. So when advertising for a MALE DECKHAND wanted, lookout because some idiot will take that to task and say that it was discriminatory by advertising for a Male when a Female could have done the job. BOLLOCKS...If you want a Male, YOU WANT A MALE. If you advertised for a Female, then you obviously wanted a Female for the job.

And smoker or non-smoker, well that doesn´t matter these days, on all the C.V´s I get, it is amazing, everyone is a non-smoker!!


In a case a few years ago a married couple advertised in the UK for a female nanny for their 18mth old daughter. They were taken to tasks by a male stirrer because he said that a Male could have been able to apply for the job, so they were breaking the law. Absolutely they were breaking the stupid law, I would have too and so would 99% of others, the 1% are the idiots who are being heard nowdays. Who the hell wants a Male looking after their 18tmth old daughter??

Watch out, the MLC bar a few great inclusions, will take your choices and freedom away, and the logic we have been taught for many years will be gradually eroded away!
Capt Kaj
Posted by: Capt Kaj at 20/12/2010 10:26


Can we get back on track here, this is not about Nationalism as someone pointed out. The MLC seeks to regulate where people have been exploited or are treated unfairly it was not imposed upon us for fun. Yachting is moving forward and with it's progress comes responsibility. Do you think that the world was shaped by the guys who sit at the back of the bar whining about 'new rules' and lamenting the good old days. We had all that when the MCA came out with it's Large Yacht code, interestingly Insurance companies will tell you that there have been less accidents since.

The MLC is coming, my point is that it will not only affect designers and shipyards it is just possible that we as individual players in this game will have to watch what we do and say, even if it is not exactly what we we think.
Posted by: Mike French at 20/12/2010 14:19


A good way to promote "awareness" and inclusion would be for Dockwalk to morph from a whites only, South Florida good Ole boys in deck shoes and sunglasses club, into...Dockwalk, the essential site for all superyacht captains and crew.

Its hard to take the whole issue seriously when I see NO ethnic diversity built into Dockwalk and a persistent South Florida viewer base stuck on " I've been hard done by" , seeking guidance from the ICE gods.

Its a big world out there, bring Dockwalk out of the stone age and into the real world by recruiting other nationality, other ethnic contributors. .
Posted by: junior at 21/12/2010 15:41


Junior,

Our contributors, i.e. writers for both the magazine and web articles are based around the world, from Australia to the South of France to the Isle of Man, to mention a few. Our in-house staff alone is made of up three different nationalities.

Perhaps you are referring to some of our Dockwalk.com users in your “South Florida, Good Ole Boys” reference. We cannot control which users post on the site. Google Analytics also proves that our users are spread around the world.

You seem to be referring to a topical conversation with that a few users are having about a recent situation in South Florida during the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show, at which time many of our users were based in this area. Our content follows the vessels.
Posted by: Janine at 21/12/2010 18:29


Well Janine...congratulations on Dockwalks ethnic diversity.... sounds like the typical mix of nationalities standing behind a yachty bar or looking for work on Dockwalk.


Latinos, Asians, Blacks ?

On the waterfront in this port I am the sole English speaker surrounded by sea of Argentine, Brazilian, German, Italian, Spanish, Croatian, Bulgarian, Dutch...all yacht crew Janine...Not one of their perspectives is visible on Dockwalk. Not one of them would even read dockwalk.

Without their perspectives the Good Ole boy Anglo crew network rules supreme.

Acceptance of racial or ethnic outsiders will be achieved when these outsiders are given high profile media exposure and a voice among the sea of white, Kiwi, Australian, South African, American yachty anglos.
Posted by: junior at 22/12/2010 12:53


Junior,
You’re correct. There are parts of the industry that we are not reaching, but unfortunately it is not practical to publish in multiple languages. We do welcome and encourage all nationalities and ethnicities to join our website and have discussion in their native language. Our User-Generated Issue, January 2011, did attract articles from Venezuelan and Danish crew. Thanks for your input. We will continue to strive to produce a magazine and website that reaches as many crew as possible around the world. Happy Holidays.
Posted by: Janine at 22/12/2010 16:10


Good points Junoir, To Janine of DOCKWALK- what do you think that you (DOCKWALK ) can do to 'bring yachting to this century' and what can you do to help the blacks who are over looked (about six in florida who some have been looking for over two and halve years)???
Posted by: shamdog at 22/12/2010 18:03


To Mike French.
Mike Mike Mike, MLC is NOT going to change ethnic, racist or beliefs of any yacht crew. It is human nature you are dealing with here, they are individuals who will always have their own views, beliefes, interpretations and ideas racist or not. MLC isn´t going to affect how their brains work, how you get that thought I have no idea.
It sounds like you have been brain washed by the MLC code God. MLC is yet another load of politically incorrect nonsense. Even more paper work, even more, you shall do this, thou shall not do that blah blah blah. You of all people should have read into this better than you have.

Dockwalk is a great forum guys, give it a break. Those who think that Dockwalk needs to come into the 21st Century are probably the ones that will also like the new MLC code like Mike does. If you want the Latinos, French speaking Black Africans etc who can´t speak Inrish to be able to read Dockwalk and have their say, don´t forget chaps; yachting is an English speaking world. Like the airlines, all radio transmissions world wide are supposed to be carried out in English. Where did you guys come from who expect Dockwalk to be produced in 7 diffrent languages, Ahhh, I realise now, you are the ones that like the MLC code.
Feliz Navidad, Bonne Noel, Merry Xmas.
Capt Kaj
Posted by: Capt Kaj at 23/12/2010 10:28


Capt Kaj...you may be happy with the privledges afforded you under the present status quo, but be assured that the nearly 20 percent "non white" graduates of schools like Kings Point and SUNY Maritime wont be happy when its time to go to work and they discover that their race is not to your personal preference.
These are the same "non white" professional mariners, who in future will be making the laws that you operate under.
Posted by: junior at 23/12/2010 18:35


First of all, let me applaud Mr.french with his knowledge about this discussion.Now i have been a victim of this situation and i wish i can see more people coming out to say something also. I've known about the MLC code for a while, working on cruise ships,and it was good for crew members, now am not sure if i would be around when it's really going to be playing a big part in yachting but i hope it will, for the sake of other people like myself who wants to start a career in yachting because the way i see it, it's not about nationality here it's about COLOR. Colored Americans have a hard time also, colored South Africans have a hard time also I can truly say this because i know if i was was not a colored person i would be hired already, because a few weeks ago when i was call to wash down a boat and when i got to the boat i was told (SORRY WE FOUND SOMEONE ELSE).I've been here almost a year and i only got two day work and why because i am colored and don't get shit face in the bars and cause shit. Few of my friends are here longer than me and they can't even get a permanent job seems like we only get to make the yachts look good while the new ones get the jobs.But at the end of the day it doesn't get easier for us, we all come here and invest all this money to build a career and we just get push back down ladder by people who call themselves professional, now tell me what is the cause for this, don't we deserve a chance like everyone else?. As time goes by i hope things can change and we as people can push away the negative way and make way for a positive day, and that the few colored guys who's here can one day be given a chance in the yachting industry. Cats and dogs don't fight anymore people, they live as one now so don't you think it's about time we stop all this
stereo type B.S that sooner or later is gonna change.
Posted by: floridaguy at 30/12/2010 03:03


2011 and yachting is still racist, its sad but true.

it seems like its still a white mans(yachting)world. [Comment removed by moderator]
Posted by: ron at 01/01/2011 16:41


Junior,
Not guilty as charged Sir. Re-read my notes, I am not, never have been, an advocate of Racism. I merely pointed out that the MLC will never change people´s choice in the ethnicity of any crew, they will hire who they like sadly. I have had in my years working in this industry a wide range of colours who were my choice, working on my yachts. I hire by a number of boxes that they either tick or don´t, the "colour" box isn´t one of my catergories.
Don´t worry, I have also had the racism slant thrown at me being a Kiwi in the industry, there is enough of that sort of thing going on where certain people don´t hire because of where they are from. Not to the extent of perhaps the "colour" issue but it is enough to be noticeable.
To all of the coloured crew reading this, don´t give up, but perhaps this reluctance in hiring you is an American thing and not I believe, a general across the board world wide yachting thing. Americans need to change the way they see you.
Capt Kaj
Posted by: Kaj at 04/01/2011 15:59


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