Wheelhouse Weekly – April 14th, 2020

April 15th 2020

Volume 25… Number 15… April 14, 2020


In This Issue:

MM&P Members Are in the News:

Help With Passports:

On the Front Lines in the Pandemic:



Never miss an issue!
Click here to subscribe to the Wheelhouse Weekly mailing list.
Did you miss a week?
Back editions of the Wheelhouse Weekly are available in the archives section.


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 (

— 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 during extended deployments.

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

Back to Stories Covered


As Congress begins to draft the next round of coronavirus-related assistance and stimulus legislation, MM&P is actively engaged with our supporters in Congress to make sure the impacts of the virus on our mariners and employers are addressed.

Merchant mariners have been designated by the Department of Homeland Security as essential workers.

It is critical that mariners have what is necessary to do their job safely and that our employers have the assistance they need to keep their ships sailing and to take care of mariners and other employees laid-off due to the virus.

MM&P and all the other seafaring unions are warning Congress and the Administration that the biggest threat to the ongoing operation of US-flag vessels of all types is the lack of testing kits, personal protective equipment and other related supplies for the crews working aboard commercial and government vessels.

The safety of the mariners is our highest priority and immediate action is necessary to obtain the kits necessary to test the crews and other personnel who have access to the vessels.

We are also urging Congress to act to ensure that militarily useful vessels operating in the Maritime Security Program continue to sail as much as possible, and that they be maintained in a state of readiness if laid-up due to the dwindling base of cargo caused by the virus or because of the quarantine of the crew.

In such instances, certain requirements in the Maritime Security Program should be waived so the vessel can continue to receive its stipend under the program, and funds should be made available during this time so the crew can continue to be employed during the lay-up period.

This will ensure that the vessel and crew will be ready to respond if necessary to meet Department of Defense requirements.

Further to our effort to ensure the ongoing availability of the maritime security fleet in a state of readiness is maritime labor’s call to Congress to require all government-generated cargoes be transported on US-flag vessels to help offset the loss in commercial cargoes due to the worldwide pandemic.

We are also working to make sure Congress addresses the impact the coronavirus is having on our domestic ferry and other small passenger vessel operations and their crews and employees.

The last coronavirus legislative package did provide assistance for these operations through grants and loans, and our effort now is directed towards ensuring that the assistance provided in the last bill is sufficient, and that it is being dispersed quickly and efficiently to those who need it.

It is our primary objective that the crew on these vessels laid-off because of the coronavirus receive the compensation they are entitled to under the new paycheck protection program.

Finally, we are working with others in maritime labor and our industry to defeat attempts by foreign shipping interests to use the coronavirus crisis as an excuse to waive the Jones Act.

The most recent ongoing attempt is an effort by European dredging companies to operate foreign-built, foreign-owned dredges in our country.

As we confront the daily life-and-death issues caused by the coronavirus, we will also continue to deal with the issues that affect the programs and policies important to a viable US-flag maritime industry and to our jobs aboard vessels engaged in all aspects of America’s foreign and domestic shipping trades.

Back to Stories Covered


Recognizing the critical importance of the US-flag maritime security fleet and the essential role played by American mariners, a bipartisan group of 106 representatives and 25 senators has called on Congress to approve full funding for the Maritime Security Program for fiscal year 2021 at its authorized level of $314 million.

The effort in the House of Representatives was led by Congressmen Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) and Rob Wittman (R-Va.) and in the Senate by Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii).

MSP is a vital component of our military strategic sealift and global response capability.

It is designed to ensure that our country has the US-flag commercial sealift readiness capability and trained US-citizen merchant mariners necessary to respond in times of war or national emergencies.

MSP also ensures that the US can provide our troops overseas with the supplies and equipment they need to do their jobs on behalf of our nation.

The bipartisan Congressional letter of support, including a list of signatories, is posted on under “Latest News.”

Back to Stories Covered


The UK-based charity Human Rights at Sea says it is being contacted by a growing number of seafarers asking for more personal protective equipment, not just for themselves but for surveyors, agents, pilots, longshore workers and others who board their vessels.

Many frontline seafarers want to wear masks and gloves, a right that HRAS says is guaranteed them by Regulation 4.3 of the 2006 Maritime Labor Convention, which covers health and safety and accident prevention.

The regulation states in part: “1. Each Member shall ensure that seafarers on ships that fly its flag are provided with occupational health protection and live, work and train on board ship in a safe and hygienic environment.”

The International Chamber of Shipping, in guidance issued on March 3, cites current UN advice that “Although face masks may provide some protection–especially if there is a risk of exposure when interacting with persons from outside the ship–the routine use of face masks is not generally recommended as protection against Covid-19.”

The World Health Organization advises that only people who are sick, coughing or sneezing, or taking care of a person who is suspected to have the infection, should wear a mask.

But frontline seafarers want more protection, including the individual right to wear PPE such as masks and gloves.

HRAS cites the recent case of the master of the MV TOMINI DESTINY, who refused to off-load alongside the port of Chittagong, Bangladesh, because the crew was concerned about longshore workers not using PPE.

In that case, the owner responded to the master’s request that gloves and masks be made available to the crew, and that the vessel be off-loaded by barges in outer anchorages, away from the wharves.

Some port states are taking action on their own. In Australia, current guidance is that “crew must use personal protective equipment in public spaces on board the vessel whilst non-crew members are on board.” In Greece, guidance is that “crew members within a distance of less than 2 meters [from outside workers] must wear all the protective equipment.”

The International Transport Workers’ Federation and the International Maritime Health Association are both calling for action.

ITF cites the need to “put health and safety first,” while the IMHA states in an online document that there should be “facial protection for all crew (5 pieces /per person).”

For healthcare workers and infection prevention and control personnel in the European Union and the United Kingdom, the minimal composition of a set of PPE for the management of suspected or confirmed cases of Covid-19 includes a FFP2 or FFP3 respirator (valved or non-valved), goggles or face shield, long-sleeved water-resistant gown and gloves.

“In reality, at the present time such high quality PPE may not be widely available, not individually recommended, nor realistic for use by crew, but the trend appears to be that seafarers are wanting to have access to it,” HRAS said.

This article is a summary of a report that originally appeared in the April 14 edition of Maritime Executive.

Back to Stories Covered


Alaska’s Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy has vetoed most of the additional funding approved last month by the state legislature to shore up the Alaska Marine Highway System.

He vetoed almost 80 percent of the additional $20 million that the legislature had allocated to AMHS operations and 85 percent of the $19 million that it had appropriated for capital funding, such as ferry maintenance and repair.

Dunleavy has taken an axe to ferry system funding since he came to office, leaving local communities isolated and businesses cut off from supplies.

The governor has said he hopes to use federal Covid-19 emergency funding to fill the budget holes created by some of his vetoes, but the Alaska Department of Transportation says pandemic funds cannot be used to offset his most recent cuts to the ferry system.

A spokesperson for the Alaska Department of Transportation said last week that the money that is left in the ferry system budget would allow for some vessel repairs to continue and provide an additional 23 weeks of service as compared to last year.

The legislature can override the governor’s vetoes but that requires a three-quarters vote in each body of the legislature.

Lawmakers tried last year and at the beginning of this year’s legislative session to repeal his ferry funding vetoes but could not get enough members to vote for an override.

The action by the legislature earlier this year had raised overall AMHS appropriations to $66.7 million, enough to restore limited ferry service to some of the residents left isolated by the draconian budget cuts Dunleavy made last year.

Hundreds of Alaskans have rallied in the state capital, Juneau, to protest the cuts and the governor’s attempt to privatize the system.

Members of MM&P and the other maritime unions that represent AMHS personnel have been fighting the cuts, which not only harm vulnerable communities but also risk severely damaging the state economy.

The ferry service is an essential connector for Alaskans, in particular those who live in rural and island communities that lack other means of transportation to the mainland and the rest of the continental United States.

The cuts to the system’s budget have been compounded by maintenance and other issues, prompting the Alaska Department of Transportation to contract with private companies to transport people on smaller catamarans with no vehicles or heavy freight allowed.

Dunleavy is the object of a recall campaign (, motivated in part by his decimation of the ferry system.

Recall Dunleavy, which must collect the signatures of at least 71,252 registered Alaska voters, has seen the pace of its signature-gathering effort slow during the coronavirus pandemic.

Last year, Recall Dunleavy collected 46,405 legal signatures in five weeks during the first phase of the recall process.

The second round of signature-gathering, delayed by legal opposition, began in late February. Three weeks in, the group had collected 30,200 signatures.

At that point, citing the pandemic, the group switched to gathering signatures by mail, a much slower process.

Any statewide recall vote also requires the assent of the Alaska Supreme Court, which is still considering the recall’s legality.

Last week, the court asked for additional information from Recall Dunleavy and attorneys representing the Division of Elections.

The court’s request is due by April 20, and a ruling is expected after that date.

Back to Stories Covered


Port State Control authorities met virtually last Wednesday to discuss how to ensure compliance with international regulations without potentially exposing inspectors and mariners to Covid-19.

Port State Control is the inspection of foreign-flag ships in national ports to verify that the condition of the ship and its equipment comply with the requirements of international regulations and that the ship is manned and operated in compliance with these rules.

Representatives of the 10 Port State Control regimes said in last week’s meeting that they are continuing to target high-risk ships, although they have significantly reduced the number of on-board inspections.

During the online meeting, which was held under the auspices of the International Maritime Organization, the group agreed to follow a “pragmatic, practical and flexible” approach, recognizing that in the context of the pandemic, many flag states have granted exemptions, waivers and extensions to certificates.

IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim reiterated the fact that the maritime industry is a vital artery for the global economy and highlighted the need for all involved to work collaboratively to address practical issues caused by the unprecedented global situation.

He said he welcomes the prevailing spirit of cooperation, collaboration and solidarity at this challenging time, when shipping is more important than ever in the global supply chain.

“The roles of flag States and port States to solve this crisis, in terms of supporting maritime trade, are paramount, and can also be significantly assisted by the industry,” he said.

“At the same time, the safety of life at sea, the protection of the marine environment and the respect of seafarers as keyworkers must remain shared priorities.”

Advice and information about the pandemic that has been circulated by IMO is posted at:

Back to Stories Covered


The Coast Guard has released additional bulletins on the risks that Covid-19 it poses to the maritime industry and the people who support it.

All the Coast Guard’s bulletins on this topic are posted at

The new bulletins state in part that the agency is coordinating with government and non-government stakeholders to safeguard the marine transportation system, adding that “Captains of the Port and other field officials can address the unique risks associated with their regions and engage decisively on-scene with local partners.”

The agency says it continues to “apply maximum flexibility and creative solutions that balance our regulatory framework given the constraints imposed through a worldwide pandemic.”

It suggests that employers:

— develop screening procedures for arriving mariners, visiting personnel and current crew to identify symptoms of, and exposure to, a respiratory illness;

— restrict visitors to specific areas of the vessel as much as possible and consider standing up a reception area on the main deck;

— closely monitor and restrict outside access to living quarters;

— limit personnel allowed onboard to pilots, port officials, Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, and other law enforcement personnel, classification society surveyors, medical personnel and necessary longshoremen while conducting cargo operations;

— implement a stringent ship sanitation and disinfection regime, including high-touch surfaces and pre-pilot boarding sanitation: wiping down the entire wheelhouse with a bleach solution, including chart table, instruments, chairs, helm, consoles, radar control panels, ECDIS control panel, PPUs, VHF radios, binoculars and pens and pencils;

— restrict the personnel on the bridge to essential crew while a pilot is embarked.

The agency also said terminal operators should consider installing hand washing or hand sanitizing stations at the base of gangways.

Back to Stories Covered


MM&P Federal Employees Membership Group Vice President Randall Rockwood, who served as master of 21 Military Sealift Command ships—including USNS COMFORT–during his 34-year career, was interviewed in a podcast produced by the American Maritime Partnership called “Behind the Scenes of the USNS COMFORT and USNS MERCY and the Mission to Combat COVID-19.”

USNS COMFORT is currently stationed in New York Harbor. USNS MERCY is stationed in Los Angeles. The hospital ships were deployed by the US to provide a full spectrum of medical care to impacted communities during the national coronavirus pandemic.

In the podcast, Rockwood describes the operations and capabilities of the ships, as well as the work and responsibilities of the Civil Service mariners who crew them.

“Captain Rockwood’s perspective highlights the importance of American maritime and its readiness to always urgently deliver for fellow Americans and communities in need,” says Ken Nahigian, who narrates the podcast.

“These incredible selfless Americans not only move critical goods between American cities but they are the eyes and ears of our waterways and our ports.”

“And we are now seeing that with COMFORT and MERCY as they rise to the occasion to help as America needs maritime the most.”

In the interview, Rockwood describes what it takes to activate the ships and how the master juggles the logistics and the onload with the chief mate and the chief steward.

The hospital has their own supplies which also need to be loaded. “The doctors and nurses put them into their final locations but the civilians get the medical supplies on board,” he says

Each ship has a crew of about 71 Civil Service mariners, depending on the mission.

“The hospital ships represent soft power,” Rockwood says. “When they are present, they are bringing all the best of the US to wherever they happen to be… They spread the goodwill that the US is known for and they’re always welcome.”

In the interview, Rockwood discusses the importance of the Jones Act as well as how MM&P represents the interests of the Civil Service mariners who crew the ships in the government fleet.

“I have a genuine personal concern for the 71 Civil Service mariners on board the ship,” he says.

The hospital ships usually provide help to foreign countries in alternating years, he says.

“Two hospital ships providing services simultaneously is very atypical, but considering the extent of the coronavirus threat, activating both ships was a good idea,” he says.

To listen to the podcast, go to and scroll down to “Latest News.”

Back to Stories Covered


“To meet the naval hospital ship he would pilot into New York Harbor, Captain Timothy Ferrie wore a respirator mask with his customary coat and tie,” wrote author and journalist Ian Frazier in the introduction to his article, “Bringing in COMFORT,” which was published in the April 13 edition of The New Yorker.

Waiting for the ship, besides Coast Guard and police boats, were ship-watchers with cameras, hovering helicopters, cars and trucks honking their horns and a tug carrying a film crew.

COMFORT was welcomed to New York City by a giant sign on Pier 40 that read, “I Want to Thank You.”

“At the helm, Captain Timothy Ferrie, a Sandy Hook pilot, licensed and skilled in local waters, had control of the ship—the ‘conn,’ as pilots and ships’ crews call it,” Frazier wrote.

He described the day-to-day work of the Sandy Hook pilots, how Ferrie had “piloted a tanker out of the harbor and into the open ocean the day before, spent the night on the pilots’ station boat, twelve miles out, and received the assignment to bring the COMFORT in in the morning.”

Ferrie, who is East Coast regional representative of the MM&P Pilots Membership Group, describes how being a Sandy Hook pilot is a family tradition (his relatives have been pilots since 1882).

“I’ve been piloting for forty years, and I’ve brought thousands of ships in and out of the harbor, including Navy ships.”

“One year during Fleet Week I piloted the JOHN F. KENNEDY, a thousand-foot-long aircraft carrier that has since been decommissioned. But piloting the COMFORT, and being part of her work here, has been the proudest day of my life.”

Back to Stories Covered


The US on Monday issued a notice to mariners outlining how to obtain a passport quickly for an impending voyage. The text of the notice follows:

Due to public health measures to limit the spread of Covid-19, effective March 20, we are only
able to offer service for customers with a qualified life-or-death emergency and who need a passport for international travel within 72 hours (3 business days).

Passport Services will also serve mariners who urgently need a passport for international voyages, and whose current valid passport expires in 13 months or less.

Instructions for Urgent Assistance

If you have not already applied for a passport:

1. Contact the National Passport Information Center at 877-487-2778 and identify yourself as a
mariner who urgently needs to apply for (or renew) a passport.

2. The Duty Officer will take your information and schedule an appointment at the nearest passport agency.

3. In addition to your passport application materials, described on, you will also
need to submit a letter from your employer or your US mariners union, on company letterhead
that includes:

— Your name
— Date of your next voyage and duration of the voyage
— Printed name and title of your supervisor or mariners union representative
— Signature of your supervisor or mariners union representative
— Date the letter was issued

4. Make a clear copy of your Merchant Mariner Credential (MCC) to include with your application.

5. Bring the application, required documents, and the passport fee that includes the $60 expedited fee with you to your appointment.

If you have already applied for your passport but have not received it, contact the National Passport Information Center at 877-487-2778 and identify yourself as a mariner who has already applied and urgently need your passport.

The Duty Officer will provide further instructions and the passport agency will contact you to coordinate the delivery or pickup of the completed passport.

Applying for a Passport for Personal (Non-Life or Death Emergency) Travel

If you are applying for a passport for personal (non-life or death emergency) travel, please see our website for instructions and the most up-to-date processing times.

We regret any inconvenience and request your patience and understanding as the majority of our passport agencies have limited mission critical staffing due to Covid-19.

Back to Stories Covered


Unions that represent airline workers are pushing for strong measures to protect their members from exposure to the Covid-19 virus.

The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents nearly 50,000 flight attendants at 20 airlines, has asked the White House to halt all non-essential air travel.

At least one flight attendant has died of Covid-19, several others are in intensive care, more than 100 have tested positive and nearly 1,000 are self-quarantined, AFA President Sara Nelson told journalists last week.

The Air Line Pilots Association is asking the Federal Aviation Administration to require routine cockpit cleaning as per Centers for Disease Control guidelines and to mandate that airlines quickly inform crewmembers who have come into contact with those who are or who may be infected.

The reality is that many airline workers still struggle to find out whether colleagues with whom they flew have tested positive for the virus.

And federal regulators, the unions say, aren’t doing enough.

“The FAA has the authority—and the moral responsibility—to act,” ALPA President Joe DePete wrote to US Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, whose department oversees the FAA.

Among air traffic controllers, more than 75 employees of the FAA itself at 30 stations nationwide have reportedly tested positive for the virus.

“Unfortunately as they’re going to work they are being exposed,” says Paul Rinaldi, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

Airline workers worry that because of a lack of coordination among companies and federal and state authorities, no one is watching their backs.

After cruise ships docked in Florida during the last week of March, for example, passengers who had disembarked vessels quarantined because of the infection were flown home on regularly scheduled flights.

AFA President Sara Nelson has urged the administration to advise the public to postpone non-necessary flights until the virus is under control.

“We’re calling on a coordinated government response, we’re calling on all our airlines, and we’re also calling for leadership from DOT and FAA on advising the public that we do not need any leisure travel right now,” she said.

All three airline unions–AFA, ALPA and NATCA–partner with MM&P in the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department, which represents 33 transportation sector unions.

Back to Stories Covered


Information for members dealing with the impact of the pandemic has been posted on under Latest News, as well as in the Members’ Only section of the MM&P website.

The resources in the public portion of the site include:

— AFL-CIO Checklist to Find Out If a Person Is Eligible for Unemployment Benefits;
— AFL-CIO List of Benefits Under the Recently Passed Cares Act (financial stimulus).

The resources in the Members’ Only section of the site include:

— Covid-19 illness tips provided by MITAGS;
— Federal and state resources for workers affected by the virus—click on your state for specific information.

Back to Stories Covered


Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic and recent Executive Orders issued in both Washington and Maryland, MITAGS, with USCG and VA approval, has taken some of our upcoming spring courses online to offer a blended learning experience, allowing our students to continue their training.

Starting next week, students are now able to take a portion of the courses listed below online.

Then, once our campuses open again, students will finish the remaining portion of their course and examinations in our traditional classroom setting.

— Able Seaman (4/27-4/30):

— Advanced Meteorology (4/27-4/30):

— Leadership & Managerial Skills (4/20-4/23):

For more information, visit or contact our Admissions Team at (East Coast) or (West Coast).

Back to Stories Covered

The MM&P Wheelhouse Weekly is the official electronic newsletter of the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots, 700 Maritime Blvd. Suite B, Linthicum Heights, MD 21090-1953. Phone: 410-850-8700; Fax: 410-850-0973. All rights reserved. The MM&P Wheelhouse Weekly © 2020. Articles can be reprinted without prior permission if credit is given to The MM&P Wheelhouse Weekly. For subscriptions, address changes or messages to the editor or to MM&P headquarters, e-mail Back issues of The Weekly are posted on