A helping hand in the Gulf

His friends and colleagues would say of Jerry Nagel that he was a dedicated and passionate maritime professional. President and CEO of Rickmers-Linie (America) Inc., from 2004 through 2011, he became chairman of the board just prior to his passing in 2012. Jerry was honored by both the Breakbulk Transportation Conference and the Greater Houston Port Bureau for his commitment to the marine industry. He was also dedicated to the idea of providing assistance to members of the transportation community in times of need. Lending a Hand It was Jerry‘s desire to create a means to provide relief from the bills and expenses which mount up during a catastrophe. He passed away in December of 2012 without fully realizing that dream, but a group of friends and colleagues were at that time formulating an idea for just such a fund. In 2013 they chartered the Maritime Workers Emergency Medical Fund (MWEMF) under Texas law as a 501C3 non-profit charity. Jerry Nagel’s dream was being fulfilled. The Maritime Workers Emergency Medical Fund The fund has responded with assistance to several individuals over the past four years providing additional money for items not generally covered under medical insurance. They are currently finalizing an additional applicant who is not only undergoing medical treatment but has also lost his job and is seeking re-employment. Funds are dispersed on the basis of need as assessed by the board of directors. They are distributed annually on a first come first served basis after completion of a 60-day application and interview process. The MWEMF makes every effort to protect the privacy of applicants including medical and personal information. At present, they rely on the charity of individuals and companies to provide funds to continue their work. MWEMF‘s Board of Directors The board is comprised of eight business leaders from the maritime and related industries. Their careers span the ocean carrier industry including roll on-roll off, break bulk, and container services. Port representation and international freight forwarding are represented and a member of the ILA management team also sits on the board. Reaching out to the Maritime Community In an effort to raise money and awareness the board hosts two annual programs. They recently held their Seafood Boil, successfully attracting sponsors and over 100 guests. This year they raised $28,000 compared to last year’s total of $9,000. Distinguished sponsors at the “Hero” level ($3,000) included the ILA Atlantic and Gulf Coast Districts, Container Maintenance Corp., and Break Bulk America. There were also over 10 sponsors contributing $1,000 toward the fund. This fall the MWEMF will hold their annual golf tournament. Turnout for this event usually held in October or November is also anticipated to be good. Membership in the MWEMF This is another area the board is looking at for the future. The question of member benefits is difficult, and needs to be addressed before they open the fund for participation. What advantages membership would bring and how one becomes a member need to be worked out. The idea of general participation would certainly help bridge the gap between a regional organization and a national fund. Looking Ahead Today the MWEMF is a regional fund serving maritime and transport workers in the Gulf. The board would like to see it grow into a national organization. They realize however they must attain a higher level of funding to carry out such an ambitious plan. It’s hoped that much of the corporate support they’ve attracted will eventually become annual supporters. The fund is beginning to outline a proposal for annual corporate sponsorship but has not yet tackled how individuals could participate. A Helping Hand The transportation industry needs more vehicles like the Maritime Workers Emergency Medical Fund to offer support in times of crisis. This particular fund has thus far concentrated on life threatening emergencies. Who is there however to lend a hand when natural and manmade catastrophes strike? When ports and port workers are devastated by Hurricanes? When disaster strikes at sea? The work of the MWEMF is extremely commendable and we wish them well in their efforts to grow to national status. Can we also take a page from their efforts? Are there perhaps other ways the transport community could give back to its members?
Matt Guasco
Matt Guasco


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