Wheelhouse Weekly – June 04, 2013


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

Volume 17 . . . Number 23. . . June 4, 2013

(Look in the archives for this weeks Special Edition.)



Did you miss a week? Back editions of the Wheelhouse Weekly are available in the Archives section.


Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), a strong supporter of America’s transportation sector and working families, died June 3 at the age of 89. “It is with a heavy heart that we mourn the loss of Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a stalwart proponent of a vibrant and safe transportation system and a tireless advocate of the men and woman who work in this vital sector of our economy,” said Edward Wytkind, president of the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department (TTD). “Whether leading the charge to enhance transportation safety and security, secure funding for necessary transportation investments or defend basic collective bargaining rights on the Senate floor, transportation workers knew they had a friend in Frank Lautenberg. He understood that our government has a sacred obligation to ensure that workers come home safely every day and he served to fulfill this responsibility. We will honor the legacy of this great public servant by continuing to fight for the jobs and rights of transportation employees.”


In the most recent chapter of what will be a long and drawn-out fight to defend the Food for Peace Program, the Senate voted yesterday to allocate an additional $20 million to a voucher program that would fund local purchases of commodities in poor countries.

The June 3 vote shows that at this point there is little support in the Senate for an Obama administration proposal that would gut the Food for Peace Program completely. The administration’s budget calls for a cash-based voucher program to replace the shipment of U.S.-donated commodities aboard American-flag vessels. The U.S.-flag maritime industry and a coalition of maritime and transportation labor organizations, including MM&P and the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association, have called on Congress to reject the administration’s proposal. The industry warns that the loss of cargo for U.S.-flag vessels “would result in the loss of American jobs and diminish our nation’s sealift capability.”


The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has written to Japan-based Mitsui Corp. to express its concern over the three-month-long lockout of members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) at United Grain Corp. in the Port of Vancouver. The ILWU is an affiliate of the ITF Dockers’ Section. ILWU members were locked out by Mitsui local management on Feb. 27. “There does not appear to be any sign of a willingness to return to good-faith bargaining with the union to resolve this dispute, which is deeply damaging to both Mitsui’s business and reputation,” ITF Acting General Secretary Steve Cotton said.

The ITF is a global federation of about 700 transport trade unions with a collective membership of over 4.5 million workers. The ITF has also made a formal complaint to Marubeni, a second Japanese conglomerate which operates a grain terminal in the Pacific Northwest.

“We understand that Mitsui United Grain justified the lockout of its entire ILWU workforce on the basis on an accusation against a single union worker of damaging equipment,” Cotton wrote. “ITF unions consider this to be an unnecessarily heavy-handed action. Concerns about the conduct of employees or health and safety issues should be addressed through proper, transparent processes and negotiation, not used to punish workers on the ground.”

He said the circumstances of the lockout—after the failure to agree a new contract and the company’s “unilateral imposition of concessionary terms” when the union rejected its “final offer” in December—“also raise questions over the company’s willingness to bargain in good faith.” Mitsui is reportedly using non-union replacements to do the jobs of the locked-out ILWU workers.

“The ITF is aware of Mitsui’s corporate social responsibility policy and the fact that the company has pledged its support for the Global Compact championed by the United Nations,” Cotton wrote. “We now urge you to demonstrate that the company takes its responsibility towards its global workforce seriously by resolving the dispute in the Port of Vancouver without delay.” Since the 1930s, the ILWU has represented grain handlers in Vancouver, Tacoma, Seattle and Portland. Although the impasse continues with Mitsui, the union has succeeded in reaching new contract agreements with U.S. terminal operators in the region.


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) commissioned its newest vessel, the Dredge MURDEN, in a ceremony at the Wilmington District Engineer Repair Yard in Wilmington, N.C. on May 29. MM&P members aboard the vessel at the time were Master Mitch Tillyard, Port Captain Larry Calame, Second Mate John Nichols and Deputy Port Captain Lemuel Willis.

The MURDEN, a 156-foot hopper dredge with twin 750-HP ZF/HRP Z-drives, is specifically designed for work in small and shallow inlet and river areas. Its split-hull configuration allows spoil discharge in shallow waters. Spoil dumps between the hulls, instead of underneath, which prevents the dredge from grounding on its own hopper load.

The vessel is named after William (Bill) R. Murden, a 30-year employee of the Army Corps of Engineers who rose to the position of chief of the USACE Dredging Division and managed all aspects of the Corps’ national dredging program. He is known for promoting innovation in dredging in tandem with protection of marine environments and beneficial use of dredged materials.


Seafarers continue to be denied access to shore leave and shore-based facilities in many countries and port terminals, says MM&P Pilot Group Vice President George Quick. At the same time, the “criminalization” of mariners for accidents beyond their control continues to be an alarming trend.

Quick, who represents MM&P in a variety of national and international forums, says it is time to reconvene the Joint International Maritime Organization/International Labor Organization (IMO/ILO) working group to review port state implementation of the principles of Fair Treatment of Seafarers and to expand the definition of “fair treatment” to include the right to shore leave and to access shore-based facilities.

It has been seven years since the IMO Legal Committee adopted the resolution defining the principles of Fair Treatment of Seafarers. At that time, the committee agreed to keep the guidelines under review. Quick says it is clear that adoption and implementation of the guidelines by some member states “are less than satisfactory.” The MM&P Pilot Group Vice President has asked the IMO Legal Committee to review the current situation with a focus on ways to encourage member states to implement the principles as a matter of national policy.

“The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) is well aware of the continuing problem of seafarers being denied the fundamental human right of shore leave as well as basic due process protection during the investigation of maritime accidents,” Quick told a recent meeting of the IMO Legal Committee. He cited a study by Seafarers Rights International (SRI) which shows that unfair treatment, including lack of shore leave, is having a negative impact on the recruitment and retention of seafarers.

Quick said that growing concerns about criminalization are destined to compromise the quality of the maritime work force. “Even now,” he told members of the IMO Legal Committee, “many of the most experienced officers and crew members are declining assignment to ships trading into certain port states because of their hostile environment toward mariners.”  

“Seafarers are in a unique situation,” Quick says. “By the nature of their employment they may interface with the legal systems of multiple national states in the course of a single voyage. In the event of an incident, a seafarer can be faced with interrogation and possible criminal charges under unfamiliar or unknown laws or procedures in a foreign country. In some states, even incidents that do not involve criminal intent or even any fault on the part of the seafarer can lead to criminal prosecution.”

Seafarers’ rights groups say that particularly in high-profile incidents involving pollution, states may decide to prosecute as a result of a “blame culture” that demands a scapegoat. “In other instances,” Quick says, “the motivation for prosecution can be to divert attention from the responsibility of the state itself for its own role in the incident. The result can be a political show trial where justice is not the primary objective.”


A bankruptcy court in St. Louis last week dealt union coal miners and their families a significant blow when it ruled that Patriot Coal Company could legally void its collective bargaining agreements and cancel its pension and retirement obligations to 20,000 current and retired mine workers. The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) argues that Patriot Coal Company was specifically created by mine owner Peabody Energy as a way to evade its obligation to pay pensions and health care to retirees and their families. But the bankruptcy court ruled that Patriot can stop payments to the union pension fund as soon as July 1 and that it no longer has to cover the full cost of retiree health care.

Members of the union, led by UMWA President Cecil Roberts, have been demonstrating against the company for months. A May 21 protest in St. Louis resulted in a dozen arrests. The UMWA president was among 16 people arrested at a May 23 march in Charleston, W. Va.

“Patriot is using a temporary liquidity problem to achieve permanent changes that will significantly reduce the living standards of thousands of active and retired miners and their families,” Roberts says. The union has pledged to appeal the May 29 decision in Federal District Court.


There was at least one bright spot in the flurry of bad news for federal employees subject to unpaid furloughs as a result of the law known as “sequestration”: the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which employs members of the MM&P Federal Employees Membership Group (FEMG), has announced a plan that will allow it to avoid furloughing any of its employees.

“The events over the past week, including more devastating tornadoes in Oklahoma and Missouri, remind us how important every single employee within NOAA is to the health, safety, and well-being of this nation,” wrote Acting NOAA Administrator Kathryn D. Sullivan in a May 31 letter to all the agency’s employees. “That is precisely why I’m pleased to report that the Department of Commerce transmitted a plan to Congress that will avoid all furloughs in NOAA. This was possible because of an increase in flexibility in how we use our funding within the Department. Because of this new development we are cancelling our intent to furlough all 12,000 of our employees.”

Sequestration has required NOAA to make significant cuts to its budget for the remainder of this fiscal year, including a hiring freeze, limited travel and training, and cuts to grant and contract funding. In addition, some NOAA employees would have been subject to 20 days of unpaid furloughs. “While this new plan allows us to avoid furloughs, sequestration remains an ongoing challenge,” Sullivan wrote.   “We must all continue to scrutinize every expense and prioritize our most critical missions and essential operations.”

MM&P Government Fleet Representative Randi Ciszewski reports that among members of the MM&P Federal Employees Membership Group (FEMG), Army Corps floating plant members are excluded from furlough as are all Military Sealift Command (MSC) Civil Service mariners assigned to and working aboard MSC vessels. But all FEMG members working shore-side, in training, on leave, etc., are included in furlough. MM&P continues to work to gain exclusion of those FEMG members expected to respond to emergencies as essential personnel or train and act as first responders. The union argues that they should be deemed members of an approved categorical exception and thus be excluded from furlough. CNO harbor pilots, since they are involved in national security, protection of life and property, public health and safety, emergency and disaster assistance (including preparation and training for effective and immediate response) meet all exception criteria and should also be excluded from furlough.


Heavy spring rains across the Midwest have swelled the Mississippi and forced the closure of several locks, disrupting farm belt grain barge shipments. Flood warnings have been posted in a number of states including Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois. Spring flooding is routine along the length of the river but the last week has seen an especially heavy period of severe weather. In some areas, as a precautionary measure, local officials are reinforcing levees with sandbags. 

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, among others, have repeatedly called for more federal funds to repair infrastructure on the river, some of which is over 50 years old. Lack of dredging, for example, is a growing problem for barge traffic. “We can’t handle the traffic that’s on [the Mississippi] now,” Landrieu said at a May 29 press conference. “All globalization, all economic trade depends upon the locks and dams working efficiently and effectively, so Sen. Klobuchar and I are saying: alert! This infrastructure is rapidly and dangerously deteriorating, and it affects everyone in the country.”

The Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers told reporters Monday that the Mississippi had been effectively closed to barge traffic from northern Iowa to St. Louis, stranding about 70 barges. The Coast Guard officially closed the Port of St. Louis from mile markers 179 to 184 because of high water and the risk of floating debris.


Four members of the crew of the containership HANSA MARBURG have been released by pirates in the Gulf of Guinea more than a month after their ship was attacked. The men had been abducted on April 22 about 130 miles southwest of Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. They are now back in Germany, according to police. There was no information regarding where they had been held or how much ransom had been paid.

In related news, authorities say the Nigerian-flagged MT MATRIX was boarded by gunmen in the early hours of May 25, about 40 nautical miles off the coast of the oil-producing state of Bayelsa, in the core of the Delta region. The pirates left the ship after several hours with seven members of the crew in tow. While international naval forces and embarked security teams have dramatically reduced the number of successful pirate attacks in the vicinity of Somalia, international navies have not launched counter-piracy missions in the Gulf of Guinea, leaving vessels that anchor off Nigeria vulnerable.


An article in the May 28 edition of The Wheelhouse Weekly stated incorrectly that SUNY Maritime College President Rear Adm. Wendi Carpenter, the 2013 National Maritime Day honoree, is the first woman to head an American maritime college. Many thanks to MM&P member Steve Rose, chief mate aboard the Military Sealift Command dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS LEWIS AND CLARK, for setting the record straight: USNR Commander Mary E. Lyons served as president of the California Maritime Academy from Aug. 31, 1990 to June 30, 1996.


Between now and the end of June, the following courses are scheduled at MITAGS. (Please keep in mind, however, that the schedule may be subject to change.)

For class availability or information on courses and programs, contact MITAGS Admissions Coordinator Kelly Michielli toll free at 866-656-5568 or e-mail her at

Or, try our on-line calendar to register for class:

ARPA – Automated Radar Plotting Aids: 8/13/13, 9/24/13

AZIPOD (2-DAY) for Pilots: 7/22/13

BRM – Bridge Resource Management: 8/28/13

BRMP – Bridge Resource Management for Pilots:  8/19/13, 9/23/13

BST – Basic Safety Training: 6/24/13, 8/12/13

CONSTB – Ship Construction and Basic Stability: 7/29/13

[CMM – Chief Mate and Master Courses]

CMM-ADVWX – Advanced Meteorology: 6/17/13, 9/23/13

CMM-ADVNAV – Advanced Navigation (=ECDIS & VPEN): 9/16/13

CMM-ADVSTB – Advanced Stability: 8/5/13

CMM-CHS – Advanced Cargo Operations (2 weeks): 8/12/13

CMM-ECDIS – Electronic Chart Display Information System: 7/29/13

CMM-MPP – Marine Propulsion Plants: 8/26/13

CMM-SHMGT – Ship Management (2 weeks): 7/22/13

CMM-SHS-ADV-I – Advanced Shiphandling (week 1): 6/24/13, 7/29/13, 9/9/13, 9/23/13

CMM-SHS-ADV-I I – Advanced Shiphandling (week 2): 6/17/13, 8/5/13, 9/16/13

CMM-WKP – Advanced Watchkeeping: 6/24/13

ENVIRO-Regs Permit – Environmental Regulations Permit: 5/23/13

ECDIS-ENAV for Pilots (2 day): 6/13/13

FSM – Fatigue, Sleep and Medications:  8/26/13

FF-BADV – Combined Basic and Advanced Fire Fighting: 6/24/13, 7/22/13, 8/12/13

GMDSS – Global Maritime Distress and Safety System: 7/8/13, 8/19/13

HAZ – Hazardous Materials (5 day): 6/24/13, 9/16/13

LAP – License Advancement Program for C/Mate & Master: 9/23/13

LEG – Legal Aspects of Pilotage: 7/24/13, 9/25/13

MCL – Management, Communications and Leadership: 8/19/13

MCL OICNW –Management, Communications, and Leadership OICNW level: 9/3/13

MLC – Maritime Labor Convention: 7/22/13

MEDIA-RSP – Media Response Workshop:  7/26/13

MED-PIC – Medical Person in Charge: 6/10/13, 7/8/13, 9/9/13

MED-PIC -R– Medical Person in Charge Refresher: 7/29/13

MED-PRO – Medical Care Provider: 6/10/13, 7/8/13, 9/9/13

MED-DOT-DA – Dept. of Transportation Drug & Alcohol Testing: 6/15/13, 6/29/13, 7/13/13, 7/28/13, 8/17/13, 9/14/13

MSC -SMA – Military Sealift Command Small Arms Qualification: 8/19/13

MSC-DC – Military Sealift Command Damage Control (4 Evenings): 8/19/13

MSC-CBRD-1 – Military Sealift Command Chemical, Biological, Radiological Defense Orientation (Basic): 6/7/13, 8/23/13

ROR-1 – Radar Observer Renewal Evening Classes: 6/5/13, 6/19/13, 6/26/13, 7/10/13, 7/24/13, 8/1/13, 8/14/13, 8/28/13, 9/11/13, 9/18/13

ROR-1 – Radar Observer Renewal: 8/12/13, 9/23/13

ROP-5 – Radar Observer Original and Renewal: 8/5/13

SEC-VSO – Vessel Security Officer: 7/22/13, 9/4/13

SHS-BAS – Basic Shiphandling: 6/24/13, 8/12/13

SHS-EMR5 – Emergency Shiphandling: 8/19/13

SHS-ESH-BRMP3 – Emergency Shiphandling and Bridge Resource Management for Pilots: 7/24/13

TCNAV/CO – Terrestrial Navigation and Compasses: 7/8/13

TPIC – Tankerman Person in Charge:  8/26/13

WX-BAS – Basic Meteorology: 7/29/13, 9/16/13

… Remember: If you can’t make the class, make the call. Be courteous, don’t be a “no show.”

Check the MITAGS website at for course descriptions associated with the course title abbreviations.


Please also see our schedule online at For registration, call our registrar, Jennifer Pitzen, at (206) 838-1126.

June 2013

10th       Radar Renewal
10th       Med DOT
17-21     Tankerman PIC
24-28     Radar Observer Unlimited
24-28     Medical Care Provider

July 2013

8th         Radar Renewal
8th         Flashing Light Exam
9-12       ARPA
15-19     ECDIS
15-26     GMDSS
22-26     Bridge Resource Management w/ Simulation
29-2       Medical Care Provider

August 2013

5-16       Celestial Navigation
6-7          Successful Safety Management Systems Workshop
12th       Radar Renewal 
12th       Med DOT
12-23     GMDSS
19-23     Medical Care Provider
20th       RFPNW Assessments
26-30     ECDIS
26-30     Basic Cargo Handling and Stowage