Wheelhouse Weekly – February 20, 2003

February 20th 2003


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

Volume 7 . . . . . Number 8. . . . . February 20, 2003






Issues from national defense to port security will highlight the agenda at the Maritime Trades Department, AFL-CIO Executive Board meeting February 20-21. The sessions are taking place at the Sheraton Bal Harbour in Miami Beach, Florida. MM&P President Capt. Tim Brown is in attendance.

Among those speaking to the MTD board members are representatives from maritime labor, government, military, and the US-flag shipping industry.

Speakers scheduled for February 20 include US Reps. Don Young (R-AK), Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and William Delahunt (D-MA); US Maritime Administrator William Schubert; Gen. John Handy (USAF), head of the US Transportation Command; and Charles Raymond, president of MM&P-contracted CSX Lines (soon to be Horizon Lines).

Slated to speak on February 21 are Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski; US Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC); AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka; United Food and Commercial Workers President Douglas Dority; and former MarAd official John Graykowski, now senior vice president and general counsel for Kvaerner Philadelphia Shipyard.

MM&P Wheelhouse Weekly



A major issue facing US Maritime Administrator Bill Schubert is the reauthorization of the Maritime Security Program (MSP). The MSP ensures that the US has sufficient vessel capacity prepared at all times to provide assured access to sealift for our armed forces during war or national emergency.

Currently there are 47 vessels enrolled, and the program is equally important in that it helps retain a labor base of skilled and loyal American seafarers who are available to crew the US Government-owned strategic sealift fleet, as well as the US commercial fleet.

MarAd is anticipating a congressional hearing at some point this year about the merits and the future of MSP. Schubert is confident that a strong MSP will succeed because the program is vital to the nation’s military readiness, preparedness, and stability of an US-flag fleet and US-citizen mariner workforce.

He noted that, “While MSP is critical to retaining the US-flag fleet engaged in the international trades, it cannot be the only initiative that attracts participation in the US-flag. We are working with industry to increase the number of US-flag vessels and we are exploring tax reform issues to encourage ships to enter or remain under the US-flag.”

MM&P Wheelhouse Weekly



US intelligence officials have identified approximately 15 cargo freighters around the world that they believe are controlled by Al Qaeda or could be used by the terrorist network to ferry operatives, bombs, money, or commodities over the high seas, government officials said.

Some of the suspicious ships are being tracked by satellite or surveillance planes and with the help of allied navies or informants. One challenge in tracking the vessels continuously is that they are continuously given new names, being repainted, or reregistered using invented corporate owners.

Government officials have started paying more attention than ever to what cargo is loaded onto ships entering US waters and who serves on crews, as well as to stowaways and individuals who appear to be surveying US ports.

In addition, A USCG spokesman said that US intelligence agencies have set up large databases to track cargo, ships, and mariners in a search for anomalies that could indicate terrorists on approaching ships.

The Al Qaeda network has owned ships for years, some of which transported commodities such as cement and sesame seeds. But according to US officials, one vessel delivered the explosives that Al Qaeda operatives used to bomb two US embassies in Africa in 1998.

Starting with the suicide bombing of the USS COLE off Yemen in 2000 by Al Qaeda men in an inflatable dinghy, a strike that killed 17 sailors, US officials have discerned a steady increase in nautical attacks, some of which were aborted by the planners or uncovered by authorities at the last moment.

The latest attack was last October, when the hull of the French oil tanker LIMBURG was blasted by a speedboat off Yemen, causing a widespread oil spill. Now Navy and USCG intelligence have the added responsibility of sorting through the corporate papers of the world’s 120,000 merchant ships, many of which hide their ownership under layers of corporate and flag-of-convenience registries.

Navy officials say Al Qaeda has used one shipping fleet flagged in the Pacific island of Tonga to transport operatives around the Mediterranean Sea. The firm, which is called Nova and is incorporated in Delaware and Romania, has for years engaged in smuggling illegal immigrants, US and Greek officials said. According to the officials, its ships also frequently change names and countries of registry.

MM&P Wheelhouse Weekly



Published reports say that US and UK intelligence authorities are tracking three unnamed ‘mystery’ cargo ships, which are alleged to have been sailing in international waters for three months, carrying Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

The report from the UK newspaper The Independent quoted shipping sources who claimed the ships, between 35,000 and 40,000 DWT, left port in late November, a few days after UN weapons inspectors returned to Iraq.

MM&P Wheelhouse Weekly



MM&P member Gary Schmidt sent a note of thanks to the MM&P earlier this week for the boost that the Union’s Gisele Schmidt fund is providing to his daughter. Gisele Schmidt was rendered paralyzed last year at age 21 as the result of an auto accident. The MM&P established a fund open through the end of 2002 on Gisele’s behalf to aid in obtaining supplies and necessities that were not otherwise covered by insurance.

Gary Schmidt extended thanks to the MM&P and to his Union brothers and sisters “for the generosity and concern that everyone has shown my daughter and myself during the past 11 months. Your support both financially and otherwise has been very uplifting and very helpful.”

He went on to say that “The check Gisele just received will be very helpful in Gisele getting the extra things that she needs to make her life as close to normal as possible. I wish that you could see her face. She is smiling all the time and is doing so very well.”

In spite of the pain and numerous physical challenges that Gisele continues to face, her father reports that “these seem so very minor compared to her mental attitude and strong beliefs. She truly seems very happy and is doing as well as could ever be expected.”

Gary Schmidt concluded, saying that “the support from the union, my friends, and Matson people has been tremendous. It is really uplifting for both of us to receive the support from everyone. I can’t thank you enough for your concern. We truly appreciate it. Thanks again and smooth sailing to all.”

MM&P Wheelhouse Weekly



US-flag vessels hauled 2.4 million net tons of cargo on the Great Lakes in January, an increase of 34 percent compared to 2002. Iron ore for the steel industry dominated the trade in January. Shipments totaled 2.1 million tons, nearly double that of a year ago, and a 17 percent gain over the 5-year average.

Reduced demand for steam coal for power generation produced the fall-off in coal cargoes. January loadings totaled only 138,000 tons, a decrease of 31 percent compare to 2002 and 54 percent compared to the 5-year average.

MM&P Wheelhouse Weekly



Capt. Apostolos Mangouras, Master of the oil tanker PRESTIGE, has been released on $3.2 million bail from the high-security Spanish jail in which he has been incarcerated for close to three months.

The PRESTIGE suffered structural damage in heavy weather off the coast of Spain last November, and subsequently broke up and sank while under tow, having been refused entry to a place of refuge in sheltered waters close to the Spanish coast. The sinking resulted in a huge oil spill which has fouled many pristine beaches along the Spanish and French coastlines.

José Ortega, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) inspector based in La Coruña who has worked tirelessly on behalf of the 68-year old captain, accompanied Mangouras as he left jail and reported that he must now report daily to the town’s police station.

Many in the international shipping industry have been critical of the treatment of Capt. Mangoutas, who, by all accounts, put himself at grave personal risk to do his duty in very difficult circumstances. They do not want him to become a scapegoat for the sinking. That will have the effect of deflecting attention away from the need to objectively identify the systemic failures that occurred during this incident.

Industry officials say that refusal of a place of refuge must be avoided in the future. They fear that a precedent has been set for a yet more excessive bail demand in future incidents. The criminalizing of masters and senior officers after a casualty is also a major concern since many believe that this is not only indefensible in human terms, but also inhibits timely and efficient accident investigation.

MM&P Wheelhouse Weekly



Class Openings

Between now and the end of April, seats are available in the courses listed below:

  • 2/24-27: SMA
  • 2/24-28: MSC-COMMS, DCS
  • 3/3-28: MED-SMC
  • 3/3-7: ARPA, TPIC
  • 3/10-14: COMP-ABSS
  • 3/17-21: BST, SHS-EMR
  • 3/20-21: MSC-DC
  • 3/22: MED-DOT-DA, CES-AWR
  • 3/24-28: FF-ADV, COMP-APS
  • 3/28: CBRD-1
  • 3/29-30: MSC-DC
  • 3/31-4/4: BRM, CMM-ECDIS, CMM-ADVWX
  • 3/31: ROR-1
  • 4/7-11: HAZ, “MSC” Week courses
  • 4/14-25: MED-PIC
  • 4/19: MED-DOT-DA
  • 4/21-24: MSC-SMA
  • 4/21-25: CMM-ECDIS

MSC Courses

The following MSC courses are now standard offerings at MITAGS and are thus not covered under the MSC Reimbursement Program:

  • Small Arms (SMA)
  • Strategic Sealift Communications (MSC-COMMS)
  • Environmental Protection (MSC-ENVPRO)
  • Chemical, Biological, and Radiological Defense Orientation (CBRD-1)
  • Damage Control (MSC-DC); and
  • Anti-Terrorism Threat Awareness Seminar
  • The MSC courses now available off-site are:
  • Helicopter Control Officer
  • Anti-Terrorism Officer
  • Helicopter Fire Fighting; and
  • Chemical, Biological, and Radiological Defense Officer

In order to be eligible for any reimbursement, quotas for these off-site courses must be arranged through MITAGS.


Advanced Cargo-handling Prerequisite

Completion of Advanced Stability (CMM-ADVSTB) will be a prerequisite for the MITAGS Advanced Cargo Handling Course. All candidates for Chief Mate/Master falling under the new scheme as outlined in NMC Policy Ltr 04-02 will thus have to take CMM-ADVSTB first.


Company/Ship Security Officer Courses Gain Wide Acceptance

A number of marine officers and company executives from the US, Canada, and Australia attended MITAGS’ first two “Company/Ship Security Officer” beta courses during the first two weeks in February. At the end of each session the wide spectrum of attendees provided course critiques, appraisals and comments. This feedback has been incorporated into the program to ensure that the course is comprehensive, practical, realistic, and effective. This improved Company/Ship Security Officer program will now be offered on a monthly basis commencing in March 2003.


Schedules, Course Info & Registration

Courses are subject to change. Always check the MITAGS website for updated course availability. You can also check future schedules, review detailed course descriptions and register on-line or contact Admissions at or 443-989-3226.


MM&P Wheelhouse Weekly



Drug & Alcohol Testing Training


MM&P members required to be current and proficient under the new DOT regulations on urine collection and breath testing. Members who currently meet MATES Program eligibility requirements will have priority; persons out of eligibility will be admitted on space available basis.


One-day class to meet requirements of 49 CFR Part 40 on urine testing and 46 CFR Part 4 on breath testing.

  • Monday, March 3: Seattle, WA
  • Monday, March 10: Los Angeles, CA
  • Friday, March 14: Seattle, WA

Class begins at 0800 and ends at 1600, with two breaks and a one hour lunch. Members successfully completing the program will be provided a certificate from MITAGS. Anticipate maximum class size of 20 students. Members may sign-up now at the hall.

Other Training Packages Include:

  • OS to AB
  • AB to Mate
  • Second Mate to Chief Mate

Call for details at 888-893-7829 or download the PMI course schedule with descriptions at or visit their web site at

MM&P Wheelhouse Weekly



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MM&P Wheelhouse Weekly

~ Reminders ~



The following memorandum from MM&P International Secretary-Treasurer Glen Banks has been sent to all Offshore Ports regarding the clearing or dispatching of MM&P Personnel on Surge and RRF vessels:

Maritime Administration (MarAd) and Military Sealift Command (MSC) officials have advised maritime labor that a break-out of surge and RRF vessels is possible in the near future. In order to ensure that enough qualified mariners are available to man these ships, MM&P, MEBA and AMO agreed, in 1999, to provide manpower aboard each other’s contracted vessels in times of national emergency.

The agreement established a process for filling vacant billets aboard vessels manned by other unions. The process is as follows:

  1. A ship operator identifies a crewing shortfall.
  2. The operator contacts the appropriate government agency.
  3. The agency contacts the other unions.
  4. The other unions fill the requirement.

The ONLY points of contact at MM&P will be Capt. David Boatner in our LA/LB office or Mike Rodriguez at International HQ.

Capt. Boatner and Mike Rodriguez will receive calls only from the appropriate government officials. In other words, ports are NOT TO CLEAR OR DISPATCH our people directly to any vessel not under contract with MM&P without the specific authorization of Capt. Boatner or Mr. Rodriguez.

When these positions become available they will go to active offshore members and applicants first. The jobs will be called in the appropriate halls in accordance with MM&P shipping rules.

In an emergency, Pensioners will be our second choice for filling these jobs. For instance, a pensioner may be shipped to prevent a ship from sailing late. Pensioner earning limitations and contribution issues will be addressed as necessary.

Members and Applicants are reminded that in order to receive pension credit, vacation and other benefits, you must ship through a MM&P hall in the manner described above. Shipping in any other way will not ensure that benefits will passed be through to MM&P Plans. Applicant points will be awarded only for assignments shipped through MM&P offices.

You may direct your questions regarding this issue to:

  • Capt. Banks:; phone: 410-850-8700 ext. 21
  • Capt. Boatner:; phone: 310-834-7201
  • Mike Rodriguez:; 410-850-8700 ext. 23
  • or to the Vice President in your area.


    MM&P Wheelhouse Weekly



    During MM&P General Executive Board meetings held at MM&P HQ on January 15-16, 2003, the quota system established for admittance to the Offshore Membership Group was clarified to make it clear that this quota system does not apply to MM&P Offshore Unlicensed members.

    On October 3-4, 2002, the GEB established quotas effective October 4, 2002, stating that “No member of any membership group, including the Offshore Unlicensed Membership Group, may transfer into the Offshore Licensed Membership Group without having been a member of the organization for at least as long as the length of time that the lowest applicant admitted into membership has in the organization.” The wording of this statement was subsequently determined to be incorrect.

    On January 16, 2003, the GEB corrected the quota guidelines to read:

    “No member of any MM&P membership group, except for members of the MM&P Offshore Unlicensed Membership Group, may transfer into the Offshore Licensed Membership Group without having been a member of the organization for at least as long as the length of time that the lowest applicant admitted into membership has in the organization.”

    MM&P Wheelhouse Weekly



    The Coast Guard has recently received reports of faulty servicing of several inflatable life rafts that were last serviced by facilities operating under the name “AMPAK” in Baton Rouge, LA, and Panama City, FL.

    In at least one instance, the life raft gas cylinder was found empty, and the life raft would not have worked in an emergency. Others were marked as having been subjected to required tests that were not in fact performed.

    Although the life rafts were USCG approved and of several different makes, the AMPAK facilities were not Coast Guard approved to service any of them. It is not known how many other life rafts may be involved. The USCG strongly recommends that any inflatable life rafts last serviced by those AMPAK facilities be taken to a USCG approved servicing facility as soon as possible. The USCG reports that both AMPAK facilities “appear to have since ceased operations.”

    This recommendation applies to USCG approved life rafts on US-flag vessels, and foreign approved life rafts on SOLAS ships; the AMPAK facilities are known to have serviced both. For more info, contact Kurt Heinz of the USCG Lifesaving and Fire Safety Standards Division at 202-267-1444 or

    MM&P Wheelhouse Weekly





    The Board of Trustees, based on recommendations by the Cost Containment Committee, adopted changes to the Health & Benefit Plan. The following changes will become effective January 1, 2003:

    Annual Deductible

    The current annual deductible of $150/$300 will be raised to $250/$500.

    Out-of-Pocket Maximum

    The current out of pocket maximum of $2,000 will be raised to $3,000.

    Dental Reimbursement Levels

    • The Plan payment to in-network dental providers will go from 90% to 80%.
    • The Plan payment for out-of-network providers will go from 80% of UCR to 70% of UCR.
    • New contract with Delta Dental replaces Aetna/US Healthcare (Prudential Dental) agreement. See below for additional information.

    Prescription Drug Program

    Mail order drugs will be subject to a 20% co-pay for all single source brand name and generic drugs with a maximum out of pocket, per prescription, of $75.

    For brand name drugs where the generic equivalent is available, the member will be responsible for paying the total cost of the difference between the brand name and the generic drug. The Plan will then pay 80% of the cost of the generic and the member will be responsible for the 20% up to a per prescription maximum of $75.

    The Plan has also removed the mandatory mail order provision. This means that any prescription, regardless of the number of refills, can be obtained at a retail level but will be limited to a 30-day supply. However, obtaining maintenance medications through the mail order program may still be less expensive to you.

    A synopsis of these changes and additional changes effective April 1, 2003 appears in the November-December 2002 issue of the MM&P’s Master, Mate & Pilot newspaper. The Plan Office has also mailed a summary of all changes, with examples, to Health & Benefit Plan participants.


    Remember to notify the Plan office whenever you move or have a change of address. There are a number of important mailings scheduled for the next few months and we would like to keep all members well informed. You can fax your address changes to the Plan Office at 410-850-8655 or you can email them to the Plan Office at




    This is a reminder that effective October 1, 2002, the MM&P Plan’s contract with Prudential Dental expired. Prudential was purchased by Aetna/US HealthCare in 2001 and could no longer offer the Plan the same type of fee-for-service arrangement as before.

    In order to continue to offer Plan Participants an in-network dental benefit option, the Plan reviewed proposals from organizations that provide network dental services. After review, the Trustees approved a contract with Delta Dental, the largest provider of dental services in the US.

    The Delta Dental Claims Processing Center in Mechanicsburg, PA, will handle claims administration for all MM&P eligible participants and dependents. This includes claims submitted by out of network dentists as well as those who are Delta Dental providers.

    Plan participants who choose to go to a contracted provider will pay 10 percent of the contracted amount and the Plan will pay 90 percent. Participants will have access to all Delta providers in the Delta Premier Network option that includes over 133,000 dentists nationwide.



    ~ Where Does My Dentist Submit My Claims?

    Effective October 1, 2002, all dental claims with dates of service on or after October 1, 2002, from both in and out-of-network providers, should be sent directly to: Delta Dental, One Delta Drive, Mechanicsburg, PA 17055-6999. Participants will receive a claim form in the mailing sent out by the Plan Office on August 11. Your dentist can copy this form and use it to submit all dental claims incurred on or after October 1, 2002.

    ~ How Do I Find A Delta Dentist?

    You can locate participating dentists in your area in two ways. You can call 1-800-932-0783 from 8 AM to 8 PM Eastern Time, Monday-Friday, or you can sign on to the Delta website at Once you have signed on to the website, key on the bar marked “Pennsylvania”. (MM&P Plan members are enrolled in the Delta Premier Option through Delta Dental of Penn.) Next enter the search criteria to find participating Delta dentists in your area or enter your own dentist’s name to find out if he/she participates with the Premier network.



    Delta Dental will coordinate with the Plan Office to transition all billing for “work in process”. This means that all root canals, orthodontia work and other staged procedures that are not completed under the old arrangement will be carried over and the remaining balance billing, for work performed on or after October 1, 2002 will be processed by Delta Dental.

    It is important to remember that all work that has been pre-determined by Prudential/Aetna must be completed and billed with a billing date on or prior to September 30, 2002, in order to assure that your co-pay will remain the same as quoted in the initial pre-determination.

    Any work started under the old Plan but billed for date of service on or after October 1, 2002 will be reimbursed according to whether the dentist is participating in the Delta Dental network. If your dentist is not a participating dentist, the balance billing will be paid at the out-of-network rate of 80 percent of the Plan’s UCR schedules.



    All questions about any dental claims incurred on or after October 1, 2002, including claims submitted by out-of-network providers, should be directed to Delta Dental at 1-800-932-0783. You have been provided with a Delta claim form to forward to your dentist, however, your dentist may submit any standard dental billing form as long as the bill is sent directly to Delta at the above listed address.



    Participants have been sent a brochure that includes a perforated generic identification card. This card lists the telephone number and the billing address for Delta. You are not required to carry an identification card because your social security number and birth date will identify you as an eligible participant in the Delta Dental Network.

    It is important to remember that MM&P claims will be processed by Delta Dental of Pennsylvania. You or your dentist can access your eligibility by calling either the Plan Office or Delta Dental at 1-800-932-0783.

    If you or your dentist have any questions, you can contact Delta Dental at 1-800-932-0783 from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.

    Plan members are identified by social security number and the Group Plan number for MM&P which is 7117.

    Billing for both in and out of network claims should be submitted on standard dental billing forms and sent directly to Delta at

    Delta Dental of Pennsylvania One Delta Drive Mechanicsburg, PA 17055

    You can locate participating providers on-line at Masters, Mates and Pilots members have access to providers in all of the Delta networks.


    MM&P Wheelhouse Weekly



    • Do you want an easy way to grow your savings?
    • Do you want an easier way to make deposits to your Masters, Mates & Pilots Federal Credit Union account?

    Consider establishing payroll or pension direct deposit.

    Many employers allow you to directly deposit your pay into several different financial institutions. Trinity Management, Strong America, Moran Towing of Florida, and McAllister Brothers are among the MM&P-contracted companies that already provide for employees to deposit funds directly into the MM&P Federal Credit Union.

    MM&P Health & Benefit Plans Pensioners and A&G Region Pensioners may have deductions made directly from their pension check to their Credit Union account. In addition, employees of MM&P, Plans, MITAGS and MIRAID are also eligible for payroll deduction directly into their Credit Union account.

    Add to your savings by paying yourself first! Contact your payroll office to establish Credit Union direct deposit or to find out if this is available for you. For additional details or to get answers to your questions on this or other MM&P Federal Credit Union programs, contact Kathy Klisavage, Credit Union Manager, toll-free at 1-800-382-7777 or by Email at




    Members are reminded that the Masters, Mates & Pilots Federal Credit Union is offering vehicle loans as low as 5.25 percent. Rates range from 5.25 to 6.99 percent for terms of 24 to 60 months. It doesn’t matter if it’s for a new, used or a refinanced vehicle.

    These rates are also in effect for new or used recreational vehicles, motorcycles or boats. Limited funds available at this rate, certain terms and conditions apply.

    MM&P Federal Credit Union membership is open to all MM&P members, to all MM&P, MITAGS, MIRAID and Plans staff, and to their immediate families.

    Rates and terms of offer are subject to change. Call Kathy Klisavage, Credit Union Manager, toll free 1-800-382-7777 or Email for all the details.


    MM&P Wheelhouse Weekly



    A memorial fund has been established in the memory of recently deceased MM&P member Jerry Backman. Jerry shipped out of San Francisco and was 49-years old at the time of his tragic death as the result of an auto accident. Jerry leaves a widow and two children.

    Donations made in memory of Jerry will be used to assist with the education of his children, a 22-year old daughter and a 15-year old son.

    The Backman family is privately managing the fund. They are most appreciative of all the messages expressing sympathy and the positive stories from his shipmates and friends.

    Contributions may be sent to:

    The Jerry B. Backman Memorial Fund c/o Bank of the West 2900 Railroad Avenue Pittsburg, CA 94565


    MM&P Wheelhouse Weekly

    The MM&P Wheelhouse Weekly is the official electronic newsletter of the International Organization of Masters, Mates, and Pilots, ILA, AFL-CIO, 700 Maritime Blvd., Linthicum Heights, MD 21090-1941. Phone: 410-850-8700; Fax: 410-850-0973; Email: For further info or to subscribe contact John Peige at The Wheelhouse Weekly is sent via Email to MM&P-contracted vessels at sea, broadcast worldwide via FEC marine telex andis posted on our web page.

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