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As a new hire to Foss Maritime, Leray Leasure was nominated for a 2021-2022 Saltchuk Safety Award for stepping up to address safety issues within the company’s Columbia Snake River fleet. During the past two years, he’s championed improvements in personal protective equipment (PPE) usage for both Captains and deckhands and worked diligently with shore management to develop incident investigations on the boats.

Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school?

I first grew up in Seattle. When I was 10, I was adopted and lived in Cathlamet, WA, where I graduated from Wahkiakum High School. After high school, I attended Lower Columbia College and Seafarers Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship.

Tell us about your career, your current position, and what led you to it.  

I started in SIU’s unlicensed apprentice program. I worked on ships for several years, where I began as a DEU (Deck Engine Utility), then upgraded to AB Unlimited. Then, I migrated over to tugboats for more of a home life. What led me to my sailing career was a man, Ernest DuHon, who was a Bosun for TOTE. He was one of the first men of color to sail as a Bosun on ships. Ernie was a good man, like a father to me, who helped me grow into the sailor I am today.

You’re relatively new to Foss Maritime, but you’ve already made a significant impact when it comes to safety. What made you want to become a sort of safety leader at Foss?

Despite being new to Foss, my superiors and peers noticed my attention to detail, safety, and heart for sailing. My experience and confidence led me to accept the Chairman role of the Safety Committee.

Is there something in your life that drove your commitment to safety?

Many years of sailing, watching crewmen get hurt, has driven me to be contentious for my own safety and the crew.

What was your first impression of Foss? Tell us your favorite story about your time with the company.

Foss felt professional. My crew mates like my baking, and their encouragement motivates me to do more and better for them.

Think about a time in your career when you felt like what you were doing might not be completely safe. What did you learn from that experience?

One time we were taking lines off a buoy, and the tag lines were fouled up. The ship crew started to heave in on their winches. We had to yell “stop” and give hand signals for them to stop. We had to cut the tag lines to get the eye of the lines off the buoy with the buoy spinning and dancing. I was reminded of the importance of communication and having a JSA (Job Safety Analysis)—it’s a must for you and your crew.

Speaking up for safety can be difficult for some people. What advice would you give to someone within our family of companies who’s convinced their feedback won’t matter—or worse, that they’ll somehow be punished for taking action?

Safety isn’t a choice. Foss is only as good as its people. We must care to maintain safety. Speak up, use your voice, and care for your crew mates. Take your safety concern through the proper chain of command and if you don’t get an answer, then take it to the next level.  We’re all better off if you do!

Missed our Q&A with Cook Inlet Tug & Barge Mate Eric Nyce? Read it here!

Hilary Reeves

Hilary Reeves spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining the Saltchuk family of companies as a consultant. Since People of Saltchuk launched in 2014, Reeves has interviewed more than 200 Saltchuk employees from operating companies all over the world. Born in Tacoma, Washington, Reeves is a former president of both the collegiate and local professional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists, a graduate of the Society’s Ted Scripps Leadership Institute, and a Toastmaster. When she’s not writing, she loves to read, ski, and practice the piano. She lives in West Seattle with her husband and two young daughters.