Wheelhouse Weekly – April 28th, 2020

April 29th 2020

Volume 25… Number 17… April 28, 2020


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All MM&P members are advised that the upcoming MM&P Biennial and Constitutional Conventions will be rescheduled for later this year.

In accordance with Article IV, Section 2 of the International Constitution, the MM&P General Executive Board has made this decision pending further information about ongoing health and travel restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic emergency.

Therefore, the Conventions scheduled for June 29-July 2 of this summer will be delayed until further information is available.

It is anticipated that new dates will be scheduled for later in the summer with as much advance notice as is possible.

The new dates will be set in accordance with guidelines authorized by the appropriate health authorities and the US Department of Labor.

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The risk of exposing frontline workers to Covid-19 outweighs the safety benefits of continued random drug and alcohol testing, transportation sector unions are telling the administration.

Mariners and other frontline transportation workers are already at a heightened risk of contracting the virus due to the nature of their jobs, moving goods and passengers across the country and around the world, keeping supply lines open.

In periodic conference calls with representatives of the Maritime Administration, the Department of Transportation and the Coast Guard, MM&P and the other maritime unions have raised grave concerns about the risks of continued random drug and alcohol testing.

Now, the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department is calling on DOT’s Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy & Compliance to immediately suspend random testing for at least 90 days.

TTD’s 33 affiliate unions represent millions of workers in all modes of transportation who are covered by DOT’s drug and alcohol testing requirements.

“Our members ensure that other essential employees can get to work, and that medical supplies, food and other critical products can get where they are needed,” TTD President Larry Willis wrote in a letter to Patrice Kelly, director of the DOT Testing Compliance Office.

“Given the severe and disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on these employees, it is of paramount importance—and in the shared interest of TTD unions, DOT and the United States at large—that every action is taken to protect this workforce from the effects of Covid-19.”

TTD echoed concerns expressed by one of its affiliates, the Airline Pilots Association, in an April 21 letter to the administration.

“Drug and alcohol testing procedures… are not designed to accommodate the unique risks presented by a deadly global pandemic,” Willis wrote.

“… Breath testing… presents numerous opportunities for the transmission of Covid-19, particularly because the regulations do not prescribe adequate prophylactic requirements for either the device or the technician administering the device.”

Although breathalyzer manufacturers have said they are considering “guidance for the safe use” of their equipment during the pandemic, unions say this is by no means an acceptable replacement for thoughtful and preemptive regulation, developed with scientific consensus and subject to review.

Urine specimen collection procedures also pose risks, requiring employees to interact closely with specimen collectors who themselves have been in contact with numerous individuals.

“It is well within the realm of possibility that a Covid-19 positive collector, who may be asymptomatic and unaware, could unwittingly serve as a nexus of infection throughout a workforce,” TTD says.

An additional risk factor: the fact that employees must travel to testing facilities where they come into contact with medical personnel, patients and others.

“Given the presence of these risks, the potentially lethal consequences of contracting Covid-19, and the negative impacts of the virus continuing to spread among transportation workers, it is incumbent on DOT to eliminate these risks by suspending testing,” the unions say.

Although some regulators have offered employers “flexibility” in meeting current requirements, DOT has so far failed to take substantive action.

“Unfortunately, merely providing for the possibility of the temporary delay of some tests, and leaving this choice in the hands of employers is inadequate given the exponential spread of Covid-19,” Willis wrote.

“We call on DOT to suspend random testing for all covered employees for a period of no less than 90 days.”

“As we see increasing incidence and deaths among the frontline transportation workforce,” he said, “it is clear that DOT must take decisive action to reduce exposure and protect these employees.”

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On May 1, the National Maritime Center will launch a centralized electronic delivery process (via email) for renewal examinations.

The change will give mariners the ability to request, complete and submit renewal exams by email. The agency said it is intended to help maintain the flow of mariner credentials during the Covid-19 pandemic.

It said paper mailings will still be available on request.

Approval to test (ATT) letters for renewal exams issued on or after May 1 will include directions on how to obtain an electronic exam. The process will also be outlined on the NMC Examinations Page website.

NMC says that mariners who have received an ATT letter and have not received their exam may follow the new email process.

Mariners who have already received a hard-copy renewal exam should complete it as directed in the previously mailed correspondence.

Here is an outline of the new centralized electronic delivery process for renewal exams:

— ATT letter issued and mailed to the mariner by NMC;

— After receiving the letter, the mariner requests the exam at or by contacting the NMC Customer Contact Center. If the exam fee is not paid, a copy of the Pay.Gov fee payment receipt must be provided with the request;

— NMC will email the mariner a PDF copy of the examination module(s), a fillable answer sheet for each module and directions for completing the process;

— The mariner completes the answer sheet for each module and returns it via email in accordance with the directions—however, mariners also have the option of printing and mailing the answer sheets in accordance with the directions;

— NMC will receive the answer sheets, grade them and notify the mariner of the results, including any retests or re-examinations required;

— Mariners may be approved for both an original and renewal examination on one application.

They may use the new email process for the renewal examination only and must schedule exams for the original at a Regional Examination Center using existing processes.

For questions, concerns or feedback regarding this new process, contact the NMC Customer Service Center by e-mailing or by calling 1-888-IASKNMC (427-5662).

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The Navy hospital ship USNS COMFORT will leave New York City, a spokesperson for the Pentagon said Friday.

After leaving New York, COMFORT will return to Norfolk, Va., for resupply and its regular post-deployment procedures.

The Pentagon has said it will work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to select another coastal city for future deployment.

COMFORT, with MM&P licensed deck officers on board, has been moored at Manhattan’s Pier 90 since March 30.

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo said last week that the region was grateful for the support of the Navy’s hospital ship, but no longer needs the extra assistance.

COMFORT was initially intended to serve as a hospital for non-Covid-19 patients only.

Under the protocol established before her arrival, potential patients had to be taken to a shoreside hospital, evaluated, tested for Covid-19, determined to be virus-free and then transported to the ship.

Such restrictions on admission greatly limited the number of patients who were treated on board.

Ultimately, the vessel was assigned to accept some Covid-19 patients as well, and the Pentagon redeployed some of COMFORT’s medical personnel to shoreside hospitals, where they have provided relief for civilian medical staff.

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Although some state governors are beginning to ease restrictions, the AFL-CIO is warning that many workplaces are still too dangerous to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic.

There is still not enough personal protective equipment and not enough testing capacity to make worksites safe, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says.

He called for stronger legal protections for people who refuse dangerous work as employers begin to call them back.

Many AFL-CIO unions have lost members to the Covid-19 virus.

Transport workers unions had reported more than 100 deaths as of last week.

The United Food and Commercial Workers estimates that at least 30 of its members—who work in grocery stores, meatpacking and other food supply operations–have died in the pandemic.

Others, such as the hospitality workers union UNITE HERE and Equity, which represents actors, musicians and others who perform live, have had the vast majority of their members laid off.

“There’s no question everybody wants to go back to work,” Trumka says.

“But by asking that the economy be reopened before we have safe workplaces, we put people’s lives at risk.”

To reopen the economy, the AFL-CIO says:

— workers must have a say in decisions at every level–workplace, industry, city, state and federal;

— decisions must be based on worker safety and sound science;

— strong, clear and enforceable workplace health and safety standards must be in place;

— workers must have stronger protections against retaliation;

— there must be a massive increase in adequate levels and types of personal protective equipment;

— there must be a massive increase in rapid and reliable coronavirus testing;

— the federal government must oversee a system of recording, reporting and tracking worker infections;

— employers, in coordination with local and state public health departments, must trace the contacts of infected workers and remove exposed workers from work with pay and without retaliation.

“Worker safety, economic recovery and public health are intertwined,” Trumka says.

“Moving too fast or doing too little on one front poses an extreme danger to everyone.”

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The International Transport Workers’ Federation intervened to save the life of a seriously ill seafarer who had been refused medical evacuation by authorities in Indonesia.

Citing the country’s Covid-19 travel restrictions, the government rejected multiple requests for an emergency medical evacuation to save the life of the 45-year-old Russian mariner, who showed symptoms of having suffered a stroke.

The vessel, the WL PALEKH, was in international waters, 225 kilometers from the island of Sumatra, when the man fell ill.

Indonesia continued to reject calls for help despite repeated requests from the master of the vessel, the Seafarers’ Union of Russia and the Seafarers’ Union of Indonesia.

A police vessel was finally sent to evacuate the man after the International Transport Workers’ Federation called on two United Nations agencies–the International Labor Organization and the International Maritime Organization.

Representatives of the ILO and the IMO then contacted the Indonesian government, imploring it to respect international conventions.

“The Indonesian government should have immediately facilitated the evacuation of this critically ill seafarer and provided the lifesaving medical attention that he desperately needed,” said Jacqueline Smith, ITF maritime coordinator.

“Covid-19 restrictions must not be used to deny seafarers the right to medical care and treatment, or countries’ obligations under international law.”

As a signatory to the ILO Maritime Labor Convention, Indonesia is obliged to provide emergency medical assistance and “prompt medical help and evacuation at sea for the seriously ill or injured on board a ship.”

The master of the WL PALEKH first requested a medical evacuation for Alexey Kulibaba in the early morning hours of April 18, after he showed signs of having had a stroke.

His condition continued to worsen, with leg paralysis, confused speech, and pain under his left shoulder and left arm.

Although the diagnosis was confirmed by a doctor from Global Voyager Assistance, Indonesian authorities–including immigration and the local Covid-19 Task Force– refused a second attempt by the master to get permission for a medical evacuation.

On Sunday, the Seafarers’ Union of Indonesia got the authorities to allow the vessel to enter the Port of Belawan to facilitate the medical transfer, but six hours before its scheduled arrival, the harbormaster informed the ship’s captain that the decision had been reversed and advised him to proceed to Singapore.

The medical evacuation was finally provided after the ITF intervened with the ILO and the IMO.

All the labor organizations involved in the rescue have reiterated that no country should use the coronavirus crisis to ignore its obligations to provide urgent medical assistance to any seafarer in need.

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Two trade associations that represent port operators in Europe are asking the European Union to make it possible for maritime workers to return to their home countries following crew change.

The European Sea Ports Organization and the Federation of European Private Port Owners have urged European Union member states to facilitate seafarer movements to and from vessels within their ports.

The news was reported by Gabriella Twining of the IHS publication Safety at Sea.

The trade associations say crew change can be facilitated through the European Commission’s “green lanes” concept, issued on March 23, which removes restrictions on transport workers who need to cross borders during the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the European Commission, the goal of the green lanes policy is “to ensure all freight, including but not limited to essential goods such as food and medical supplies, gets quickly to its destination without any delays.”

European ports are also asking shipping lines to interact with EU member states and airports to ensure that crews can return home on flights to destinations both within and outside Europe.

In their communications with the European Commission, the port associations say that they oppose–as disruptive and impractical–the Commission’s proposal that member states designate specific ports where crew changes can take place.

“A top-down selection of certain ports for the purpose of crew changes might have serious impacts on some ports and port businesses and may unnecessarily disrupt a supply chain which is already under pressure,” a spokesperson for the port authorities said.

“If crew changes and transfers can be facilitated from and to one port in the country, they can be facilitated in all ports.”

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Authorities in Japan have confirmed that numerous crewmembers aboard the cruise ship COSTA ATLANTICA have tested positive for the new coronavirus.

No infections were reported when the ship docked in Nagasaki for repairs on Jan. 29, but now 148 of the 623 crewmembers have tested positive, the authorities said.

Only one member of the crew has been hospitalized. The others remain onboard the ship.

Since the end of January, some members of the crew are said to have violated quarantine, disembarked and left the area by bus or taxi.

Earlier this year, over 700 passengers and crew tested positive on another cruise ship, the DIAMOND PRINCESS, when it was docked in Yokohama.

Although all cruise lines have stopped sailing because of the virus, in many cases crewmembers are stuck on board with no idea how or when they will get home.

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.

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).

The last three cruise ships still sailing around the world docked on April 20: two in Europe and one in Los Angeles.

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

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 and the CDC, are required to address: monitoring passengers and crew; medical screening; training crew on virus prevention; and responding to an outbreak on board.

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Updates for MM&P Offshore Group members and applicants have been posted on the Members’ Only site. The most recent updates regard:

— temporary changes in dispatching Maersk Line Limited and E-Ships jobs; and

— face covering requirements implemented by local jurisdictions in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Go to and log into the Members Only site to view these updates.

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The American Maritime Partnership is seeking photos of American mariners to feature in its “Maritime Heroes Covid-19 Response” campaign.

The campaign will run on social media and be posted on the AMP website through the month of May. MM&P and MIRAD are both members of AMP.

What AMP is looking for is a good group photo of you and your shipmates, or even a good selfie of one or more mariners, with the names of those pictured and the name of the ship you are sailing on.

No need to include any additional details.

The pictures will be used to represent all American maritime workers on the front lines. The goal is to show American mariners making American maritime work today.

Please email your photo or photos as soon as possible to:

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An administrative law judge ruled last week that the publisher of an online magazine broke the law when he tweeted that he would send employees “back to the salt mines” if they tried to unionize.

When viewed in light of workers’ legally protected rights, the tweet by Ben Domenech, of FDRLST Media, was an “obvious threat”—not a joke or an expression of opinion shielded by the First Amendment, Judge Kenneth Chu ruled on April 22.

He ordered the company to admit it acted illegally and advise employees of their rights.

The judge said that the timing of the tweet, which came on the same day as a walkout by union employees at another media company, Vox, supported the conclusion that Domenech was sending a message to employees.

“Obviously, the FDRLST employees are not literally being sent back to the salt mines,” Chu wrote. “Idioms have, however, hidden meanings.”

Under the ruling, FDRLST will have to post physical notices in its offices and send email copies to employees, alerting them that it violated federal labor law and advising them of their right to organize under the National Labor Relations Act.

The company argued that the tweet was just a joke.

But Chu said the context of the tweet, and the history of the term—referring to physically challenging, tedious work—suggest otherwise.

“In viewing the totality of the circumstances surrounding the tweet, this tweet had no other purpose except to threaten the FDRLST employees with unspecified reprisal, as the underlying meaning of ‘salt mine’ so signifies,” Chu said.

The company can appeal the decision to the three sitting members of the National Labor Board, all of whom are Republican appointees whose recent decisions have drawn criticism from labor unions.

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A strike by workers at an Amazon fulfillment center in Minnesota has reportedly convinced the retail giant to reinstate an employee who had been fired for not reporting to duty during the pandemic.

Throughout Amazon’s 26-year history, it has quashed numerous spontaneous uprisings over poor working conditions at its warehouses.

It has also succeeded in suppressing union organizing efforts throughout its worldwide network.

But the company decided last week to reverse the decision to fire a worker at one of its Minnesota warehouses after 50 of her coworkers walked off the job in protest.

The employee who was terminated reported she was afraid of infecting her two children from coronavirus.

The company will neither confirm nor deny the reports, writes journalist Lauren Kaori Gurley of Vice.

Workers at the fulfillment center in Shakopee, Minn., have protested the company’s labor practices in the past.

Last year, they organized the first strike by US workers at one of the company’s annual sales events.

Amazon has recently confirmed more than 75 cases of coronavirus in over half of its 110 warehouse facilities in the United States.

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May 1 is a public holiday in many countries that originated as a celebration of the return of spring.

But May Day isn’t all about picnics, parties and skipping around in the sunshine with flowers and ribbons: workers around the world traditionally take to the streets on May 1 for marches and rallies in a show of protest and solidarity.

The story of International Workers’ Day begins on May 1, 1886, when more than 200,000 workers in the United States joined a nationwide strike for the eight-hour day.

In Chicago, on May 3, violence broke out in the meatpacking district at the McCormick Reaper plant.

The next evening, 3,000 people gathered in Haymarket Square to rally for an eight-hour day and to protest policy brutality.

There were only a few hundred left when 180 policemen marched on the square to break up what remained of the meeting.

They stopped a short distance from the speaker’s wagon. As a captain ordered the crowd to disperse, the speaker cried out that it was a peaceable gathering.

At the same time, a bomb exploded in the midst of the ranks of the police. It wounded 67 policemen, seven of whom died.

The police opened fire, killing several men and wounding 200, and the Haymarket Tragedy—the Haymarket Affair–became a part of labor history.

In 1889, it was declared that, in commemoration of what had happened in Chicago, May 1 would be an international holiday for labor.

This Friday, May 1, as Covid-19 makes traditional marches and rallies impossible, unions are “going virtual.”

All the global union federations, Labour Start and the International Trade Union Confederation are hosting a 12-hour-long broadcast of videos and live events from trade unions around the globe.

It will include collected videos made especially for May Day by unions on every continent.

The world’s first global virtual May Day celebration will begin Friday at 07:00 UTC.

To see what time it is where you are, go to

Please join us at to participate in the events.

The organizers are working on a provisional schedule of events, which MM&P will post on the union’s Facebook page the day before the broadcast.

Please join us when you can, throughout the day, at

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MITAGS has added Basic Training Revalidation ( to its list of blended learning courses.

As a reminder, you will need the following to be able to participate in the blended learning courses:

— a computer or tablet with high-speed internet (a smartphone will work, but it will be more difficult to participate in class activities);

— Windows 8.1 or newer;

— Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan or later;

— a camera and a microphone.

MITAGS hopes to continue to offer several other courses in this same manner moving forward.

Updates will be disseminated as new courses are added.

In the meantime, please check the MITAGS website for the latest information:

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us! (East Coast Team) (West Coast Team)

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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