Wheelhouse Weekly – April 09, 2013

April 9th 2013


– Bridging the Information Gap With E-News You Can Use –

Volume 17 . . . Number 15. . . April 9, 2013

(Look in the archives for this weeks Special Edition.)



Did you miss a week? Back editions of the Wheelhouse Weekly are available in the Archives section.


The MM&P Hall in San Juan, P.R., will be closed on Monday, April 15, for José De Diego’s Birthday, an ILA holiday.


A group of 30 legislators spearheaded by Congressmen Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) and Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) have written to President Obama urging him to support U.S. humanitarian food aid, strengthen U.S. farm production and preserve the U.S.-flag merchant fleet by maintaining level funding for the Food-for-Peace program in his fiscal year 2014 budget. Cummings is the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and Hunter is the chair of the House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee.

“The purchase of food from U.S. farmers and its subsequent shipment on U.S.-flagged vessels has helped support U.S. farm production and preserve the U.S. merchant marine,” the members wrote in the April 5 letter. “Reductions in funding for this program–or changes in how it operates–would significantly reduce the amount of U.S. farm products our nation could provide to those in need around the world. It would also threaten our national security preparedness by reducing the domestic sealift capacity on which our U.S. military depends.”

Since 1954, the United States has provided aid to the world’s poorest communities through the Food-for-Peace program, in which U.S. agricultural products are shipped on U.S.-flag merchant vessels to food-insecure nations. For six decades the program has fed millions at risk of starvation and strengthened the capacity of local communities around the world to respond to natural and man-made disasters.

“In recent years, there have been significant cuts to the Food-for-Peace budget,” the legislators wrote. “Any additional cuts–or changes in the way the program is implemented–would reduce U.S. food aid to vulnerable populations while putting jobs in our agricultural and maritime sectors at risk.”


MM&P and its allies are working hard on Capitol Hill to beat back attacks against the “three pillars” that support the existence of the U.S.-flag fleet, says MM&P International President Don Marcus. The Jones Act, cargo preference statutes and the Maritime Security Program (MSP) are all being threatened, but the work being done by the Maritime Advisory Committees (MACs) constituted by MM&P and allied groups are having a positive effect. Marcus made the remarks in an interview with Maritime TV’s Dave Gardy. Mike Jewell, president of the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association (MEBA) was also interviewed for the broadcast.

In the interview, Marcus spoke out against the 2012 cuts to the cargo preference program, which lowered the share of goods to be shipped on U.S.-flag ships from 75 percent to 50 percent. He also strongly criticized an Administration proposal to replace food aid cargo carried by American ships with cash payments. “Giving blank checks to non-government organizations is absurd,” he said, and would compromise the success of the food aid program.

Marcus said MM&P and MEBA are among the groups fighting to protect the industry by working to establish and consolidate support on Capitol Hill. “We have to yell to get people’s attention,” Marcus said. “Fortunately Congress is paying attention now.” He also noted that organizations such as the Department of Defense and U.S. TRANSCOM continue to speak out in recognition of the essential role that the America’s merchant fleet plays in supporting our country’s defense and security.

“We are working hard to get the Administration to pay attention,” Marcus said. “It’s been an uphill battle but it’s a battle we have to fight.” The U.S.-flag fleet is a crucial component of American defense and trade, Marcus said, but unless we succeed in communicating this message widely to decision makers in Washington, D.C., and nationwide, “the industry could die a slow and painful death.”

Marcus said that despite the many challenges, he remains confident, especially in light of the work being done by MM&P and allied groups to promote awareness. “We believe our industry can weather the storm if we stand together,” he said.


The American Maritime Partnership (AMP) has contacted key legislators to highlight the recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on Puerto Rico and American shipping, which underlines the fact that our country’s national security and military preparedness depend heavily on the Jones Act. The Jones Act is the law that mandates the use of vessels that are American-crewed, -built and -owned to move cargo between two U.S. ports. AMP underlined the findings of the GAO report in a letter to House Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces Chair Randy Forbes (R-Va.) and Ranking Democrat Mike McIntyre (N.C.). MM&P and MIRAID are both members of the American Maritime Partnership.

“A decline in the number of U.S.-flag vessels would result in the loss of jobs that employ skilled mariners needed to crew the U.S. military reserve and other deep-sea vessels in times of emergency,” the report concluded. “According to DOD officials, to the extent that Jones Act markets are unable to sustain a viable reserve fleet, DOD would have to incur substantial additional costs to maintain and recapitalize a reserve fleet of its own.” The GAO also said that loss of the Jones Act could result in “significant effects on shipyards and the shipyard industry base needed by DOD.”

In finding that “the original goal of the [Jones] Act remains important to military preparedness,” GAO made three key points: a strong domestic fleet is necessary to ensure a supply of seafarers for times of national crisis; the American domestic fleet is a cost-efficient way to provide military sealift; a strong national shipyard base is essential to military preparedness.

“As you know, DOD and the U.S. Navy heavily rely on commercial mariners, including many from the U.S. domestic fleet, for a variety of critical national security roles,” said AMP. “DOD has previously estimated that replacing the commercial maritime industry with military vessels would cost billions of dollars.”


The problem-plagued cruise ship CARNIVAL TRIUMPH tore loose from the Mobile, Ala., shipyard dock where it was under repair on April 3 and drifted downstream, striking U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) DREDGE WHEELER.

The incident took place when 70-mph winds wrenched the massive cruise ship from its mooring lines. Four tugboats secured CARNIVAL TRIUMPH after it struck the dredge, which is crewed by members of the MM&P Federal Employees Membership Group (FEMG). No one was hurt in the allision itself, but a shipyard worker is missing and presumed dead after his dockside work station was blown into the water in the storm. A gash on the hull of cruise ship is said to measure approximately 20 feet.

Carnival Cruise Lines has recently suffered a seemingly endless string of accidents, mishaps and equipment malfunctions, the worst of which may be the engine room fire aboard the TRIUMPH, which left thousands of passengers adrift for days without adequate sanitation facilities, air conditioning or hot food.


Congress has directed the Coast Guard to seek public comment on its merchant mariner medical evaluation program. The Coast Guard Commandant must submit to Congress an assessment of its current program, as well as alternatives to it. The Commandant’s assessment must include an analysis of how the Coast Guard could make medical fitness determinations for mariners using a system similar to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners program and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Designated Aviation Medical Examiners program.

Under the current system, the Coast Guard’s National Maritime Center (NMC) determines mariners’ fitness solely on the basis of forms submitted initially and then in response to NMC requests for follow-up.

Under the FMCSA system (for commercial drivers) and the FAA system (for the aviation sector) evaluations are conducted by designated medical examiners listed on a national registry. The examiners issue medical certificates subject to detailed policy guidance.

As a third alternative, the Coast Guard has suggested a hybrid system in which a designated medical examiner would issue medical certificates to mariners who meet certain pre-established criteria. In this scenario, the Coast Guard would only be involved in the case of mariners with specific medical conditions.

The Coast Guard is seeking comment on the advantages and disadvantages of the three systems. To make your voice heard, go to and enter USCG–2013–0089 in the Search box. Act now: the deadline for comments is May 2, 2013.

In meetings with the Coast Guard and in testimony before Congress, MM&P has repeatedly gone on record with objections to the current program. The union welcomes this long overdue assessment and the opportunity for mariners to participate in change by submitting public comments to the official docket.

The Coast Guard’s medical evaluation program is based on a flawed concept: a small staff of medical evaluators at a central office in a remote location attempting to evaluate and monitor changes in the medical condition of over 200,000 mariners. The “evaluation” takes place without the evaluator ever seeing the mariner or speaking with the mariner. It is based exclusively on exchanges of paperwork between the NMC, the mariner and his or her doctors.

The process is time-consuming and expensive. It is also extremely cumbersome for the mariner and the mariner’s doctors, who are forced to interact with a faceless bureaucracy which applies unclear medical standards. Any miscommunication or perceived minor flaw in the paperwork can add further delays and expense to the process, causing the mariner to miss work and/or lose out on employment opportunities, with associated negative effects on his or her ability to earn a livelihood and support a family. The men and women subject to the process undergo an extended period of unnecessary and stressful uncertainty awaiting its outcome.

Today, a mariner with almost any medical condition can be required by the NMC to submit a request for a waiver that involves extensive tests and procedures that to a qualified medical examiner who has actually examined the mariner could well be deemed unnecessary or irrelevant. The expense can be significant and, if the insurance carrier regards the examinations as “medically unnecessary,” the process can result in thousands of dollars in cost to the mariner.

A mariner’s medical condition and fitness for duty can be determined in a more efficient, timely and cost-effective manner by an experienced medical practitioner who performs an actual examination and understands the duties required of a mariner. Other modes of transportation that require medical evaluation, in the United States and in other countries, rely on “hands-on” medical evaluations by experienced and qualified medical examiners. Examples are the medical evaluation programs put in place by the FMCSA for commercial drivers and by the FAA for aviation sector employees.

In 2009, MM&P was instrumental in drafting provisions in Senate Bill S 685 that: required establishment of a Merchant Mariner Medical Advisory Committee to develop appropriate medical standards and guidelines for the physical qualifications of mariners; and provided for a medical evaluation program for mariners that closely tracked the FMCSA and FAA model.

The legislation, had it passed, would have required the establishment of a National Registry of Medical Examiners for mariners consisting of the licensed physicians certified to perform medical examinations for the FMCSA and the FAA. This would have created a nationwide network of thousands of medical examiners qualified to certify mariners as medically fit for duty within the same system and using the same process and procedures established by the FMCSA and FAA.

But the Coast Guard opposed the bill and only the Merchant Mariner Medical Advisory Committee provision survived.

The current Congressional directive requiring the Coast Guard to assess its medical evaluation program (with the FMCSA and FAA models as possible alternatives) is a continuation of the same struggle to bring the Coast Guard medical evaluation program into line with accepted norms in other modes of transportation in the United States, as well as with the new international requirements in the ILO Maritime Labor Convention governing medical examination of seafarers.

The Coast Guard, with its suggestion of a hybrid system, has now inserted a third alternative into the mandated assessment. For the very large number of mariners who have some medical issue, the Coast Guard-proposed hybrid would perpetuate the flawed system of evaluation by a remote bureaucracy. It fails to take into account the fact that a mariner’s medical fitness for duty (and ultimately his or her ability to earn a livelihood) should be determined by an experienced, qualified medical examiner who exercises professional judgment in assessing medical fitness for duty after a hands-on examination and personal interaction with the mariner.

Your views on the current Coast Guard medical evaluation program and alternatives are important and should be communicated to the Coast Guard.

You may submit comments identified by docket number: USCG–2013–0089 using any of the following methods: Federal eRulemaking Portal:; fax: 202-493-2251; mail: Docket Management Facility (M–30), U.S. Department of Transportation, West Building, Ground Floor, Room W12–140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue S.E., Washington, DC 20590–0001. The telephone number is 202–366–9329.
Act now: Comments are due on or before May 2, 2013.


Tideline Water Taxi, our newest MM&P employer, is seeking captains and deckhands to operate its “on-call” water taxi service from the Port of San Francisco to Sausalito, Tiburon and other landings in the Bay. Two shifts are available Thursday-Sunday (8-10 hours/shift). By mid-April, the company plans on operating two (6-12 person capacity) water taxis.

The Port of San Francisco awarded the company landing rights at three locations. This is an exciting new venture and a great opportunity for MM&P members. To find out more, contact MM&P Regional Representative Ray Shipway: Please e-mail this notice to friends and colleagues who might be interested. For more information on the company, go to


Fast-food workers and their supporters picketed outside a McDonald’s restaurant in New York City on April 4, protesting the fact that although they work for some of the largest and most successful U.S. companies, they are among America’s poorest-paid workers. The strike involved walkouts at McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell. Organizers scheduled the protests to commemorate the day Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated 45 years ago in Memphis, where he was supporting a strike by sanitation workers.

“We cannot survive on $7.25 an hour,” said one woman who was interviewed by NBC TV news. Protesters said they are fighting to get a raise to $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation. The purchasing power of the minimum wage is 30 percent lower today than it was in 1968. What’s more, according to the National Employment Law Project (NELP), since the start of the recession, “mid-wage” jobs are disappearing and low-wage jobs are almost the only ones being created. Lower-wage jobs were 21 percent of recession losses, but are 58 percent of recovery job growth; 60 percent of jobs lost in the recession were “mid-wage,” but mid-wage occupations are only 22 percent of the jobs “recovered.”

The government estimates that six out of the top 10 growing occupations over the next decade will be in low-wage, low-skill jobs such as retail sales and fast food, sectors in which more than 2.9 million earn the lowest median wage in America: $8.78 an hour. For those who can get full-time work, that translates into an average annual wage of $18,720.

In the fast food sector, NELP reports, corporations easily survived the recession and are now generating a strong flow of profits for top executives and shareholders. Their lowest-paid workers, on the other hand, are not seeing any raises and often qualify for food stamps and other public assistance, meaning their wages are subsidized by taxpayer dollars.


MM&P International Secretary-Treasurer Steve Werse will join Atlantic Ports Vice President Don Josberger at the union meeting on April 10 in the Norfolk Hall.


The Offshore Familiarization Course scheduled to be held at the Los Angeles Hall on April 10-11 has been cancelled. The next course Offshore Familiarization Course is scheduled to be held at the Los Angeles Hall on Oct. 9-10. For more information or to sign up, please contact the Los Angeles Hall: 310-834-7201.


From now until May 31, MM&P members and their families can save an additional 1% on the already low cost of our auto and personal loans. For the next 72 days, in fact, we’re reducing all our rates by 1%. Until May 31, the starting rate on our already low-priced auto loan will be reduced to an incredible 1.50% (according to, the average 4-year auto loan rate was 2.65 on March 18). This means that for clients who qualify for the starting rate, the MM&P Federal Credit Union can save members and their families more than $483 on a $20,000 auto loan!

The rates on our personal loans, which now start at 5.00%, will also be reduced by another 1% across the board until the end of May, which means that qualified borrowers can get a loan rate as low as 4%! Act now to take advantage of this great offer.

It’s easy to save money and time with MM&P Federal Credit Union: download a loan application at , send an e-mail to or call us toll free at 800-382-7777 (we’re open Monday-Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Friday from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.)

And remember: if you’re sick and tired of bank fees, the credit union offers free checking accounts; surcharge-free ATMs through the 30,000 terminal CO-OP ATM Network; and free electronic bill pay. Contact us today to take advantage of our convenient, low-cost services and great new rates!


Knowing the right number to call can save you valuable time. Please make a note of the following phone numbers for all your MM&P Health & Benefit questions.

General Health & Benefit Plan Questions: 877-667-5522; select Option 1

Check Your Claim Status: 877-667-5522, ext. 607

Health & Benefit Eligibility: 877-667-5522, ext. 607

Changes to Your Status (marriage, children, etc.): 887-667-5522, ext. 607

Employment Verification: 887-667-5522, ext. 629

Questions About Your Pension: 887-667-5522, ext. 617 or 629

Retired Pensioners/Death Benefits: 887-667-5522, ext. 647

Vacation: 887-667-5522, ext. 625

IRAP/401K Questions: 887-667-5522, ext. 625


The program of the March 19 Chesapeake Chapter Kings Point Alumni event honoring Tim Brown has been posted on Facebook and Twitter. Visit MM&P on Facebook or Twitter (@MMP_union) to take a look the dinner program.


Maersk Lines is offering masters and chief mates a five-day course on handling the CV6500-class containerships. The course will provide familiarization with the characteristics of the new class of vessel and will also fulfill the company’s emergency shiphandling course requirements. Please call or e-mail the MITAGS Admissions Office to enroll. The courses are open to any eligible MM&P member, but permanent masters and chief mates sailing for Maersk will be given preference. The schedule is as follows: April 22-26 (five attendees); May 6-10 (five attendees); May 20-24 (five attendees); June 3-7 (five attendees); June 10-14 (five attendees).


Between now and the end of June, the following courses are scheduled at MITAGS. (Please keep in mind, however, that the schedule may be subject to change.)

For class availability or information on courses and programs, contact MITAGS Admissions Coordinator Kelly Michielli toll free at 866-656-5568 or e-mail her at

Or, try our on-line calendar to register for class:

BRM – Bridge Resource Management: 5/12/13

BRMP – Bridge Resource Management for Pilots: 5/23/13

BST – Basic Safety Training: 6/24/13

[CMM – Chief Mate and Master Courses]

CMM-ADVWX – Advanced Meteorology: 6/17/13

CMM-ADVNAV – Advanced Navigation (=ECDIS & VPEN): 6/3/13

CMM-ADVSTB – Advanced Stability: 4/28/13

CMM-CHS – Advanced Cargo Operations (2 weeks): 5/6/13

CMM-MPP – Marine Propulsion Plants: 5/20/13

CMM-SHMGT – Ship Management (2 weeks): 4/15/13

CMM-SHS-ADV-I – Advanced Shiphandling (week 1): 4/15/13, 5/6/13, 6/24/13

CMM-SHS-ADV-I I – Advanced Shiphandling (week 2): 4/22/13, 5/13/13, 6/17/13

CMM-WKP – Advanced Watchkeeping: 6/24/13

CONT PLNG – Contingency Planning: 5/9/13

ENVIRO-Regs Permit – Environmental Regulations Permit: 5/23/13

ECDIS-ENAV for Pilots (2 day): 6/13/13

FSM – Fatigue, Sleep and Medications: 5/23/13

FF-BADV – Combined Basic and Advanced Fire Fighting: 6/24/13

FL – Flashing Light: 4/10/13

HAZ – Hazardous Materials (5 day): 6/24/13

LEG – Legal Aspects of Pilotage: 5/23/13

MED-PIC – Medical Person in Charge: 4/22/13, 6/10/13

MED-PIC -R– Medical Person in Charge Refresher: 5/13/13

MED-PRO – Medical Care Provider: 4/22/13, 6/10/13

MED-DOT-DA – Dept. of Transportation Drug & Alcohol Testing: 4/13/13, 4/27/13, 6/15/13, 6/29/13

MSC -SMA – Military Sealift Command Small Arms Qualification: 6/3/13

MSC-DC – Military Sealift Command Damage Control (4 Evenings): 6/3/13

MSC-CBRD-1 – Military Sealift Command Chemical, Biological, Radiological Defense Orientation (Basic): 6/7/13

ROR-1 – Radar Observer Renewal Evening Classes: 4/10/134/17/13, 5/1/13, 5/15/13, 5/22/13, 6/5/13, 6/19/13, 6/26/13

SHS-BAS – Basic Shiphandling: 4/29/13, 6/24/13 SEC-VSO – Vessel Security Officer: 5/6/13

SHS-ESH-BRMP3 – Emergency Shiphandling and Bridge Resource Management for Pilots: 5/20/13

… Remember: If you can’t make the class, make the call. Be courteous, don’t be a “no show.”

Check the MITAGS website at for course descriptions associated with the course title abbreviations.


Please also see our schedule online at
For registration, call our registrar, Jennifer Pitzen, at (206) 838-1126.

April 2013

22-26Train the Trainer
29thMed DOT
29-3Medical Care Provider
29-10Medical Person-In-Charge

May 2013

6-7ECDIS for Pilots
6-10Basic Meteorology
13thRadar Renewal
14thRFPNW Assessments
21-23Bridge Resource Management for Pilots
29-30ECDIS for Pilots
29-31Vessel Security Officer

June 2013

3-21Terrestrial and Coastal Navigation
10thRadar Renewal
11-13Bridge Resource Management for Pilots (3-day)
14thFatigue, Sleep, and Medications for Pilots
24-28Radar Observer Unlimited
24-28Medical Care Provider
27-28Bridge Resource Management for Pilots (2-day)