Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Fidley Watch - ‘Tis the Season

Every month in this space we publish an editorial on something of importance to the West Coast maritime industry. Sometimes the column is easy to write; other times it’s particularly difficult. This month should have been an easy one, given some of the topics laid out for us on a silver platter, including:
  • China’s recently announced plans to board and search ships that enter what it considers its territory in the disputed South China Sea.
  • 800 ILWU Local 63 Clerks walking off the job in opposition to technological advances, and taking 7,000 Local 13 workers with them.
  • The pact (finally!) between Canada and Denmark over their shared Arctic Sea border.
  • The looming fiscal cliff.

But instead of scolding longshoremen or signaling alarm at China’s sudden appetite for expansion, we’ve decided to use this month's column to remind our readers of the charities that work year-round to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate, and their particular need during the holidays – this year more than most.

A charity near to our heart here at Philips Publishing Group is the Catholic Seafarers’ Center of Seattle (www.catholicseafarercenter.org). The Seafarer’s Center, which opened its doors in 1940, is a social service agency in the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle, whose mission is to meet the spiritual and practical needs of seafarers and maritime workers visiting and living in Seattle. The center is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, and offers seafarers the opportunity to relax among their peers and enjoy coffee, tea, and pastries (donated by Starbucks) or soft drinks and snacks available for purchase. They can take a complimentary copy of Pacific Maritime Magazine from a beautiful wood magazine rack donated by our friends at Crowley Maritime in memory of our founder, Richard H. Philips.

In addition to games and activities like ping-pong, pool, and foosball, there are several computers and printers available to check email or print documents. The center also provides a bank of telephones, and staff sells phone cards, SIM Cards, stamps, postcards, and other items often requested by seafarers. The center provides assistance with money transfers at a nearby banking location and directions and excursions to neighborhood drug stores, convenience stores, and attractions. The center’s chaplain Fr. Tony Haycock, is available to come on board visiting ships to say Mass, hear confession, and make other pastoral visits.

In San Pedro Bay, the International Seafarers Center, (562-432-7560) located at the Port of Long Beach, is a full-service, non-profit, non-denominational seamen’s facility operating in the harbor area. The center offers free van transportation for officers and crewmembers from marine terminals to the center and to local shopping. The center offers many of the same services and amenities as the Seattle center, and is open afternoons and nights until 11 p.m.

Both of these centers provide a clean, safe environment for seafarers who are far from home during the holidays, and always need donations, which are tax deductible, from individuals or organizations.
Another group that needs help over the holidays is the US Marine Corps Reserve. They don’t want you to storm a beach or jump out of an airplane, but they can really use your help with their Toys for Tots program (www.toysfortots.org), which collects new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December each year, and distributes those toys as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in the community. Visit the website to find a drop-off location near you or just send cash online from your desk, and imagine the joy your toy will bring to a child.

Another great charity to remember during the holidays is the Wounded Warrior Project, which serves veterans and service members who incurred a physical or mental injury, illness, or wound while serving our country on or after September 11, 2001, and the program helps the families those who served as well. Individuals can donate at www.woundedwarriorproject.org, and companies can register to raise funds for the program at the same site.

Finally, the Salvation Army (www.salvationarmyusa.org) is helping those who have little or nothing this holiday season with services such as food, shelter and emotional support, including those Americans who were left with nothing in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Individuals can drop a few bucks in a red kettle or donate online, and companies and organizations can sign up for monthly “sustainer” programs.

The new year will no doubt bring many opportunities for us to comment on China, the ILWU and Arctic navigation, but for now we’ll enjoy the holidays with our families and wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy (and prosperous) New Year.

Correction: One of our astute readers, Max Denise, pointed out that a word we used several times in this space last month, liquefecation, was not really a word. He’s right – the correct word is liquefaction, and we regret the error, and while our opinion is that liquefecation should be a word, we’ll use liquefaction to describe the conversion of methane from a gas to a liquid from now on.