Wheelhouse Weekly – April 21st, 2020

April 21st 2020

Volume 25… Number 16… April 21, 2020


In This Issue:


On the Front Lines:


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The International Transport Workers’ Federation is calling on the United Nations, governments and airlines to ensure that crew changes take place so the world’s mariners can keep supply lines open in the face of the global pandemic.

Transport workers are vital to successfully responding to the challenge of Covid-19.

Mariners play an especially important role since about 90 percent of world trade is transported by sea.

Tightening lockdowns have disrupted supply chains, especially for the maritime industry which—as the ITF notes–relies on the free movement of crews to keep ships moving.

Ships must be allowed to change out overworked and exhausted crews to keep trade flowing, even as coronavirus lockdowns shut many transit points across the globe and flights are suspended.

MM&P salutes and fully supports the efforts of the ITF to facilitate international crew changes and repatriate merchant seamen, a growing number of whom include MM&P members and other US mariners employed aboard commercial as well as government contract vessels that are in service outside US waters.

In a letter to the Group of 20 major economies, the ITF and the International Chamber of Shipping said there are 1.2 million mariners at sea at any given moment, with 100,000 crew members needing to be rotated each month.

They called for cooperation between UN agencies, governments and airlines to enable the changeover of ships’ crews.

ITF General Secretary Stephen Cotton said the federation and the ICS have grave concerns for the tens of thousands of crewmembers whose duty on board ships has ended, but who are forced to remain at sea for additional months.

“The current deadlock not only threatens seafarers’ personal health and wellbeing, but also increases the risk of marine accidents,” Cotton said.

“The issue of crew changes has the potential to become a massive problem for the global economy if governments do not address our concerns,” said ICS Secretary General Guy Platten.

“National lock downs, travel bans and port restrictions are making this crew change more difficult.”

In March, G20 energy ministers made a commitment to ensure continued operation of logistics networks that form the backbone of global supply chains, without undermining efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The Covid-19 pandemic is unprecedented: it is reshaping the world economy in a way that has never been seen before.

At the center of it are transport workers, who are keeping the world moving and linking supply chains, despite the crisis.

“Public transport workers, truck drivers, warehouse workers, delivery drivers, aviation workers, dockers, seafarers and more will continue to work during this crisis,” the ITF said in a statement.

“It is essential that they are protected and supported to take the measures necessary to help control the spread of the virus.”

As a resource for the thousands of seafarers hit by the crisis, the ITF has created a map, based on data provided by its network of around 140 inspectors, showing the effects of Covid-19 restrictions on countries and ports around the globe:

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The International Chamber of Shipping and the International Air Transport Association are asking countries to take urgent action to facilitate crew change flights for the world’s mariners.

Specifically, the ICS and IATA are calling on governments to designate a specific number of crew change airports to help enable the safe movement and repatriation of crew.

Worldwide, about 100,000 mariners travel each month as part of the crew change process, according to the ICS.

But the pandemic has resulted in some being stranded aboard ship—seemingly indefinitely–because government-imposed travel restrictions have made it nearly impossible for them to get home.

Experts agree that being stuck on a ship without the prospect of relief can cause serious mental health and safety issues.

“Seafarers are unsung heroes who every day throughout this Covid-19 crisis are going above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that countries are kept supplied with the goods they need,” said ICS Secretary General Guy Platten.

“We now need governments to support our seafarers and facilitate safe passage for them to get home to loved ones and be replaced by crew members ready to keep supply chains open.”

The ICS and IATA say that designated crew change airports should be close to major shipping lanes and have direct air connections to principal seafarer countries of residence, such as China, India and the Philippines, as well as western and eastern Europe.

“If governments identify airports that seafarers can use for crew change and make appropriate adjustments to health and immigration protocols, airlines can help keep global logistics moving,” said IATA Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac.

This story was first reported by Mike Schuler in the April 16 edition of the maritime publication gCaptain (

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TSA has granted a temporary exemption from requirements in 49 CFR part 1572 regarding the expiration of certain Transportation Worker Identification Credentials (TWICs).

For the duration of the exemption, TSA will extend the expiration date of TWICs that expired on or after March 1, 2020, by 180 days.

1. Eligibility. This exemption applies to TWICs that expire on or after March 1, 2020.

2. New Expiration Dates for Eligible TWICs. For the duration of this exemption, the expiration date for an eligible TWIC is 180 days after the expiration date that appears on the face of the credential.

TSA deems these eligible TWICs to be valid for the purpose of unescorted access to secured areas of maritime facilities and vessels.

If the 180-day period extends beyond the duration of this temporary exemption, the TWIC will be valid for the remainder of the extended 180-day period based on the expiration date of the TWIC.

3. Continuation of Vetting. For the duration of the exemption, TSA will continue to recurrently vet the holders of the eligible TWICs against governmental watch lists for security threat, criminal history, and immigration status.

TSA retains its authority to suspend or immediately revoke an individual’s TWIC if the agency determines the holder is no longer eligible, in accordance with 49 CFR 1572.5(b) and 1572.19(c).

This exemption became effective on April 10 and remains in effect through July 31, 2020.

The entire notice is posted at:

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Eleven Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps vessels conducted repeated dangerous approaches of six Coast Guard and US Navy ships, including USNS PULLER, on April 15 in the North Arabian Gulf.

The licensed deck officers and purser aboard PULLER, a Military Sealift Command Expeditionary Sea Base, are represented by the MM&P Federal Employees Membership Group.

The CIVMAR-crewed vessel was sailing in support of US Fifth Fleet as part of maritime security operations.

US Fifth Fleet Public Affairs reported that the Iranian boats repeatedly crossed the bows and sterns of the US vessels at extremely close range and high speeds, including multiple crossings of the PULLER with a 50-yard closest point of approach.

The American crews issued multiple warnings via bridge-to-bridge radio, five short blasts from the ships’ horns and long-range acoustic noisemaker devices, but received no response from the Iranian boats.

After about an hour, the Iranian vessels responded to the bridge-to-bridge radio queries and then maneuvered away from the US ships, opening distance between them.

US forces—Navy, Coast Guard, Marines and Army—have been conducting joint interoperability operations in support of maritime security in the US 5th Fleet area of operations since late March.

“The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ dangerous and provocative actions increased the risk of miscalculation and collision, were not in accordance with the internationally recognized Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea ‘rules of the road’ or internationally recognized maritime customs, and were not in accordance with the obligation under international law to act with due regard for the safety of other vessels in the area,” US Fifth Fleet said in a statement.

The incident occurred shortly after Iranian forces boarded a Hong Kong-flagged product tanker, the ST TAIPEI, at an anchorage off Fujairah. The boarding team allegedly ordered the tanker to divert to Iranian waters for an inspection, then allowed the vessel to depart.

IRGC naval forces have a long history of interactions with the US Navy in the 5th Fleet area of responsibility, particularly in the Strait of Hormuz.

In previous encounters, American forces have occasionally fired flares and warning shots in order to discourage close-in Iranian maneuvers.

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Three MM&P members aboard North Ferry’s MASHOMACK saved a boater who had fallen off his skiff into Shelter Island Sound on Saturday just after sunset.

On the run that departed Greenport for Shelter Island around 1930, the three-person crew–Jennifer Card Venth, James Cogan and Michael Mundy–saw a man fall from his skiff into the 47-degree water of the Sound.

The crew changed course to pull the man out of the water, wrote Charity Robey of the Shelter Island Reporter.

With help from the crew of another ferry, they also got hold of the skiff, and delivered the man and his boat safely to shore a little after 2000.

“One soul in the water, one retrieved. Everybody’s alive and the boat’s been retrieved,” Cogan reported on VHS radio.

“They kept both their cool and their schedule,” Robey noted.

“Ferry crews are in harm’s way every day, especially now that Covid-19 forces them into direct contact with a steady stream of potential virus carriers,” she wrote.

“But on Saturday evening, the crew of MASHOMACK had more than microbes to contend with.”

The crew was about an hour into their shift, with Venth at the wheel, when they saw the man guiding a 12-foot aluminum skiff, standing up, without a life vest.

He had passed just behind the ferry when Mundy saw him go into the water.

The crew immediately began to follow the “man-overboard” procedures that they had practiced many times.

Venth, who was at the forward wheel, asked Cogan to take the wheel and guide the 130-foot-long ferry close enough for the crew to pull the man out of the water while keeping the ferry between the man and his skiff, which was circling out of control nearby.

While Cogan steered toward the boater, who was swimming fully clothed in the icy water, Venth kept eyes on him and Mundy deployed rescue gear over the side, including a ladder, platform, ropes and life rings.

The skiff continued to run in circles as the MASHOMACK crew worked to corral the uncontrolled boat, which had become a hazard.

“Every single passenger got out of their cars to see if they could help,” Venth said.

Mundy helped the boater aboard and provided him with a dry change of clothes. He had cuts to his arm and forehead, but declined medical attention.

He returned on Sunday to see about his boat, and leave a few cases of beer as a gesture of thanks to the crew who most likely saved his life.

“On the ferry the next day, I looked up at the ladder system on the second level and realized how fast they brought it down to the water,” he said.

“I’m glad they were there. They could not have done better.”

The mariners who crew the North Ferry vessels are members of the MM&P Atlantic Maritime Group.

“Their highly professional response to an emergency situation is exactly what I would expect from this well-trained crew,” said AMG Representative Mike Riordan.

“The constant vigilance exercised over their watery domain is to be commended,” he added. “God bless them.”

Back to Stories Covered


America’s transportation workers are being let down by the federal government, even as they risk their lives to provide critical services during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Since the public health crisis began, the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department and its member unions—including MM&P–have urged the administration to take steps to protect frontline transportation workers and their families from exposure to the virus.

But the federal government has yet to mandate measures that have been proven to save lives, including deployment of personal protective equipment, adequate cleaning and disinfecting protocols and policies to ensure social distancing in the workplace.

“As you know, millions of transportation workers have been bravely doing their part to see our country through this disaster,” TTD President Larry Willis wrote US Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia last week.

But “we have received consistent reports from workers across every mode of transportation that they do not have the proper types and adequate amounts of PPE they need to be safe and to help prevent the spread of the disease.”

“Your leadership is needed to ensure that frontline transportation workers are provided with vocation-specific PPE as well as clear and concise guidance for personal and public protection.”

At a minimum, TTD is calling on the administration to build on Centers for Disease Control guidance covering transportation sectors in consultation with unions representing the various transportation workforces.

“Once developed,” Willis says, “these enhanced safety measures must be made mandatory on transportation providers with adequate enforcement actions from your agencies.”

Every union in the TTD family represents members who meet the federal government’s definition of “essential workers.”

They keep our supply chain running, crewing, loading and unloading commercial ships, and operating and maintaining the freight rail network that connects communities from coast to coast.

They drive the buses and trains that bring health care workers and patients alike to medical facilities.

They keep our skies open and operating in order to deliver goods and supplies quickly across the country.

“As the federally appointed leaders in transportation and labor,” Willis wrote Chao and Scalia, “it is your joint responsibility to show the leadership that Americans expect and deserve by closing the gaps in occupational safety specific to the transportation workforce.”

“The frontline workers that TTD unions represent have proven themselves up to the task of serving their communities and their country.”

“Throughout this crisis they have had our backs, despite the ever growing personal risks… Now it is time for the federal government to have their backs.”

“We are ready to work with you and do our part to see the country through this pandemic and end the national suffering. But we need real leadership and engagement from you and the rest of the federal government, and we need it now.”

Back to Stories Covered


Thousands of public transport workers in cities across the US have contracted the novel coronavirus. At least 100 of them have died.

The dead include bus and subway operators, maintenance workers and mechanics.

Unions say many of these deaths could have been avoided if basic protective measures had been implemented earlier.

New York City, where the majority of the deaths has occurred, began issuing basic masks to transit workers at the end of March.

It started distributing high-quality N95 masks about seven days later.

But it took weeks more for transit agencies in other major cities to respond to the risks the pandemic poses to employees.

The Amalgamated Transit Union—which along with the Transport Workers Union represents most of the country’s bus and subway workers–says some transport authorities have been making an effort to supply PPE but have not been able to because they can’t find suppliers.

Other municipalities say they do not have funds to purchase masks and gloves for employees.

The unions have called for everyone who operates or maintains a transit vehicle to be equipped–at a minimum–with an N95 disposable respirator and gloves.

They want the Federal Transit Administration to immediately provide personal protective equipment to all of America’s transit workers.

“Our members provide essential public services, making sure that people can get to the doctor, the pharmacy and the grocery store,” says ATU President John Costa.

“But they cannot be expected to keep doing it while putting their lives in danger.”

“We are prepared to take whatever aggressive action is necessary in order to protect our members and their families,” he says.

“Nothing is off the table. Dying is no way to make a living.”

MM&P, the ATU and the TWU are members of the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department, which advocates for the rights and working conditions of the country’s transport workers.

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This year is especially challenging for everyone, as we are in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic: a major crisis for workers, our families, our country and the world.

Today, it is more important than ever to commemorate the sisters and brothers we have lost on the job, and to renew our fight for strong safety and health protections.

As you read this message, health care workers in our country are dying from Covid-19 because they do not have the protection they need to care for patients.

The virus has killed flight attendants, bus drivers and factory workers.

This is criminal. This could have been prevented.

We must continue to fight back against the Trump administration for weakening worker protections at the very time they need to be strengthened; allowing industry to block common-sense measures to prevent workplace exposure to the virus; and failing to heed labor’s calls for testing, health and safety plans and protective equipment.

We will not let the Trump administration leave workers unprotected as they battle this disaster.

We will not let them turn back the clock and destroy the progress we have made to keep workers safe.

The labor movement will defend the right of every worker to a safe job and fight until that promise is fulfilled.

The theme of this Workers Memorial Day is: “Protect Our Rights. Speak Up for Safe Jobs.”

Please join us next Tuesday, April 28, in remembering and honoring the victims of workplace injury and illness.

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After a walkout forced employer Hutchison Ports to adopt stringent anti-Covid-19 measures, longshoremen at the company’s terminal in Sydney, Australia, are back on the job.

One worker tested positive for the virus on April 3, and another was found to be infected shortly thereafter.

The Maritime Union of Australia alleges that Hutchison took six days to reveal the exact shifts worked by the positive workers and only did so after the intervention of the New South Wales Department of Health.

Fifty longshore workers who had contact with one of the workers are now in quarantine.

The new Covid-19 measures that MUA members won thanks to the work stoppage include: a complete supply of personal protective equipment; physical distancing protocols; enhanced cleaning of the entire terminal including machinery; and a meeting before each shift during which workers are reminded not to report for work if they are ill.

A Covid-19 committee has also been set up with worker representation to monitor and review all protocols and procedures.

In the port of Darwin, meanwhile, the MUA raised concerns about ships arriving from China after traveling for less than the 14-day incubation period for the virus.

The regional government health authority has now committed to performing health checks on all crews arriving at the port from international destinations.

New regulations state that ships arriving in fewer than 14 days from their last international port of call must abide by the following restrictions:

— all crew must remain onboard, except for performing essential safety functions, while the vessel is berthed in Australia;

— if crew must disembark to conduct essential vessel functions, they must wear personal protective equipment at all times;

— crew should restrict their interaction with non-crew members to those that are critical to the safe operation and loading/unloading of the vessel;

— crew must use PPE in public spaces on board the vessel while non-crew members are onboard.

MUA members had previously refused to work several flag-of-convenience ships that were in violation of government restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of Covid-19.

“We already know that a failure to enforce biosecurity measures on cruise ships has led to the largest cluster of Covid-19 cases in Australia, causing several deaths and hundreds of illnesses,” said MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin.

“It is irresponsible not to take the strongest measures to protect the workforce which is providing basic needs for the community,” he added.

Back to Stories Covered


The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has extended, for an additional 100 days from April 9, the “no sail” order for cruise ships which was originally implemented on March 14.

The order also states that travelers and crewmembers will not be allowed to disembark cruise ships at ports or stations in the US except in consultation with federal, state and local authorities.

The last three cruise ships still sailing around the world were set to dock Monday in France, Italy, Spain and Los Angeles.

All three had been at sea for months, although no cases of the virus had been reported on board.

In the four weeks since the cruise lines announced their voluntary pause in operations and the CDC issued its first “no sail” order, nearly all cruise ships have disembarked their passengers.

In recent days, the CDC had also updated its recommendations to “help US cruise ship travelers (passengers and crew) get home as quickly and safely as possible during the pandemic.”

Those guidelines said that the cruise lines are responsible for treating all ill or infected patients, including those who need hospitalization.

It added the required use of private transportation or charter airplanes to transport people leaving the ships, as well as the use of a face mask or cloth face covering and maintaining social distancing.

The last cruise ship likely to reach a US port is Princess Cruises’ PACIFIC PRINCESS, set to dock Monday in Los Angeles.

The majority of passengers had disembarked in Australia on March 21, but 115 passengers who did not meet the fitness standards for air travel or had pre-existing medical conditions were forced to remain aboard.

In renewing its previous “no sail order,” the CDC cited ongoing public health concerns, including “recent incidences of reported Covid-19 spread onboard cruise ships.”

Between mid-February and the end of March, the CDC cited a total of 28 incidents that involved the virus aboard 21 cruise ships sailing from US ports.

The CDC order also requires the cruise lines to develop, implement and operationalize within seven days an “appropriate, actionable, and robust plan to prevent mitigate, and respond to the spread of COVID-19 on board cruise ships.”

The plans, which must be approved by the Coast Guard as well as the CDC, must address: monitoring passengers and crew and medical screenings; training crew on virus prevention; and responding to an outbreak on board.

Numerous ports around the world are also closed to cruise ships, including Australia (until at least June 15), New Zealand (through June 30) and Canada (cruise ships with more than 500 passengers barred through at least July 1).

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MITAGS East and West Coast in-house classroom and simulation training activities remain suspended due to government orders over concerns of the novel coronavirus and Covid-19.

We continue to monitor the situation and government directives regarding stay home orders and eventual reopening of operations.

Note that all in-person classes and simulator rental sessions are cancelled through May 4.

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We now offer blended learning options (
for a variety of USCG and VA approved courses.

Blended learning involves online and in person learning. First, course materials will be delivered remotely, via an online platform. The second portion of your course will be completed on campus since some USCG-approved courses require assessments (exams and practical exercises) to be completed in person.

Dates of in-person course completion will be determined at a later date.

We now offer the following blended learning options:

— Advanced Meteorology (Blended)

— Basic Firefighting (Blended)

— Basic Training (Blended)

— Basic Training Refresher (Blended)

— Basic Training Revalidation (Blended)

— Cargo Handling & Stowage (Operational Level) (Blended)

— Fatigue, Sleep & Medications (Online)

— Leadership & Managerial Skills (Blended)

— Personal Safety and Social Responsibilities (Blended)

— Personal Survival Techniques (Blended)

— Terrestrial Navigation and Compasses (Blended)

For those attendees who have classes scheduled after May 4, both campuses will re-evaluate guidance, executive orders and any other relevant information the week of April 27.

We will do our best to provide notice at that time regarding our return to normal operations.

**Please do not make any travel arrangements until your course has been confirmed by Admissions.**

In an effort to keep you up to date on the current pandemic and how it is affecting the maritime industry and MITAGS community, we’ve compiled some of the best resources and information we could find.

Click the button below to access our COVID-19 FAQs page:

If you have any questions, especially regarding any upcoming training needs, please know that MITAGS is here to help as best we can!

Please contact us via e-mail if you have questions or concerns.

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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