News

COVID-19 UPDATE

April 15th 2020

Union Sisters and Brothers:

It is a trying time for everyone. For those at sea who are isolated from families and loved ones, the uncertainties of today are particularly unnerving.

The leadership of MM&P recognizes the extreme challenge of this situation. We salute your perseverance and professionalism. MM&P has been working with our employers, MARAD/DOT, the US Coast Guard, Military Sealift Command and USTRANSCOM to try to make the best of a highly unsatisfactory situation.

At this time there is a grievous lack of everything from COVID-19 test kits, thermal scanners, face masks and PPE to sanitizing/cleaning supplies. This is true in all critical employment sectors of the country, including, almost unbelievably, in many health care facilities even at this late date.

While results have varied from company to company depending on the circumstances at hand, it has been the objective of MM&P to attempt to keep crew rotations as close to normal as possible. MM&P has been flexible in extending dispatches and crew rotations in numerous instances, but to date, we have not agreed to blanket crew rotation extensions in the Offshore sector. In the Inland sector, this has varied in accordance with the circumstances.

Variations have been due to the absence of adequate pre-employment COVID-19 testing, appropriate sequestration regimens, well thought-out and medically approved crew-relief protocol or any reliable information about how long the pandemic may last. As it is, our members employed on Far East runs have been facing potential exposure from shore-side personnel for over three months since the pandemic first began. Conditions for relief overseas aboard shuttle vessels are, of course, the most difficult at this time due to travel restrictions.

Your Union has insisted that legal and contract rights be respected and most of our employers have been working cooperatively with us through the many difficulties that must be dealt with.

We believe that as a general rule and to the extent possible under the circumstances, our employers are working with us to prioritize the health and safety of our members aboard the vessels.

The primary problems continue to be the availability of COVID-19 testing kits, PPE and the necessary cleaning supplies. We have and will continue to raise the issue of the use of various vendors, location of shipyards and other matters with particular companies provided we have the necessary information.

The above issues and many more have been raised at the highest level of MARAD. Our employers and the relevant government entities including the USCG participate in the discussions.

In addition to the basic requirements regarding the health and protection of the crew, all the deep-sea maritime unions, including in no uncertain terms MM&P, have weighed in on multiple occasions regarding the following issues:

— Appropriate and approved methodology for crew changes; the need for testing kits

— Appropriate protocol for shoreside personnel/vendors/contractors boarding vessels and locations of shipyards

— Appropriate plans/protocol in the event vessel or crew quarantine becomes necessary

— Assistance as essential personnel for international as well as interstate travel

— Consideration for Air Mobility Command/Charter flights for overseas crew changes

— Consideration of arrangements for potential Med-Evac from foreign ports

— Extensions for Mariner Credentials from USCG (MSIB 08-20, Change 1, 3/30/20)*

— Extensions for MSC-required training for CONMARS/CIVMARS

— Extensions for TWIC Cards (MSIB 13-20, 4/3/20)*

— Assistance with Passport renewals (http://www.socp.us/links.html)

— Relaxation of Random Drug testing requirements (MSIB 10-20, 3/27/20) *

— Quality of life improvement, such as improvements in internet connectivity to allow better communication with families.

To date, we have received some important assistance in these and other areas, but the overall situation will remain unsatisfactory until proper testing equipment and supplies are available.

At this time, we have one employer that is putting a pre-employment testing regimen in place. It has not yet commenced, but we expect it to begin soon. Hopefully this will be a successful model for others. The leadership of MM&P is working on your behalf while you are working to keep the supply chain of our country open.

Your efforts, dedication and perseverance are recognized by your employers, government and, of course, by your Union.

To the best of my knowledge, we have at least one tug crew, several ferry workers and several pilots who have tested COVID-19 positive. With the exception of one member who has been hospitalized, all are in recovery. Our Union staff in the Ports and at HQ are working on a skeleton crew basis or from home as are our Plans employees. MITAGS is shut down. As you know, our halls offer only reduced service for job call; strict social distancing and full compliance with local shelter-in-place requirements are being followed. It is essential to follow the procedure for remote registration/clearance. (Please see the members-only website for details).

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have questions or concerns. It is important that we hear from you. We have received very helpful insight from many. We are your advocates. We thank you all. We salute your service and courage.

On Behalf of the General Executive Board, Wishing You Good Health, Safety and Fraternity,

Don Marcus, President
dmarcus@bridgedeck.org