SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Get A Life: Taking a Dip into the High Seas


August 08, 2006

Ketchikan, Alaska - For four Ketchikan youth this summer could be the beginning of a beautiful career at sea. Ty Nausid (18), Amos Gray (19), John Peter Fraley (19), and Vanessa Catron (18) have long contemplated a sea-going career and are now experiencing life as interns aboard one of the U.S.-flag vessels critical to Alaska's economy, whether they are bringing consumer goods to Anchorage, fuel to the "bush", or crude oil to the West Coast.

jpg Ketchikan maritime interns

Ketchikan maritime interns Vanessa Catron and John Fraley aboard the
Photograph courtesy SEA Link

Gray and Fraley, recent high school graduates from Ketchikan, along with Nausid and Catron are spending a summer at sea aboard Valdez-based oil tankers in a joint collaborative project sponsored by the Alaska Tanker Company (ATC), Seafarers International Union, SEA Link, Inc., a Ketchikan-based maritime employment referral service, and the Lund Memorial Scholarship Trustees.

This is the latest project to grow out of a nearly-decade long initiative by the Seafarers International Union (SIU) and its contracted companies to assure that Alaskans have every opportunity to find a career at sea, potentially on ships that transit Alaska. Since the start of the program in 1997, over 350 Alaskans have been given training and a job opportunity in the U.S. merchant fleet (including Jones Act vessels in the Alaska trade). According to Tracey Mayhew, the SIU's Anchorage-based representative, "the program has come full circle. We now have one of the original summer interns or riding maintenance gang members aboard Alaska Tankers as an experienced able-bodied deck hand who is serving as a mentor to the young people from Ketchikan."

Enthusiasm for the program is shared by Mr. Anil Mathur, Alaska Tanker Company's President and CEO, "This program has proven to be a tremendous success. ATC is very proud to participate in this Alaskan hire initiative with the SIU and SEA Link whereby ATC is able to provide employment and career path opportunities for Alaskans."

Although each of the youth has their own reasons for seeking this experience, they have a common theme in that a friend or relative had talked to them about their own seagoing life. Further, they were all accepted as awardees of the Lund Memorial Scholarship, an endowed fund dedicated by Mrs. Eunice Severson in the memory of her son William Lund, an Alaskan mariner.

Mrs. Severson a long-term resident of Ketchikan wished to honor her son by setting aside $2.5 million to be entrusted to any high school graduate from Ketchikan who wished to pursue a career at sea. According to Ketchikan accountant and Lund Scholarship trustee, Scott Milner, "I believe Mrs. Severson would be quite pleased with these local recipients of her generosity. They are smart to test the waters, so to speak, before pursuing what we believe is an interesting, varied, and rewarding career. Best of all, if these kids want to follow this path we are ready to help finance it. Mrs. Severson foresight and generosity allows us to provide over $100,000 a year in educational grants to Ketchikan youth."

Ty Nausid, a senior at Ketchikan High School who carries a 3.9 overall GPA first got interested in the program as a participant in his high school's maritime program. Nausid, whose love for boating and fishing first got him interested in going to sea, anticipates using his skills, experiences, and quality academic record to pursue a maritime officer's license through the California Maritime Academy. Amos Gray and John Fraley both have friends and relatives who have attended the Seafarers Union's maritime apprentice program located in Maryland. One or both intend to enroll in this eight-month long training program.

Vanessa Catron's dad works in the steward/galley department aboard a state ferry and she shares an interest in culinary; however, Vanessa has spent part of her summer experiencing work on deck and in the engine room. The Revilla Alternative High School senior is contemplating getting more training and starting a life at sea.

While on board the tanker the group has performed maintenance duties which would otherwise be completed while the ship is in dry dock. They have learned marine safety and oil spill prevention techniques from one of our nation's most recognized safety purveyors and quality vessel operators. Recently, ATC was honored by the 2006 Alaska legislature for its safety record.

Alaska Tanker pays for wages and room and board for the interns and the Lund scholarship provided a required week long safety class held at Ketchikan Community College, work clothes, Coast Guard documents, physical exams, and travel costs.

Alaskans interested in more information about pursuing a career with the U.S.-flag merchant marine should contact SIU Representative Tracey Mayhew at (907) 561-4988, or Ralph Mirsky, Director of SEA Link Inc. at 888-577-7453 or (907) 247-5769.


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