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Cynicism runs rampant through our federal government.  It is contagious and spreads to those who have any regular interaction with government employees and personnel.  It is almost a form of communication unto itself, a learned vernacular of the trade.  Taking into account the cynical state of the State, it is encouraging to occasionally be part of something government related that functions in an above-average capacity with people who are happy to contribute.  This is how it was at the last MERPAC meeting.  MERPAC stands for the Merchant Marine Personnel Advisory Committee.

MERPAC is a committee chartered by the Department of Homeland Security and composed of professionals from all areas of the maritime industry.  While some of these agency chartered committees tend to be proxies for a particular segment of the maritime industry, MERPAC truly abides by its mandate and incorporates all sectors of the industry.  Through public comment and input by the committee members themselves, MERPAC generates extremely helpful recommendations regarding US Coast Guard proposed rulemakings.  During MERPAC’s recent October meetings, the committee created a proposal that now sits on the USCG comment docket.  The coordinated effort of MERPAC and the subsequent resulting recommendations are a testament to how a government ordained organization can function at a high level.  MERPAC worked together among a broad cross section of professionals and came to a consensus about the Coast Guard’s proposed rules that, if followed, will go a long way toward improving the lives of American mariners.

Let’s try to avoid being cynical and forgive the Secretary of Homeland Security for failing to timely renew the MERPAC charter this year.  Let’s forget that the assistance of senior congressional members had to be enlisted in order to prod Secretary Napolitano along.  Let’s forget that the shortened Coast Guard timeline required multiple harried meetings by MERPAC members so that the necessary work to create their recommendations could get finished.  Let’s try not to predict that the Coast Guard will probably cherry pick the parts of the comprehensive recommendations that they like, resulting in a hodge-podge of new rules.  Let us forget these obstacles, lest we grow cynical.

The fact is that the MERPAC recommendations now available for review on the USCG docket [USCG-2004-17914] are a quality result from a committee that functions well, despite its close relation to the federal government.  It should be a consolation to the U.S. merchant marine industry that the group of people who volunteer their time to participate in MERPAC work hard to ensure the proposed rules coming from the Coast Guard are proper and effective.  In MERPAC the industry has a sentinel at the gates and we should be grateful for the committee’s work.

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