Wheelhouse Weekly – May 07, 2013


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

Volume 17 . . . Number 19. . . May 7, 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.


The Coast Guard’s merchant mariner medical review program is based on a flawed concept and should be replaced as soon as possible with an efficient, workable system, according to official comments submitted to the docket last week by MM&P, the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association (MEBA) and the American Maritime Officers (AMO). The unions are urging changes in the program to align it with commonly accepted national and international norms for fitness-of-duty evaluations.

Congress has directed the Coast Guard to seek public comment on its merchant mariner medical evaluation program. The Coast Guard Commandant must submit to Congress an assessment of its current program, as well as alternatives to it. The Commandant’s assessment must include an analysis of how the Coast Guard could make medical fitness determinations for mariners using a system similar to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners program and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Designated Aviation Medical Examiners program.

Under its current system, the Coast Guard employs a small staff of evaluators who rely exclusively on paperwork to monitor changes in the medical condition of more than 200,000 mariners nationwide. Because the examiners never actually examine any of the mariners whose condition they are called on to evaluate, they often demand costly and time-consuming medical specialty consultations, imaging procedures and laboratory tests, many of which are unnecessary.

Of major concern to mariners employed in the international trades–where assignments are four months aboard ship and out of contact with the Coast Guard followed by four months off duty–is that the indefinite time lines, delays in the process and the scheduling of multiple appointments for doctors, testing and evaluations can result in the medical evaluation not being completed in time to meet their reassignment date. The result for the mariner can be four months of lost employment and eight months loss of income and benefits. This is an unacceptable and highly stressful consequence of the present program that is based on the premise that mariners are continually available to interface with the system and that all appointments can be scheduled in a timely manner, the unions say. The present medical evaluation process is not compatible with the long duration of shipboard assignments of many mariners.

Another important factor: the extremely high cost of the medical procedures–many of which are not necessary�demanded by the Coast Guard evaluators. A mariner without insurance coverage may be subject to many thousands of dollars in expenses as a result of these burdensome and medically questionable procedures, the unions say. In some instances these costs will be shifted to insurance carriers and ultimately to maritime employers and health plans. But more likely these tests will be deemed to be ‘medically unnecessary’ by most insurance carriers, so that the costs must be borne by the mariner. The costs have become a significant barrier to employment to both existing mariners and new entrants to the industry.

The unions argue in favor of decentralizing the medical examination process to a network of designated and qualified medical practitioners, a system that has been used successfully for years in the airline and trucking industries. To read the unions’ comments in their entirety, go to and click on Breaking News.


A bipartisan group of senators has written to colleagues who head up a key transportation subcommittee requesting that full funding for the Maritime Security Program (MSP) be included in fiscal year 2014 appropriations legislation. The letter was addressed to Sen. Patty Murray and Sen. Susan Collins, respectively the chair and the ranking Republican on the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies. The ten senators who sent the letter were John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W. Va.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), David Vitter (R-La.), Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

Last month, a bipartisan group of more than 40 members of the House of Representatives circulated a similar letter urging their colleagues to support full funding in Fiscal Year 2014 for MSP. Congress previously authorized $186 million for MSP in Fiscal Year 2014; this is also the same amount of funding supported by the President.

In the House of Representatives, the effort to secure full funding for MSP has been led by Armed Services Committee Chair Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) and the Committee’s Ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Calif.). In their statement, the legislators noted that the MSP ensures that the United States has the U.S.-flag commercial sealift capability as well as the trained U.S.-citizen merchant mariners available to crew the government- and privately owned vessels needed by the Department of Defense in time of war or other international emergency. . . [It] ensures that America will in fact be able to support and supply our troops overseas.


Rear Adm. Thomas K. Shannon, who is set to assume the leadership of Military Sealift Command (MSC) later this week from Rear Adm. Mark H. Buzby, had high praise for American mariners at a May 3 reception at the Army and Navy Club in Washington, D.C. Shannon comes to MSC after serving as commander of Carrier Strike Group One in San Diego. A graduate of Maine Maritime, he began his career as a cadet aboard Sealand ships.

I admire sailors and I respect them, Shannon said in an eloquent speech that drew enthusiastic applause. Our country and our Navy get a lot done on their backs every day. I have enormous respect for what they do for a living. Shannon will take over as MSC Commander at a May 10 ceremony aboard USNS SPEARHEAD in Norfolk, Va.

Outgoing MSC Commander Buzby said he plans to remain active in the industry and expressed his intention to continue to be a strong advocate for our issues and for mariners.

MM&P International President Don Marcus, International Secretary-Treasurer Steve Werse, Atlantic Ports Vice President Don Josberger and MIRAID President C. James Patti were among those welcoming Shannon and wishing Buzby well.

The luncheon was hosted by the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association, the American Maritime Congress, MM&P, MIRAID and the Kings Point Club of Washington, D.C.


A U.S. court in Hawaii last week dismissed a lawsuit challenging the Jones Act as an unlawful restriction of interstate trade. In their November 2012 complaint, the plaintiffs demanded monetary damages and an injunction, arguing that the enforcement of the Jones Act in Hawaii was an unlawful restraint of trade which raised prices for Hawaii consumers. The court found plaintiffs’ claims unsubstantiated and dismissed the suit.


Explosions aboard two barges April 25 off the shore of Mobile resulted in a fierce blaze that injured three people. Officials and employees were forced to evacuate the shipyard as fire and rescue workers responded. Throngs of employees aboard the ill-fated CARNIVAL TRIUMPH, the cruise ship that became disabled in the Gulf of Mexico last February, were also forced to evacuate the area. The Coast Guard said the initial explosions involved gasoline. Additional explosions occurred over the course of several hours. The blaze was eventually extinguished on the morning of April 26.


Four mariners were taken hostage by pirates off the coast of Equatorial Guinea on April 22 when the Liberia-flagged ship on which they were sailing, the HANSA MARBURG, was attacked. The shipowner issued a statement saying that no injuries had been reported among the remaining crew members, who continued with the vessel to Senegal. The shipowner was said to be in contact with the hostages and their families. Piracy in the region is becoming more and more common. A Greek-flagged oil tanker, CAP THEODORA, was recently attacked off the coast of Nigeria. International navies are not currently involved in counter-piracy missions in the region, continuing to focus on the waters off Somalia.


The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) has issued a final report on its annual Week of Action, which took place in January. Among the discoveries made by ITF inspectors: a vessel anchored off the waters of Laem Chabang, Thailand, which was carrying 140 Chinese and Burmese crewmembers, including 30 young girls. Those aboard the vessel were living in appalling conditions with little food, the ITF inspectors said.

The week-long campaign of investigations of flag-of-convenience ships was carried out in ports in Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Panama and the Philippines Jan. 21-25. ITF teams and activists from other participating unions worked together to inspect working conditions and ensure fair wages were being paid. Besides discovery of the slave ship, highlights of the week included inspectors issuing warnings for low wages to two ships in Cebu, activists finding expired contracts and the unavailability of individual employment contracts for inspection in Panama, and a ship master reportedly offering a bribe to inspectors to overlook poor shipboard living conditions in Jakarta.

More than anything else, these inspections have sent a clear warning to shipping companies that they will not get away with ignoring the application of internationally accepted pay and conditions standards on board their ships, said ITF Asia Pacific Assistant Regional Secretary Sangam Tripathy.

The ITF is a global federation founded in 1896. It has 654 member organizations, including MM&P, with a combined membership of over 4.5 million transport workers.


A strike by dockworkers at the port of Hong Kong, the world’s third busiest container port, has been settled after 40 days, with workers accepting a 9.8 percent pay raise from four subcontractors of port operator Hongkong International Terminals. More than 400 dockers were involved in the strike, which received support from other local workers as well as from international labor groups such as the ITF. The dockworkers, who have not received a raise in 15 years, had initially demanded a raise of about 20 percent. A spokesperson for the dockworkers’ new union said that besides the 9.8 percent pay increase, the settlement includes improved working conditions.


It’s been five years since the TWIC program was phased in, and many of us have TWICs that are nearing expiration. The merchant mariners’ document (MMD) is not valid without a valid TWIC. When the TWIC expires, a mariner cannot work on his or her license. Remember to renew your TWIC well in advance of your expected back to work date. Some members report they have received their new TWIC in a few days; others report having to wait over a month. To renew your TWIC, go to or call the TWIC Help Desk at 1-866-DHS-TWIC (1-866-347-8942).


Nine-month tenure track position covered by a collective bargaining agreement. The successful candidate will work on the Ketchikan campus of the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS). Ketchikan is an island community of 13,000 located 700 miles north of Seattle in the heart of the Tongass National Forest.

Requirements: bachelor’s (preferably master’s) degree in Nautical Industrial Technology, Marine Transportation or related field; USCG license as 1600-ton master or higher; at least one year of experience as Officer in Charge of Navigation Watch on a vessel over 500 GRT.

Duties: provide administrative leadership in the development, implementation and expansion of the UAS Marine Transportation Program. Develop and deliver curricula for classroom, workshops, seminars and web-based delivery. Provide credit, non-credit and professional development training and technical assistance to MT-related organizations, federal and state agencies including the Alaska Marine Highway System.

For job description and requirements, go to posting #0065235. Questions please contact Human Resources The first review of applications will be June 17. UAS is an AA/EO employer.


There will be a membership meeting at the MM&P Boston Hall on Tuesday, May 14 at 1200 hours. All members in the area are encouraged to attend.


The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is continuing its work to expand and improve outdoor recreational opportunities in our country with a new program called Adopt a Park. The goal of the program is restore and renew America’s state parks, many of which are in need of help in this era of tight budgets. The program will enlist the USA’s membership to carry out repairs and rehabilitation projects across state parks nationwide.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance has over 60,000 members. Among the unions which have pledged to support the initiative are the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART), the Plumbers and Pipe Fitters (UA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance is a nonprofit organization exclusively for union members, retirees and their families, which promotes our country’s sporting heritage and an outdoor lifestyle. In 2012 the Alliance brought union members together to assist in conservation projects to improve and enhance public access, wildlife habitat and outdoor experience as part of its Boots on the Ground Program.


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:

BRM – Bridge Resource Management: 5/12/13

BRMP – Bridge Resource Management for Pilots: 5/23/13

BST – Basic Safety Training: 6/24/13

[CMM – Chief Mate and Master Courses]

CMM-ADVWX – Advanced Meteorology: 6/17/13

CMM-ADVNAV – Advanced Navigation (=ECDIS & VPEN): 6/3/13

CMM-MPP – Marine Propulsion Plants: 5/20/13

CMM-SHS-ADV-I – Advanced Shiphandling (week 1): 6/24/13

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

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

CONT PLNG – Contingency Planning: 5/9/13

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

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

FSM – Fatigue, Sleep and Medications: 5/23/13

FF-BADV – Combined Basic and Advanced Fire Fighting: 6/24/13

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

LEG – Legal Aspects of Pilotage:  5/23/13

MED-PIC – Medical Person in Charge: 6/10/13

MED-PIC -R– Medical Person in Charge Refresher: 5/13/13

MED-PRO – Medical Care Provider: 6/10/13

MED-DOT-DA – Dept. of Transportation Drug & Alcohol Testing: 6/15/13, 6/29/13

MSC -SMA – Military Sealift Command Small Arms Qualification: 6/3/13

MSC-DC – Military Sealift Command Damage Control (4 Evenings): 6/3/13

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

ROR-1 – Radar Observer Renewal Evening Classes: 5/15/13, 5/22/13, 6/5/13, 6/19/13, 6/26/13

SHS-BAS – Basic Shiphandling: 6/24/13

SHS-ESH-BRMP3 – Emergency Shiphandling and Bridge Resource Management for Pilots: 5/20/13

… 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.

May 2013

13th       Radar Renewal
14th       RFPNW Assessments
20-24     ECDIS
21-23     Bridge Resource Management for Pilots
28-31     ARPA
29-30     ECDIS for Pilots
29-31     Vessel Security Officer

June 2013

3-7          ECDIS
3-14       GMDSS
3-21       Terrestrial and Coastal Navigation
10th       Radar Renewal
11-13     Bridge Resource Management for Pilots (3-day)
14th       Fatigue, Sleep, and Medications for Pilots
24-28     Radar Observer Unlimited
24-28     Medical Care Provider
27-28     Bridge Resource Management for Pilots (2-day)