Cmd: No. They do it differently. What's different is that a ship that comes into the Port of Miami comes in loaded with cargo, discharges cargo and picks up cargo. They don't have a what you would call a cash flow problem. So, in other words, if we stopped a vessel in the Port of Miami for doing something wrong and there had to be a fine to be payed, they could pay the fine and then move on. But if you stopped one of these vessels down here on the river before they get their cargo, then what happens is they can't pay the fine until you allow them to load and all that, so you have kind of a 'Catch 22' problem, you know, but fortunately thats not my problem.
B: (new person comes in) Okay, and you are...
Lieutenant: Lieutenant Linda Sturgis, S-T-U-R-G-I-S.
B: Wait Linda, put your face in the, let's get our ....Okay, I got it. It's okay. Okay, the last thing you were saying I thought was really important.
Lt: Okay, well the Miami River is a complicated issue. It's not just a river, it's not just shipping. Uh, the people live on the river. Literally, their houses are up to the river, but there's industry that comes in and out of the river and they like the Coast Guard because we keep the river going; we keep things running. But then again they don't like the Coast Guard because we regulate'em. And then with the agencies involved with the river, it's like one big Rubik's Cube. Because you have the Coast Guard, you have the people that do safety boardings, you have the part of the Coast Guard that does pollution prevention, and you have the part of the Coast Guard that does drug interdiction, you have customs, you have customs that looks for drugs, customs that gets the money, you have INS looking for immigration, you have the local sheriff's department, police department...so there's a multitude of different agencies.
B: So you're talkin about...
Cmd: So when a boat comes into Miami a lot of organizations and agencies are interested in it. INS is looking to make sure there are no illegal immigrants on board, customs is making sure that the cargoes are declared okay. The Coast Guard goes on board to make sure it's meeting the international safety rules. And our search and rescue part of the Coast Guard , I shouldn't say our search and rescue part, our law enforcement people are goin on board to make sure there is no illegal drug activity on board. So, we're all interested in making sure they meet the federal, the appropriate federal laws.
B. So how does it work, actually?
Cmd: We hold em up at the anchorage and then we put a marine inspector on a boat, just like we're doin right now. And they'll drive out to the anchorage and board em out there at the anchorage.
B: How can you tell that... how do you get to know... or suspect if they're gonna be a ....
Cmd: Under the law, all boats coming, all ships coming in to Miami have to give us 24 hour prior notice, okay.
B: Un huh.
Cmd: So, if we see someone out there who doesn't give us prior notice, right away, we would think something was up and we would send someone out.
B: So, the main thing that the Coast Guard gets involved is in the safety of the vessels coming in or seaworthiness...
Cmd: Seaworthiness, safety and enforcement. and drugs, and enforcement of laws and treaties, right?
B: The main drugs that come in are cocaine and marijuana, right?
Cmd: I think so, yeah. Many of the drugs coming in are cocaine and marijuana, generally speaking, yeah.
B: And is the Coast Guard involved, or are you the main enforcers of anti-drug laws?
Cmd: This office here, this group office and this station right here, yes.
Cmd: They do that. Absolutely, ya know. They have their intelligence too, and then they fit a targeting profile and if it fits a targeting profile then they go board it and tear the boat apart, ya know?
B: What's a targeting profile mean, exactly?
Cmd: well, it has to do with, it has to do with, I mean, a lot of things, I mean you know, who would uh. It has to do with intelligence. Like we have agents all over the place, ya know. This boat left here with so muchya know, so many bags of whatever on board. Then, they'll send it to intelligence center, it'll go out to all of the ships, see if they spot it, that kind of stuff. Um, certain... the way it sits in the water, ya see what I'm saying, is it at a certain height, it tells you that it's probably carrying bags of marijuana ya know, all kinds of, I mean it's it's just a matter of bein on a ship, I mean you can almost tell by lookin at one of these things if it fits the profile or not, so, like you get good at tellin just by looking at the people.
Cmd: But anyway, that's, this command does that. Then, our command, the marine safety office does the boardings for safety and making sure they're constructed correctly and that kind of stuff..
B: And so, is it dangerous?
Cmd: Yeah, our law enforcement people risk their lives every day when they go out on these boats here. So, so, they have a lot of times when they go on board...sometimes my boarding officers and marine inspectors go on board and a couple times uh the crew has been dead. They were shot at night for whatever reason, most likely a drug deal and all that, so we're very careful. When I send out the marine inspectors on the river I always send em out in twos, never by themselves. They always stay in close liaison with other people so we know what's goin on.
Lt: I'm not afraid because it's hard sometimes when you first go on board a vessel for the crew to get some kind of trust from you. Some of the countries that we deal with are afraid of authority and think a person in a uniform is someone who's gonna hurt em, someone who's bad or someone who's gonna try to send em to jail. But what we do at the marine safety office is we try to enforce international safety regulations, so when we board a vessel we're actually there to help the crew, and we're there to make sure that the waters stay clean. Ya know, we look at life preservers, life jackets, we look at fire pumps, we make sure that the engines are running properly. So, the crews normally aren't afraid of us when we come on, and we don't wear guns, and we go on and let them know we're there for their safety. And uh, so that's like a lot of the difference between us and some of the different agencies or even some of the submissions that the Coast Guard does is you have to when you go on board give a presence that you're not there to hurt anybody. You're there to protect them, you're there to enforce safety and to promote safety.
B: I think this is so good of you to take me on the boat and everything.
Cmd: Just tell your boyfriend that he owes us bigtime.
Cmd: No, we help out all the time, ya know all kinds of people call and they ask us ya know say like if the, if the station today was out on what they call a search and rescue, then we couldn't do it. And, and I got news for you, if one happens while we're doin this, that's where we're gonna go. Ok, ya know but but the station was nice enough today to say hey look ya know we'd be happy to take ya out, and so that's what...
B: Hey, that's great. What is that big thing? that Casino Miami?
Cmd: It's a gambling boat. It goes out three miles, gambles.
Cmd: This is inspected, inspected by us. Got a US flag.
B: ...goes just to the mouth of the river.
Cmd: We got a law in FLorida that you're not allowed to gamble inside the three-mile limit. So, they go outside the three miles, and you go out there and gamble, drink and dance ya know.
B: Oh. so you get on the boat, then you go out there and gamble.
Cmd: Right. You gotta. You can't gamble till they cross the three-mile limit.
Lt: See like that boat right there, that yellow one?
Lt: Well, any small passenger boats that you carry with you more than six people for hire, like that guide boat - excursions ya now, sight seeing - our office also inspects those as well. Ya know like the ones that are bayside or the ones..
B: Inspect them for seaworthiness.
Lt: Yeah, right, yeah, for safety, for passenger safety.
Cmd: And there's customs right there.
B: So, I'm a ... if I'm a Haitian boat, and I'm coming in here, it's pretty wierd that I can come in in broad daylight, right past customs and right under the bridge and everything. Is that where they go through?
LT: That's actually customs for the Port of Miami.
Cmd: They just, they get on their boat right there.
B: What's that, the Brickle Bridge?
CMd: Yah, yah, the 2nd Avenue Bridge. Yah, they got to open it though for that boat to get in.
B: But they must know about the wooden boat - Imean the one that came through and all the Haitians got off and disappeared into the city...
Lt: Ya know, like they say, the best we can do is storm the troops in broad daylight.
Cmd: Ya know, they know now, I'll tell you that. Heres some better boats, see? Ya know, loaded properly , moored properly. The hull is in pretty good condition I mean, roughly, looking at it. And these are the new ideas, to have these kinds of boats in harbor here now. See, even this one's kind of beat but it's a little better than normal.
B: What are these marks on the side?
Cmd: That's called a load line. That's as high as they can load the cargo and still be safe.
B: Uh huh.
Cmd: See, now cargo ship safety code they don't even have to have a load line because they're below the convention guidelines, see. But under the Caribbean Cargo ship safety code they have to have the markings on the side for loading now. See, so what they would do is just load it as low as they thought they could load...so.
Cmd: ...ya know the traffic above and all that.
B: They took out these pilings. Could you say that again cuz I didn't quite get it.
Cmd: See, alot of times the boats would lose steering and they'd crash into these protective walls here, ok... and therefore wreck the bridge... that was one of the problems we had on the Miami River - one of the many problems.
Lt: ...since the caribbean cargo safety code was passed uh January, the number of bridge collisions we have had has decreased probably by about 75% less. We used to have at least 2, 3, 4 a week at least. Now we're down to maybe one or 2 a month.
B: What about the issue of pollution, are you involved in that at all?
Cmd: Yah, our office does that.
B: So, if somebody sees somebody dumping oil or sewage they...
Cmd: That's us; yah, you call us. Now, you've also noticed that... this is what was happening, we had a lot of midnight mystery spills , ya know what I'm saying? We'd get a lot of calls at night and you can't find the source and all that. Since we've got, since a lot of these substandard boats have left, the amount of pollution on the river has gone down significantly too.
B: And you can actually tell the difference?
Cmd: Oh, yeah. A lot of times we have to go out and investigate.
B: I saw a lot of guys on jet skis the other day and I thought I don't know if I quite want to do that yet, casue I see alot of nasty looking stuff floating around.
Lt: On a duty standpoint, actually responding to pollution calls, we used to get on the average 2 to 3 to 4 calls on the Miami River a week. And what was happening was that you had this major sludge that just lived with the river; up and down with the tides.
B: And it's really going... it's better now?
Lt: Oh, dramatically. The amount of pollution on the Miami River has decreased dramatically since the uh caribbean cargo ship safety code because the uh, not only are we on board more but there are fewer vessels, and the vessels that are on board are uh taking better care of their equipment, uh we're enforcing re-sanitation device laws and things like that.
B: You still wouldn't want to drink it or go swimming yourself, right?
Lt: NO, not at all.
B: What's the goal?
Cmd: The goal of what?
B: The goal as far as getting the river uh cleaner, environmentally.
Cmd: The goal is to make sure that the vessels that come in and trade on the Miami River, or anywhere else in the Miami zone, meet all the applicable international safety and pollution standards; just like any other boat anywhere else in the United States has to be.
B: What about water quality; is there a goal for that, or not necessarily?
Cmd: Well the goal is no pollution - is the goal, ok.
B: Now I've heard some stuff about dredging.
Cmd: Ok, that's a different issue. That involves the Army Corps of Engineers. That... on that booklet I gave you, that's addressed in there. But basically the problem is is that a lot of the spoils here are contaminated, so you can't dredge it and dump it offshore; you have to dispose of it.
B: What's spoils; what do you mean?
Cmd: The stuff you dredge up; the stuff you dredge.
Cmd: Yah, ya know, so, so, so all the soil that's underneath here is contaminated pretty bad. And so you can't just uh dump it out in the ocean. So now you've gotta get rid of it and that costs money and makes things complicated.
B: Mon Repos, is that on detention?
Cmd: I think so. Youre detained here until you correct your deficiencies.
B: So he actually has to stay there and raise the money and stuff, to figure it out - how to fix his boat?
Cmd: That's right, yes.
B: So, that's pretty hard sometimes, for the people to get their hands on that much money, many thousands of dollars, right?
Cmd: That's his problem. Sylvania Express II. Hey, Linda, this one's on detention, Sylvania Express II?
Lt: It wasn't but it might be now.
Cmd: I think she is, yeah.
B: What's "on detention" mean?
Cmd: Means she's on hold just like I told you for Mon Repos.
B: Ok, it's like they can't leave but they're not confiscated.
Cmd: Right. You just gotta correct your deficiencies and then you're able to load cargo and leave.
B: ...like this right here, then these people go off into Miami and try to figure out how to get the money or...?
Cmd: Well, it depends. I mean if INS boarded em and said you're detained on board, then noŃ they are supposed to stay on the ship - its illegal to go off, but that ya know, unless...Now see that? See all the postage stamps on that?
Cmd: See all that? That's unsafe.
B: That means what the...
Cmd: That's not the proper way to repair a hole in the boat is to just put a postage, what we call a postage stamp over it.
B: Ah hah. So that one's for sale.
Cmd: Yah, I'm sure it is!
B: Who might buy something like that?
Cmd: Ya know, anybody. Any body could buy it... if they think they got the money to do the repairs and put it back into service they could make some money off it, see.
B: They seem to be loadin it up though.
Cmd: Not that one, no, this one's ok. That one we're talkin the Deep Creek II, okay.
Cmd: This one, Hardness, doesnŐt look too bad.
B: Belize is a little more compliant than the ones going to Haiti, right?
Cmd: Not really. There's really no more Haitian flag boats left. All the wooden ones were Haitian flag.
B: Oh, I see.
Cmd: See what I'm saying. These guys are Haitian owners, they just don't register with Haiti see, cuz Haiti really has no maritime administration, see.
B: Meanwhile, there's a lot of kinda fancy looking boats on the river.
Cmd: Oh, that's uh that's a party boat.
Lt: That's actually a wooden boat fiberglassed over.
Cmd: Yah, that's an American boat...
B: Island Lady is a party boat.
Cmd: ...American boat, you go out, you go out for a party and you buy ya know a ticket, get a tour of the Miami River - whatever they do.
Lt: You know the ones that you see with all the lights flashing and people drinking.
B: Do they ever sink or anything or are they safe?
Cmd: Oh, of course their safe. They've got a Coast Guard certificate of inspection. They're inspected by us.
Lt: They're inspected at least once a year and they get drydocked twice , uh, once every two years.
Cmd: They're required to meet strict inspection codes.
Lt: Very strict codes.
Cmd: Yah, Coast Guard does the full round of passenger ships. That's the most stringent rules are for those.
B: Hey, I saw Titanic.
B: I know they can go down.
Cmd: That's a good example. Yeah, that was stupid, that one.
Lt: The Titanic was what made...
Cmd: Yah, that's what started everything.
B: Ya gotta have like two and a half hours to figure out what to do, and some people say they didn't do very well.
Cmd: Well, they did pretty good, but the point is is that what can you do if you don't have enough life boats? There's not a lot you can do, ya know.
B: Some... uh, the tugboat captain I was with, he had this theory that the life boats could have gotten around in a big circle and that then you could have taken all the debris, like doors and things like that, that came off the boat as it was going down, and build rafts and saved everybody...
Cmd: You could... that's in theory... I don't believe that for a minute because that water was freezing cold. The minute you were in that thing you were like half - stunned, ya know what I mean. It's not like you swam around. That movie was a little off, ya know, here they are swimmin and talkin; no, no, no, no, no, ya know. You're... within 15 to 20 minutes you're done talkin to anybody, ya know what I'm saying. You're dead in an hour, ya know, so, if you weren't in a boat, ya know, you were, your chances of survival were very small.
Lt: Yah, I think the average hypothermia range for waters like that is 4-6 minutes.
Cmd: Yah, you're just in shock. If you're alive you can't move. I don't know if you've ever been that cold. I've been that cold before. Ya know, you tell your arm to move, it won't move, ya know so.
B: How'd you get that cold?
Cmd: I had to inspect ships in the wintertime up in the Great Lakes, ya know.
B: Oh, yeah?
Cmd: Ya know, I had my coat on and I'm still freezin to death.
Lt: We... Alaska Fishing Patrol, which is nothing but a big bathtub.
Cmd: Oh, yah, yah, and I had to go into the refrigeration holds and I had to inspect the fisheries patrols and stuff. It's freezin cold on those.
B: Ya like the heat down here better?
Cmd: Yah, I've always liked it down here better.
B: I sorta like San Francisco or some sort of medium between those two.
Cmd: Yah, that's a medium, San Francisco. I like San Francisco.
Lt: That's a vessel that we just recently inspected and gave it uh numerous, about 35 deficiencies, allowed to go back to, they asked to go back to Bimini to uh fix everything in the Bahamas. So we did allow it a one - time trip to uh the Bahamas to get uh fixed up. And then when they came back absolutely nothing was done. So now its on hold until everything is done. It's not goin anywhere.
Cmd: Lots a times they pretend they don't understand, then you say well OK if you're detained it means you can't load cargo. "Oh, no load cargo." Ya see, then they understand that, ya know. But somehow mysteriously they canŐt understand when you tell them to fix the violaitons.
B: Who are you?.
NV: I'm Naomi Velazquez, Fireman at the Coast Guard station Miami.
B: A fireman?
B: in the Coast Guard?
B: And you speak Spanish cause your teaching this man.
B: And umm, do you come on the river a lot?
NV: Yah, well I'm an engineer on the boat, so whenever the boat moves, is when I go with the boat.
B: Are you from Miami originally?
NV: Yes, from New York originally, but I've been here about six years.
B: How did you decide to become a Coast Guard person?
NV: I didn't want to go to college right away. I wanted to do something, so I figured join the Coast Guard.
Lt: This one here I'm not sure. That's the 27th
B: The 27th Street Bridge?
Lt: Yah, that's correct .
B: What's the story the story on some little rafty thing like that?
Lt: That's a little deck barge.
Cmd: Work barge.
Lt: That could be taking construction equipment out for bridge construction, maybe some pylons or some dredging. It could be carrying numerous things really. Cmd: That's generally just for inland or ya know, or right around here.
B: Well, this one shipping company was saying that they were feeling very bad cuz they used to have 65 Haitian boats and now they have three, ya know, and they feel like theyŐre being forced off the river and they think it's the developers that are doing it.
Cmd: No, it has nothing to do with the developer. In fact, that's the first time I've heard that argument that it was the developers, ya know. I've never heard that said before.
Lt: What company was that?
B: Uh, um, I'm not sure, I can tell ya, I've got it in my book. It's what, it's the little company that's shipping agent so they're docking up these little boats right by the El Capitaine Restaurant. Ya know that little restaurant, El Capitaine?
Cmd: I think so.
B: Right in there.
Cmd: I'm tryin to think who you talked to. Did you talk to Marchado?
Lt: Must have been Marchado
B: Marchado. Tell me about Marchado.
Lt: Um, we can't
B: You can't?
Cmd: He was one of the - how can we say it nicely - yah, ya know. He represented a lot of these substandard boats.
Cmd: So, naturally we had problems with him because they would operate irresponsibly and all that. He was their agent and we would hold him accountable and he didn't like that.
Cmd: Ya know, I mean that's the bottom line ya know so. And our answer back to him was that if you're not going to be accountable then we're not going to let you represent these guys. Ya see what I'm saying, you can't have it both, I mean if you let this boat in then we're holding you accountable for that, so you gotta take responsibility for this boat, so if youŐre not gonna take responsibility for this boat then we're not gonna let it in. Once we started doin that ya know, he realized it's very difficult ya know so.
Lt: Like any other uh, like any other company or like any other type of industry, ya know the shipping industry's extremely resilient. So when the Caribbean Cargo Ship Safety Code was coming in to play, a lot of the agents, representatives and owners had forethought and said ya know many the vessels that I'm representing now aren't - aren't necessarily the vessels that are allowed in a year from now or six months from now or two months from now. So, some of the other agents, dock owners, representatives, uh owners of the vessels started looking around and started investing in vessels that are built to a more significant standard, vessels that would have...
Cmd: ...that would meet the, meet the Caribbean Cargo Ship Safety Code.
Lt: Yah, vessels that would meet the Caribbean Cargo Ship Safety Code. And so actually, out of the companies representing vessles in the shipping industry, uh actually all of them are still in business that I know of, it's just that some have, some have made the adjustment a little easier than others.
B: And Marchado's not one of the ones that's really made the adjustment very well.
Cmd: Right, I mean you know I don't get involved in people's, how they conduct their business affairs. With us it's very simple: the ship either meets the requirements or it doesnt, it's either safe or not safe; whether you make money, lose money ya know, I want everyone to make money but that's not my primary concern ya know so.
Lt: Yah, exactly. So some of the uh, so some of the companies around here are taking this as an opportunity to manage and operate stronger, larger, bigger boats that can carry more cargo. They have less problems with regulations and they can actually come in and out uh...for example, I was talking with uh one of the representatives on the river and instead of managing like 50, 60 different boats, he manages now uh 10 boats, but they're all larger, they're more stable, they have better machinery, they're safer and they keep a consistent crew, so,so now his business has actually gotten better because uh the vessels are predictible, reliable and on schedule, not sporadic, ya know, one thing after another or erratic. So it's not really uh.... It has nothing to do with the Haitian boats, it has to do with the vessels that come up to a safety standard that's acceptable, cuz uh most of the crews are still Haitian and the owners are still Haitian. So it's not really a Haitian thing, it's just vessels that are up to a safety code. Like if a cop stops you for an unsafe car, bald tires, something, and you say "but I have no moeny, what can I do"?
Cmd: Yeah do you think the cop says, "oh, o.k. sure, just go ahead then if you are too poor to fix it?" See? So it isn't our problem when we tell them stuff they have to fix - violations. Where they get the money from. to Fix the boats. Or not to fix them.
B: I was talkin to this one Haitian guy who was saying that he thought it was racism, ya know, that the only people who were hassled were the Haitians, things like that - that Cubans he says you guys never stop.
Cmd: That's not true, that's not true. Everbody, every ship that comes in here has to meet the same standards, I don't care what their flag is, so it makes no difference what their crew is, what their flag is...
Lt: Yah. Course some times you can tell without going into a thorough inspection, cause a vessel doesn't meet the profile, but , you know, everybody...
Cmd: You have to meet the Caribbean Cargo Ship Safety uh rules. And ya either meet em or ya don't meet em, so uh...
Lt: We have vessels uh right now that are on hold on the Miami River and the Port that have uh US captains, some US crews, might be owned by a US guy, it has nothing to do with nationality, it has to do with is the vessel, does it meet the requirements of the safety code.
Lt: We don't see nationality; we don't see color. We see ships, we see safety.
Cmd: Yeah safety.
Lt: I mean we're not out for any economic sanctions. We have no political agendas. Safety.
B: That's good. I wish I could, you know, show some of the Haitians I've met this tape. Most of em don't have VCR's but...
Cmd: They know. These guys, I see them all the time all these boat owners are all in our office on a regular basis ya know, to discuss requirements that were issued them or whether they have to leave port and all that stuff. They come in during the week. I'd say a typical week we have at least three or four owners come in. And when the Caribbean Cargo Ship Safety Code went into effect in January 1st, I'd say we had about four or five a day, so.
B: Four or five.
Cmd: a day.
B: What do you mean, owners coming in.
Cmd: ...a day. Oh, yeah, everyone, they would come in, they wanted to discuss and what they have to do to comply, why do they have to leave, all that.
B: Most of them speak Creole though, right? do any Coast Gurad people speak Creaole? Wouldn't that be a good idea?
Cmd: Yeah, well, no, not really. They're supposed to have someone on the boat who, you know, speaks English.
B: So if they can't its not your problem.
Cmd: Right. It's really not our problem.
B: Thanks, well, my tapes going out now, so, thanks...