Federal shutdown rocks the boat for maritime industry

Partial govt. shutdown affects mariners, those trying to start careers at sea

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The maritime industry is big in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia, but some mariners say the partial government shutdown is at least temporarily taking the wind out of their sails. 

With Jacksonville being a big port city that does a lot of business at sea, there are concerns that mariners cannot get the government certifications required to work about commercial vessels during the federal shutdown, which has also affected those trying to start their careers on the water. 

At Bluewater Maritime School on Wednesday, instructors were hard at work, training the next generation of sailors. 

Nick Schevikhoven, an instructor at Bluewater Maritime School, explained it’s a place where people from all backgrounds can train for successful careers at sea.

"You don't have to have college degrees to succeed in it," Schevikhoven told the I-TEAM. "You don’t have to have anything short of a high school diploma to really turn a good profit in your life."

But the federal shutdown is rocking the boat. The Coast Guard sent out an advisory saying that merchant mariners cannot have their certifications renewed at the moment. They're extended while the government remains in the shutdown, hampering the work of the National Maritime Center. 

For new applicants, it's worse. They cannot get the paperwork necessary to be professional merchant marines, which prepares them for a wide range of careers. 

"Going anywhere in the maritime industry -- cruise ships, cargo ships, oil field supply vessels, crew boats, so on," Schevikhoven said. 

Essentially, new graduates from marine training programs are grounded until the federal government gets back to normal.

"Just keep pushing the envelope further and further back," Schevikhoven said. "The longer it goes could end up being an issue."

Another issue is an international sailing certificate required by many countries to travel overseas on a commercial ship. If it’s expired, some sailors might not be able to do their jobs.

"It's going to slow things down for sure," Schevikhoven said. "But in this industry, nothing happens rapidly." 

The students at Bluewater Maritime School are optimistic the storm will pass so they can start their careers without having to change course.

The owner of Bluewater Maritime Schools told the I-TEAM she hopes that the government can right this ship, get through these rough waters and bring things back to normal. 

About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.