Wheelhouse Weekly – January 24, 2002

January 24th 2002


Bridging the Information Gap With E-News You Can Use

Volume 6. . . . . Number 4. . . January 24, 2002





The tropical sun reflected off the blue waters of Cuba as the MM&P-crewed US Navy’s SS MAJ. STEPHEN W. PLESS steamed into port Jan. 16 to the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay. The 821-foot Navy cargo ship carried a containerized fleet hospital and more than 60 pieces of rolling stock, including vans, buses and field ambulances, for Joint Task Force 160.

The task force is heading detainee operations at the base, which is being used as a temporary holding facility for al Qaeda, Taliban and other detainees that come under U.S. control during the war on terrorism. The fleet hospital, built of container structures and tents, is a 500-bed facility with areas including a surgical suite, casualty receiving area, intensive care unit, lab and pharmacy.

SS MAJ. STEPHEN W. PLESS is a Maritime Prepositioning Ship normally located in the Mediterranean Sea where she prepositions equipment and supplies for the US Marine Corps. PLESS is contract operated by MM&P licensed deck officers and other civilian mariners for the Navy’s Military Sealift Command, the ocean transportation provider for the Department of Defense. The ship was in Norfolk, Va., having just completed routine maintenance, when she received the assignment to deliver the Guantanamo Bay cargo.

On Jan.11, PLESS proceeded to Blount Island Command, Jacksonville, FL, where she loaded the Navy fleet hospital, stored in 70 containers, and the rolling stock. PLESS then departed Jan. 13 for Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, arriving pier side at 0800 Jan. 16.

The ship tied up and then extended her massive stern ramp toward the pier to enable Marines from JTF 160 to drive a steady stream of wheeled vehicles off the ship and onto the pier. The Marines began off-loading by 0915 and completed the off-load in just over an hour. Using the ship’s 30-ton gantry crane, Navy stevedores off-loaded all 70 containers that same day.

Guantanamo Bay Naval Station piers do not have large cranes like a commercial port. That is one of the reasons why the Navy maintains ships like PLESS, which unlike most commercial cargo vessels, has large ship-board cranes and a roll-on/roll-off ramp that enable her to work in limited or undeveloped ports.

PLESS, which is operated by MM&P-contracted Waterman Steamship, is one of about 40 MSC ships prepositioning military equipment and supplies near potential hot spots around the globe. For more info on the PLESS or MSC, visit the command web site at

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Last week Richard Plant, MM&P Director of Special Projects, Capt. Dave Boatner, MM&P West Coast Representative and MM&P member Kevin McGraw (Class of ’95 from CMA) visited the California Maritime Academy Career Day. They took the opportunity to talk to all interested cadets considering a career at sea.

The cadets were informed of the present state of the industry and presented with alternative options for going to sea, such as service with the Military Sealift Command. Plant reports that the MM&P booth was well visited by the cadet corps.


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Capt. Don Marcus, West Coast VP, held a special union meeting in Seattle last week at which Richard Plant, Director of Special Projects, discussed MM&P organizing efforts. Plant’s presentation was followed by Capt. Bill Good of AHL explaining the latest developments with the AHL ESOP. Many questions were asked of both individuals and informative discussions took place concerning the issues that were raised.


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Earlier this week, the Journal of Commerce reported that a federal bankruptcy judge in Wilmington, DE, gave preliminary approval of a new $15 million loan to the Holt Group of companies, which includes the MM&P-crewed Puerto Rico carrier Navieras and the largest stevedoring operation in the Philadelphia area. Holt has been operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection since March 2000.

Some company creditors and bondholders had objected to the loan, and negotiations continued even as the court was considering the issue. After the objecting parties agreed on language they said would protect their interests, Bankruptcy Judge Mary F. Walrath gave preliminary approval to the financing. The final agreement will be presented on Feb. 7.

Holt said last week that the new line of credit will carry the company through its emergence from bankruptcy and beyond. The company said it expected a successful emergence by this June. Some of the money may be used to help pay for $2.25 million in maintenance and repair costs that the company is incurring on one of its three ships. The ship is scheduled to return to service in early February.

MM&P Wheelhouse Weekly



The US Supreme Court on Jan. 9 ruled in the case, Elaine L. Chao, Secretary of Labor v. Mallard Bay Drilling, Inc., that since the USCG exercises minimal oversight of uninspected vessels, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration shares jurisdiction with the Coast Guard over working conditions on such vessels.

In making the 8-0 decision, the Supreme Court reversed the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which ruled in June 2000 that an uninspected oil drilling barge on a navigable waterway within state waters was a vessel over which the USCG had exclusive regulatory authority, not a “workplace” over which OSHA would have jurisdiction.

The US Dept of Labor appealed that decision to the Supreme Court. The case arises from a 1997 explosion on a drilling barge owned by Mallard Bay Drilling. While the USCG took the lead in investigating the explosion, OSHA issued a citation against the company charging Mallard Bay with three violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

MM&P Wheelhouse Weekly



Speaking before the Propeller Club of Wash DC Luncheon on Jan.23, new Maritime Administrator William Schubert again called for the industry to work together to support the many challenges that face today’s US-flag shipping community.

MM&P was represented at the meeting by Assistant to the President Mike Rodriguez, Director of Special Projects Richard Plant and Communications Director Karl Schwartz. MITAGS Executive Director Glen Paine was in attendance representing the school while MIRAID was represented by Sandy Kjellberg and Steve Wines.

MM&P hosted staff members from the offices of Cong. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Senator Paul Sarbanes (D-MD). Also at the MM&P table was Brian Davidson from the ILWU’s DC office.

While the new MARAD head covered many of the points he raised earlier this month at the US Merchant Marine Academy meeting in Wash DC, of particular note were Schubert’s latest remarks focusing on substandard ships and the continuing need to protect the marine environment.

He also re-emphasized the need for a cohesive front from the maritime industry on policy initiatives if the industry is to survive, the three-year rule and the need for placing the highest legislative consideration on passing tax initiatives for merchant mariners.

Some excerpts from Schubert’s remarks follow:

“It is great to be back in the US. Some of you may already know that I was in Japan last week, leading the US delegation to Japan for the Ministerial Conference on Transport and the Environment. I appreciate the confidence that Secretary Mineta placed in me by selecting MARAD to be the lead US agency at this important conference. Twenty nations agreed to support actions and initiatives taken by the IMO, to ensure the safe, reliable and seamless flow of transportation from any form of terrorist action. We also confirmed our resolve to eliminate the threat of substandard ships to marine safety and the marine environment.

“I’ve said this before and I am going to say it again, business as usual is not enough anymore. Every action we take, every proposed rule we initiate is now looked at in terms of helping American jobs, the American economy and American security.

“I’m staking my professional reputation on the realistic hope that we as an industry can work together. MARAD is alive and well and will be here to help you. We cannot afford to have a fractious maritime community at the expense of a US maritime presence throughout the nation and world.

“Most importantly, we need to bolster programs and initiatives to promote the profitability of the US flag or our US merchant marine will simply cease to exist.

“To begin, we must not accept the continued overall decline of the US-flag fleet. There has been an unprecedented decline in US-flag tonnage over the past ten years. I have pledged to work diligently with industry and labor over the next few years to encourage new tonnage to enter the commercial market. We must also work hard to form a consensus on the reauthorization of the Maritime Security Program. I know you are pleased the Administration decided that the MSP program will remain at MARAD.

“One means of adding new tonnage to the US flag would be to eliminate the three year waiting period for newly constructed bulk and breakbulk vessels in order to carry civilian preference cargo and food aid. The Administration has supported the removal of this unnecessary restriction in the past and I will continue to advocate for the elimination of the three-year rule for food aid business subject to cargo preference eligibility.

“You are all familiar with Congressman Oberstar’s tax parity legislation and I want to tell you that we are going to give his proposal the highest consideration. We need to explore the tonnage tax regime as an alternative to income tax for US vessels in the foreign trade. The tonnage-based system has been successfully implemented in the United Kingdom and could provide a model or framework for this country to follow.

“It is time for us to serve our Nation by working together to ensure that US ports, vessels, and other maritime assets are adequately protected from the hands of terrorists. We must also work together to develop a maritime policy for the 21st century. The vitality of US-flag shipping is as essential as airplanes, trucks, cars and trains for economic and citizen well-being.”

MM&P Wheelhouse Weekly



Openings in Classes Through the End of May 2002

  • 1/28-2/1: FF-ADV, BRM, COMP-NET
  • 2/4-7: SMA
  • 2/4-8: HAZ, SHS-BAS, BRM, WX-HWA
  • 2/8: ATER, ENVPRO
  • 2/11-15: ARPA
  • 2/16: CBRD-1, ROR
  • 2/18-22: FF-ADV, COMP-MAR
  • 2/18-19: BRMP
  • 2/18: ROR
  • 2/19: HAZMAT & EAP
  • 2/20-22: DOT-DA
  • 2/25-3/1: BST, BRM
  • 2/25-27: SHS-EMR
  • 3/2: CBRD-1, ROR
  • 3/4-8: BRM, VPM
  • 3/4-15: GMDSS
  • 3/11-15: FF-ADV, ARPA, COMP-APS
  • 3/11-14: SMA
  • 3/15: ATER, ENVPRO
  • 3/18-22: BST, ECDIS
  • 3/23: CBRD-1, ROR
  • 3/25-29: HAZ, BRM, COMP-NET, WX-HWA
  • 3/25-27: SHS-EMR
  • 4/1-5: FF-ADV, COMP-ABSS
  • 4/8-19: GMDSS
  • 4/13: CBRD-1, ROR
  • 4/15-19: HAZ, BRM, ECDIS
  • 4/15-18: SMA
  • 4/19: ATER, ENV PRO



Note that the week of Feb 18 has a grouping of “renewal” offerings. Radar renewal, HAZMAT Seminar, EAP, and the new DOT Drug & Alcohol training will be offered in a 1-week package. This package will be offered again in May. Other possible combinations are also being explored.



Beginning with the week of Feb 4th, MITAGS plans to introduce the 1-day MSC Environmental Protection (ENVPRO) course on Fridays following the 4-day Small Arms class. This will afford members the opportunity to earn Small Arms, Anti-Terrorism Threat Awareness (Level I), and Environmental Protection certificates in one week.



Beginning with the week of Feb 11th, will be offering a new five-day course titled CONFINED SPACE ENTRY – ATMOSPHERIC ANALYSIS OF ENCLOSED SPACES (CSE-AAES). The five day “Confined Space Entry” course is designed for mariners who have a need to enter a vessel’s confined or enclosed spaces. It is written to comply with OSHA standard 29CFR 1910.146, 29CFR 1915 Confined Space for Mariners and the guidance contained in the “International Safety Guide for Oil Tankers and Terminals” (ISGOTT).

The course presents the construction, operational features, limitations and calibration of oxygen analyzers, portable gas detection instruments and colormetric tubes.

A confined space training simulator is used along with various other training devices so that the attendee gets as close as possible to realistic training in testing, entering, working in and handling emergencies in a confined or enclosed space. In addition the class will also include OSHA CPR training.



A recent change permits submission of the renewal application prior to 90 days before expiration. The application must be accompanied by a request for waiver of the 90-day rule and must explain the circumstances necessitating the premature filing.



Schedule through June 2002 is being maintained on the website. Hard copies of the January-June 2002 schedule have been mailed to the halls. Check the MITAGS website at: for up-to-date info. For additional course info, contact Mary Matlock at voice: 443-989-3226 or Email:


MM&P Wheelhouse Weekly



Openings in Classes Through the End of March 2002

  • 2/4-8: ARPA, BRM, GMDSS, BAFF
  • 2/11-15: TPIC, Radar, BST
  • 2/18-22: ARPA, Med 1st, Med PIC
  • 2/25-3/1: ECDIS
  • 3/4-8: Radar, BRM, GMDSS, BST
  • 3/11-15: Comp. Basics, BAFF
  • 3/18-22: ARPA, Med 1st, Med PIC
  • 3/25-29: ECDIS



Register online at



PMI is now offering two week “Medical Person in Charge” and one week “Medical First Aid Provider” course. To learn more about the STCW Requirements for Medical First Aid Provider and Medical Person in Charge, refer to PMI’s webpage at which will link you to the relevant policy letter.


MM&P Wheelhouse Weekly



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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 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 under “News” at:

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