News

Wheelhouse Weekly – May 12th, 2020

Volume 25… Number 18… May 12, 2020

STORIES COVERED

In This Issue:

Also:

For Government Workers:

Plus:

Other News:

MM&P Holiday Closing Schedule

And:


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MORE THAN HALF THE CREW OF USNS LEROY GRUMMAN TESTS POSITIVE FOR COVID-19

More than half the 50-person crew of the MSC fleet replenishment oiler USNS LEROY GRUMMAN has tested positive for Covid-19.

The ship has been drydocked at Boston Ship Repair since January.

All members of the crew have now been tested, according to Military Sealift Command management.

The entire crew, including crewmembers who are infected and those who have potentially been exposed, are quarantined at a contracted berthing/hotel until May 20.

On March 21, MSC imposed a fleetwide “gangway-up” policy that exclusively applies to Civil Service mariners.

The licensed deck officers aboard USNS LEROY GRUMMAN and other MSC vessels, including the hospital ships COMFORT and MERCY, are represented by the MM&P Federal Employees Membership Group.

The union has filed a grievance because the gangway-up order does not apply to other US Navy crew members who are employed aboard the same vessels, or to dozens of contractors, shipyard workers and other shoreside Navy and MSC personnel who board the vessels on a daily basis.

MM&P has repeatedly stated that it is the union’s contention that the MSC-directed CIVMAR-only gangway-up order increases the risk of exposure to the virus because it allows all others aboard ship to come and go, enabling them to embark while infected but asymptomatic.

Five MSC ships have now become infected with the Covid-19 virus.

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ITF TO SEAFARERS: “WITHOUT YOUR SACRIFICE, THE WORLD WOULD LIKELY HAVE COME TO A STANDSTILL”

The International Transport Workers’ Federation is commending the world’s seafarers for “professionally and diligently doing their jobs during this unprecedented, uncertain time.”

It says it is working with international organizations and governments to “restart” the crew change process so that mariners represented by ITF affiliate unions can return to their homes.

“Despite the restrictions and the threat of exposure to the virus, our unions and their members, the world’s seafarers, continue to perform their duties to ensure that the essential goods we need to live day to day are delivered,” ITF Seafarers’ Section Chair Dave Heindel said Monday in a message to the world’s seafarers.

“For people who have not worked on a ship, it is hard to understand what it is like to live and work for six, eight or even 10 months on board.”

“For seafarers it is a lifestyle, but when contracts end, seafarers are ready to go home and have an absolute right under the International Labor Organization’s Maritime Labor Convention of 2006 to do so.”

As a result of intense lobbying by the ITF and its affiliates, he said, the IMO has issued a 12-step plan to its 174 Member States on how to “restart” crew changes so that seafarers can disembark and fresh crews can be deployed.

“Although this does not automatically mean that restrictions will be lifted immediately since each government must put in place processes and procedures for crew changes to happen, it is a step in the right direction,” he said.

“Rest assured that the ITF and its affiliated unions will continue to pressure UN agencies, governments and employers to prioritize the facilitation of crew changes for the world’s seafarers so that it is no longer an issue.”

“The ITF and our affiliates–your unions–will not let up the pressure until every seafarer is home safely and those seafarers that have patiently waited at home to relieve their colleagues are on board so that the world’s goods continue to get where they are needed thanks to all of you.”

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NAVY LEAGUE, TRANSPORTATION LABOR, CALL FOR EMERGENCY RELIEF FOR MSP SHIPS

It is essential to national security that the next Covid-19 aid package include an emergency stipend for ships in the Maritime Security Program, the Navy League and the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department are telling members of Congress.

“Without assistance, US-flag vessel operators will not be able to maintain vessels in the readiness status needed by the Department of Defense, and the licensed and unlicensed American merchant mariners [who crew them] will be facing protracted unemployment,” says Bill Stevenson national president of the Navy League of the United States.

The Navy League is asking members of the House of Representatives to sign on to a “Dear Colleague” letter supporting an emergency relief payment “essential.. to maintain the US-flag vessels enrolled in the MSP in a constant state of operational readiness, which includes the continued full employment of a vessel’s crew.”

TTD President Larry Willis has written to leaders of the House and Senate asking for an emergency stipend and a modification of cargo preference requirements.

“MSP is an indispensable component of the nation’s military sealift capability and ensures that trained US-citizen mariners will be available in times of peace, war or national emergency,” he wrote.

“In recent weeks,” Willis said, “we have seen reductions in commercial seaborne trade as well as in shipments of government cargoes, and we expect these decreases to become more drastic over time.”

He said a severe downturn threatens the livelihood of American mariners and could result in “an attendant decrease in the military readiness that MSP is statutorily designed to provide.”

The emergency stipend would serve to close the growing gap between operating costs and revenue.

Congress is asked to provide approximately $219 million in relief funds, distributed as follows:

• $109.8 million for the period April 1, 2020 to the end of the current fiscal year, for an emergency stipend of $1.83 million per vessel;

• $109 million for the period Oct. 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021, for an emergency stipend of $1.82 million per vessel

Willis said the funds must be granted conditionally on MSP carriers’ agreement to maintain 100 percent employment of their crews for the entire period covered by the emergency appropriation, whether the vessel is in service or temporary lay-up.

TTD is also calling for amending the Cargo Preference Act to ensure that 100 percent of all government-generated cargoes shipped by federal agencies and departments are reserved for US-flag commercial vessels for the duration of the global pandemic.

As required under existing law, the increase in the share of government-generated cargo carried by US-flag vessels would remain subject to the availability of US-flag vessels at fair and reasonable rates.

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PARIS MOU UPDATES GUIDANCE ON COVID-19

The Paris Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control (Paris MoU) has released a statement saying that it has amended its previously drafted guidelines to take into account the crisis that the shipping industry is facing due to Covid-19.

It also said that it has decided to make the guidance publicly available.

The Paris MOU had previously issued temporary guidance advising maritime authorities that, in view of the crisis, three-month extensions of ships’ certificates could be accepted.

Now, however, the Paris MOU has decided that a limitation of three months in guidance may be too little because the crisis is continuing and ships continue to experience a number of operational challenges.

Services, surveys and audits are difficult to arrange, shipyards and drydocks have scaled back operations or closed down temporarily.

Seafarers have experienced difficulties revalidating their certificates and, due to port restrictions, crewmembers face complications in joining ships and being repatriated.

At the same time, to keep the global supply chain running, it is essential that trade by sea continue to flow.

Since it is not possible to predict how long the pandemic will last, or what a return to
normal will look like, the Paris MoU has amended its guidance.

“Having considered the exceptional circumstances, extensions of the validity of certificates to an appropriate and proportional grace period specific to Covid-19 may be accepted,” the group said.

In addition, in relation to matters pertaining to the MLC, after a video meeting with the various PSC regimes and the IMO, the Paris MOU has aligned itself with ILO’s ‘Information note on maritime labor issues and coronavirus.”

The Paris MoU considered that a press release alone would possibly not be sufficient to appropriately inform the industry and other stakeholders of the amendments made to the temporary guidance related to Covid-19, and therefore decided to make the temporary guidance publicly available.

The Paris MoU wishes to express its solidarity with the international shipping sector and the seafarers and their families at this difficult time.

To view the press release and guidance, go to: https://www.parismou.org/paris-mou-guidance-covid-19-updated-and-available-industry

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US MARITIME ADVISORY ON PIRACY IN THE SOUTHERN GULF OF MEXICO

The maritime authorities have released Advisory 2020-008 on vessel attacks in the southern Gulf of Mexico. The text of the advisory follows.

The US government is aware of at least 20 fishing vessels and 35 oil platforms and offshore supply vessels that have been targeted by pirates and armed robbers since January 2018 in the Bay of Campeche area of the southern Gulf of Mexico.

Significant underreporting of attacks in this area is suspected. These attacks have involved the discharge of firearms, crew injuries, hostage taking and theft.

At least five of these attacks occurred in April 2020, details of which are provided in the Office of Naval Intelligence’s 30 April 2020 Worldwide Threat to Shipping report, at https://go.usa.gov/xv7tF.

A current summary of recent attacks and threats in this region will be included in the most recent Office of Naval Intelligence weekly WTS report, at https://msi.nga.mil/Piracy.

The pirates/robbers targeting offshore infrastructure and vessels in this area typically operate
in small groups of between five and 15 individuals aboard several boats.

They usually employ small fiberglass hulled craft, similar in appearance to local artisanal fishing boats, equipped with multiple high-powered outboard motors that enable fast travel to the oil fields located between five and ninety-five nautical miles offshore.

They typically carry out their raids under cover of darkness so that their approach is masked and so that they can use platform lights to navigate towards their target.

The attackers are reportedly armed with an assortment of weapons including assault rifles, shotguns, pistols, machetes, knives and tools. They are known to use violence to ensure compliance and prevent resistance.

US mariners and US flagged vessels are advised to remain vigilant and to ensure familiarity with and adherence to their approved Vessel Security Plan when operating in this area.

The Department of State’s Mexico Travel Advisory (available at https://go.usa.gov/xvVcB)
should also be thoroughly reviewed prior to operating in this area.

In addition, all suspicious activities and events involving US flagged vessels must be reported to the Coast Guard National Response Center at 800-424-8802 in accordance with 33 CFR 101.305.

Suspicious activity and attacks in this region should be reported to the Mexican Navy’s Third Naval Region Campeche at +52 981 812 0881 or rn3@semar.gob.mx

For any questions about the contents of this advisory, contact GMCC@uscg.mil.

Incident reports should be submitted in writing to the Regional Mexican Navy command within 24 hours in the Spanish language.

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“YOU THROW US TO THE WOLVES”: NURSES PROTEST IN FRONT OF WHITE HOUSE OVER LACK OF PPE

Registered nurses protested outside the White House on May 7 over the continuing shortage of personal protective equipment for the health care workers fighting to save lives in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

CNN reported that the nurses—wearing surgical masks and standing six feet apart–stood outside the White House next to 88 pairs of empty white shoes to signify the 88 nurses they said had died over the course of the past two months after being exposed to Covid-19 at work.

According to the AFL-CIO, as of the end of April, at least 16,000 US health care workers have been infected with Covid-19, a total that may be an undercount because of the lack of testing.

Covid-19 has changed lives across the globe. It has also changed what nurses do, making their jobs immeasurably riskier and more challenging.

Now, nurses and other healthcare workers are being deployed en masse to hospitals in different cities; some have been forced to transform their work spaces into coronavirus triage centers; others help operate Covid-19 testing sites.

“I feel like we’re cannon fodder,” said Elizabeth Lalasz, a union steward for National Nurses United.

“There’s so much uncertainty. It’s very disconcerting for us to not know if we’re going to be protected.”

“You talk about how essential, how needed, how grateful you are, and yet you throw us to the wolves,” said NNU President Jean Ross, who addressed the crowd.

“You are throwing us onto a battlefield without armor… and we don’t see anything being done.”

Health-care providers have for months asked lawmakers and the administration for more protective equipment to shield themselves, their patients and their family members from Covid-19.

NNU members say they aren’t getting the help they need from the administration.

“We stand here today with heavy hearts but with fierce determination,” said Stephanie Simms, a registered nurse in Washington, DC.

“Every nurse, on every shift, in every hospital is putting themselves on the line during this pandemic.”

“Nurses signed up to care for their patients. They did not sign up to sacrifice their lives,” says NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo.

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REOPENING ECONOMY WITHOUT MORE TESTING AND PPE PUTS AMERICANS AT RISK, UNIONS SAY

More workers risk contracting the coronavirus if state lockdowns are lifted without robust safety protocols in place, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is warning.

“We want them to open up, but we want them to open up consistent with the health and safety of workers,” Trumka said Friday during an interview on CNBC’s Closing Bell.

A failure to prioritize worker safety will multiply the threat of additional Covid-19 outbreaks, he said: “All that we will do is open up and then immediately in a month or so have to close back down because workers got infected.”

The AFL-CIO has also accused the administration—in particular, the Department of Labor–of being “missing in action” in the current crisis.

To adequately protect people, public health officials agree, the US must continue to expand testing capacity and the availability of personal protective equipment.

“There are shortages of both now,” Trumka says, and the situation will only get worse when the 50 million Americans who are now out of work try to return to their jobs.

The AFL-CIO is asking the White House to require employers to develop a “workplace infection control plan,” including:

— an exposure risk assessment;

— engineering, administrative and work practice controls, including social distancing;

— respiratory protection and other PPE;

— sanitation and cleaning;

— medical removal and wage protection for Covid-19 infected and exposed workers; and

— training and education.

Unions are calling on the Labor Department to implement an enforceable safety standard.

But the administration says informal “guidance” to employers is all that is needed, a suggestion with which Trumka takes issue: “Good employers do it. Bad employers don’t. And workers pay the price,” he says.

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LINK FOR FEDERAL EMPLOYEES WHO CONTRACT COVID-19 ON THE JOB TO APPLY FOR WORKERS’ COMPENSATION

Federal employees who contract Covid-19 in the course of their on-the-job duties are entitled to workers’ compensation coverage pursuant to the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA).

The Department of Labor has created new procedures to specifically address COVID-19 claims.

You can find out more and file a claim by going to:
https://www.dol.gov/owcp/dfec/InfoFECACoverageCoronavirus.htm

For more information, contact MM&P Government Group Representative Randi Ciszewski: rciszewski@bridgedeck.org

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SOCP ANNOUNCES RELEASE OF US MARINER CREW CHANGE FACILITATION GUIDANCE FOR COVID-19

The Ship Operations Cooperative Program has announced the development and release of US Mariner Crew Change Facilitation Guidance for Covid-19.

The SOCP Safety and Health Working Group, chaired by Captain Cole Cosgrove, led development of this publication at the request of industry to help operators manage crew changes as safely as possible.

SOCP membership, association friends, industry partners, mariners, medical providers, regulatory and labor stakeholders all contributed to this document either through direct contribution or practical experience.

The objective of the document is to provide initial protocols that can be used uniformly across the US maritime industry to allow for the resumption of much-needed vessel crew changes.

“The SOCP’s US Mariner Crew Change Facilitation Guidance for Covid-19 seeks to maintain the health of our seafarers and Maritime Transportation System,” said SOCP President Tracey Mayhew.

“Cole has done an outstanding job leading this effort, and our members and friends responded immediately to help with this important document.”

The document will be updated as more research is conducted and more information becomes available.

You can download the US Mariner Crew Change Facilitation Guidance for COVID-19 (Revision 1.0) document here: https://tinyurl.com/ybpvvoy5

SOCP is a non-profit organization of maritime industry professionals working together to improve the safety, productivity, efficiency, security and environmental performance of US vessel operations.

Its members include US ship owners and operators, maritime unions, academies, training institutions and government agencies.

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CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS MAY GRIND TO A HALT WITHOUT MORE FUNDING, TTD TELLS CONGRESS

The AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department has asked Congress to provide supplemental funding in the next Covid-19 emergency relief bill to help keep critical infrastructure projects across the country from being shut down.

“We understand the serious challenges lawmakers face as our nation battles the deadly Covid-19 pandemic,” TTD President Larry Willis wrote Congressional leaders on April 29.

He said cash payments to individuals, enhanced unemployment benefits, assistance to small business and support for key industries are all a positive step forward.

But “[w]hile it may be tempting to view investments in infrastructure as a phase-2 step aimed at economic stimulus,” he added, “we urge you to consider the immediate needs of [the transportation sector] and to account for cash shortages we are already seeing at the state and local levels.”

With many businesses closed and vehicle travel reduced by nearly half, revenue—largely from state gas and sales taxes—that states count on to support departments of transportation and to make local matches required for federal aid highway and transit projects is drying up.

“Undoubtedly such sharp declines in revenues and uncertainty over continued federal support will lead to job losses for workers at state DOTs and delays or cancellations of projects,” Willis wrote.

In Kentucky, for example, where revenue is down 40 percent in fuel tax and 90 percent from the sale of new cars, the state DOT has already pulled back on 15-20 existing projects.

“Not only does this impact our workers, who are involved in every step of highway and transit design, construction, maintenance, and operation, but it takes a significant toll on the broader economy,” Willis wrote.

“If we wait to shore up lost revenue and make critical infrastructure investments until state DOTs are forced to furlough workers,” he warned, “until cities can no longer access financing to revitalize crumbling streets, and until construction workers have been laid off, we needlessly strip ourselves of one of the greatest economic multipliers in government: investment in infrastructure.”

He said TTD encourages Congress to prioritize emergency funding for federal highway and public transportation projects in the next Covid-19 relief bill, adding that the investments should be made at a 100 percent federal share to compensate for diminished state and local revenues.

He said the funding should come with strong federal labor protections and Buy America rules.

TTD represents 33 transport sector unions, including MM&P.

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FIELD ORGANIZERS FOR BIDEN CAMPAIGN RATIFY UNION CONTRACT

Field organizers for Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign have ratified a union contract.

A spokesperson for the Biden campaign said the contract, which covers field organizers nationwide, guarantees a $15/hour minimum wage, overtime pay, medical and vision coverage and access to a grievance process.

Workers for a number of Democratic political campaigns, including the staff of every major 2020 Democratic presidential primary candidate, have formed unions.

Biden has expressed strong support for America’s working families.

He has said that if elected, his administration would seek to impose a national ban on so-called “right-to-work” laws, which allow “free riders” in the workplace to benefit from union contracts without paying their fair share of the expenses of representation.

He has advocated increasing the minimum federal hourly wage to $15, making it harder for businesses to classify workers as independent contractors rather than employees and allowing employees to join in union by informal collection of authorization forms rather than holding secret-ballot elections.

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IRANIAN SAILORS KILLED IN “FRIENDLY FIRE” MISSILE ATTACK

Nineteen Iranian sailors died and 15 were injured Sunday when a missile fired from the Iranian frigate JEMARA hit a logistics support vessel, the KENARAK.

According to media reports, the accident took place during a naval exercise.

“Naval relief and rescue teams reached the location shortly after the incident, retrieving the injured and the martyrs from the vessel and transferring them to medical centers,” a spokesperson for Iran’s Navy said in a statement, adding that the injured sailors were in stable condition.

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MM&P HOLIDAY CLOSING SCHEDULE

MM&P Atlantic Ports will be closed on Friday, May 22, for Maritime Day.

All MM&P union halls, the MM&P Plan Office, the MM&P Federal Credit Union and MM&P headquarters will be closed on Monday, May 25, for Memorial Day.

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MITAGS ADDS ADDITIONAL SESSION OF BASIC TRAINING REVALIDATION FOR MAY 15

MITAGS has added an additional session of the blended learning course Basic Training Revalidation for Friday, May 15.

Students can register online here: https://www.mitags.org/course/basic-training-revalidation-2/

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: https://www.mitags.org/blended-learning-courses/.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us!

Admissions.east@mitags.org (East Coast Team)
Admissions.west@mitags.org (West Coast Team)

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UPDATE ON SCHOOL REOPENING DATE

Training at the MITAGS East and West Coast Campuses will remain suspended through Friday, May 29, 2020.

The reopening date of both campuses has been rescheduled for Monday, June 1, 2020. We will continue to monitor changes in government directives.

In the interim, MITAGS is offering a number of online blended courses. New courses are being added regularly. The blended courses will significantly shorten your stay at the campuses.

For more information please visit our website (www.mitags.org) or contact Admissions.

Upon reopening, we will be instituting Covid-19 screening procedures in keeping with all state and federal guidelines. If you will be attending a class in June, please bring a mask and gloves.

To keep you up to date on the pandemic and how it is affecting the maritime industry and the MITAGS community, we’ve compiled some of the best resources and information we could find.

To access our Covid-19 FAQs page, go to: https://www.mitags.org/faqs-covid-19/

If you have any additional 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.

Admissions.east@mitags.org
Admissions.west@mitags.org

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COMPLETE LIST OF MITAGS ONLINE AND BLENDED COURSES

We now offer blended learning options (https://www.mitags.org/blended-learning-courses/)
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.

MITAGS is currently able to offer the following blended learning courses.

Check individual courses often for any upcoming scheduled course dates.

New course sessions are being added regularly.

— Advanced Meteorology (Blended)
https://www.mitags.org/course/advanced-meteorology-2/

— Basic Firefighting (Blended)
https://www.mitags.org/course/basic-firefighting/

— Basic Training (Blended)
https://www.mitags.org/course/basic-training-2/

— Basic Training Refresher (Blended)
https://www.mitags.org/course/basictraining-refresher/

— Basic Training Revalidation (Blended)
https://www.mitags.org/course/basic-training-revalidation-2/

— Cargo Handling & Stowage (Operational Level) (Blended) https://www.mitags.org/course/cargo-handling-stowage/

— Fatigue, Sleep & Medications (Online)
https://www.mitags.org/course/fatigue-sleep-medications-2/

— Leadership & Managerial Skills (Blended)
https://www.mitags.org/course/leadership-managerial-skills/

— Personal Safety and Social Responsibilities (Blended) https://www.mitags.org/course/personal-safety-and-social-responsibilities-2/

— Personal Survival Techniques (Blended)
https://www.mitags.org/course/personal-survival-techniques-2/

— Terrestrial Navigation and Compasses (Blended)
https://www.mitags.org/course/terrestrial-navigation-and-compasses/

Please contact us via e-mail if you have questions or concerns.

Admissions.east@mitags.org
Admissions.west@mitags.org

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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 communications@bridgedeck.org. Back issues of The Weekly are posted on www.bridgedeck.org