Wheelhouse Weekly – May 19th, 2020

Volume 25… Number 20… May 19, 2020


Maritime Day:

News for MM&P Members:

Also in This Issue:

Crew Change Debacle:

Unions Fight to Defend Workers:


MM&P Holiday Closing Schedule


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On behalf of the members of Masters, Mates & Pilots, MM&P President Don Marcus honors all the men and women sailing under the US flag—as well as the seafarers of the world–in a Maritime Day address that is posted at:

“All mariners today are working under duress,” he says, “but they are keeping the supply lines open.”

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The Maritime Administration will hold its National Maritime Day Commemoration online this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The program will be held Friday, May 22, at 1030 EST, on MARAD’s YouTube channel

2020 is the 87th year that the country has honored America’s mariners on Maritime Day.

The theme of this year’s program is “Resilient Sealift for a Resilient Nation.”

It is intended to recognize the maritime industry’s unwavering support for our nation during challenging times.

Maritime Administrator Mark H. Buzby and Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao will be among the speakers.

National Maritime Day honors the merchant mariners who have bravely served this country in peace and war.

It was established by Congress in 1933 to commemorate the American steamship Savannah’s maiden voyage from the US to England, marking the first successful trans-Atlantic voyage with steam propulsion.

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To mark National Maritime Day, which recognizes mariners, the maritime industry, ports and longshore workers, vessels in harbors and at berth throughout the hemisphere are being encouraged to sound their horns or whistles four times at noon each day from May 18 to May 22 as they work to move Covid-19 response necessities and other goods around the globe.

The initiative, “Sound Off for National Maritime Day,” recognizes the dedication, sacrifice and professionalism of the maritime and port industry workforce in their effort to slow the spread of coronavirus while ensuring a steady flow of vital goods and services.

“As businesses around the world begin the process of re-opening and people cautiously venture outside their homes, please remember that port workers and their logistics partners are laboring around the clock to keep us all supplied with vital consumer goods, medical equipment, energy and raw materials,” says AAPA President and CEO Chris Connor.

“While taking all necessary precautions against spreading the virus themselves, our maritime workforce continues to deliver vital goods and services, ship exports, and connect farmers, manufacturers, retailers and consumers to the global marketplace.”

“When you hear ships and other vessels sounding their horns or whistles at noon each day from Monday, May 18 to National Maritime Day on May 22, please consider the role they play in your life, your community and the economy.”

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There will be a virtual Offshore Membership Meeting for the Ports of Boston and New York/New Jersey on Wednesday, May 27 at 1200 EST.

MM&P President Don Marcus, Secretary-Treasurer Don Josberger and Atlantic Ports Vice President Tom Larkin will participate in the meeting.

Members and applicants will receive an email from MM&P with information on how to participate in the virtual membership meeting.

If you would like to update your email address, you can do so by logging into the MM&P app or Members’ Only section of the website, and clicking on Personal Info under the My Account tab.

Look for future announcements regarding virtual meetings in other offshore ports.

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The Board of Trustees is pleased to advise MM&P Plan participants of the following temporary benefits available to them, effective immediately, under the MM&P Individual Retirement Account Plan (IRAP) and the MM&P 401(k) Arrangement (401(k) Plan).

These temporary benefits are being provided under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) to assist Plan participants during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) health crisis.

COVID-19 Related Payments From Your IRAP and/or 401(k) Accounts

If you, your spouse, or your tax dependent have been diagnosed with COVID-19, or experience financial hardship as a result of COVID-19, you may be eligible to withdraw money from your IRAP and/or 401(k) account through Dec. 31, 2020, under special temporary conditions.

While the primary purpose of your IRAP and/or 401(k) account is retirement, the CARES Act allows the Plan to adopt temporary provisions so you may withdraw this money if you and your family need it now.

If you participate in both IRAP and 401(k), the maximum you can take from both accounts combined is $100,000. If you participate in only IRAP or only the 401(k) Plan, you can take an amount up to $100,000 from your account.

The 10 percent penalty on distributions before age 59½ is waived for hardship distributions made because of COVID-19.

Hardship distributions are usually subject to income tax in the year of the distribution, but under the CARES Act, you may report the income tax related to your COVID-19 hardship distribution ratably over the next three years instead of all at once.

Also, unlike traditional hardship distributions which cannot be repaid to the Plan, amounts taken for a COVID-19 hardship distribution can be repaid to your IRAP or 401(k) account, in whole or in part, up to three years after you receive the distribution.

To apply:

Please contact the Plan Office at 410-850-8500 ext. 636 or ext. 625 to request a hardship application to withdraw money from your account.

When you apply, you will have to self-certify to one of the COVID-19 related hardships provided for by the CARES Act and you will be required to submit documentation of your financial need to support your application.

Temporary Increase in Plan Loan Maximums to $100,000

Typically, loans of up to $50,000 or 50 percent of your vested account balance are available to 401(k) participants. Now, through Sept. 23, 2020, if you, your spouse, or your tax dependent have been diagnosed with COVID-19, or experience certain financial problems as a result of COVID-19, the amount you can take as a loan from your account has been temporarily increased to be the lesser of $100,000 or 100 percent of your account.

Please note that under the 401(k) Plan, you are still limited to taking no more than two loans out at a time.

To apply: Please contact Fidelity at 866-848-6466 to request documentation for securing a new loan.

Temporary Suspension of Loan Repayments for 401(k) Participants

Under the CARES Act, if you, your spouse, or your tax dependent have been diagnosed with COVID-19, or experience certain financial problems as a result of COVID-19, your loan payments due in 2020 may be delayed.

If you currently have a loan, or if you take out a new loan in 2020 and a payment is owed before Dec. 31, 2020, you can contact Fidelity at 866-848-6466 to request that the 401(k) Plan suspend your loan payments.

You must log in to your Fidelity NetBenefits account or call Fidelity to stop your ACH debit loan repayment during your deferment period. However, when payments resume, they will be adjusted to take into account the delay and additional interest accrued while repayments were suspended. This will increase the amount of your loan repayment and may extend the time it will take to complete the remainder of the term of your loan.

Suspension of Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) for All Plans

If you reach age 70½, the Plan is usually required to pay a portion of your account balance to you as a Required Minimum Distribution (RMD). But under the CARES Act, the Plan is not required to make RMDs during 2020 and the Board of Trustees has agreed to permit RMD suspensions for all participants (whether affected by COVID-19 or not) in both the IRAP and the 401(k) Plan.

If you are over age 70½ and receiving RMD payments in a yearly lump sum distribution, your payment will be automatically suspended unless you contact Fidelity to inform them that you would prefer to receive your 2020 RMD.

If you are over age 70½ and receiving RMD monthly or quarterly payments, automatic suspensions of your benefits will not apply. You may contact Fidelity to elect suspensions of your monthly RMD payments.

If you have questions or need any additional information, please call the Plan Office at 410-850-8500 ext. 636 or ext. 625. Be well and please stay safe.

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Civil Service mariners who have been restricted to ship since Military Sealift Command imposed a fleetwide “gangway-up” policy that exclusively applies to them are being treated like prisoners, says Captain Randall Rockwood, vice president of the MM&P Federal Employees Membership Group, which represents licensed deck officers aboard MSC vessels.

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.

Rockwood was interviewed by Margaret Kavanagh of WTKR 3, the CBS affiliate in Norfolk, Va., for a news report that aired on May 15 entitled, “Military Watch: Covid-19 Outbreak.”

Kavanagh said the CIVMARS affected by the order are experiencing “health concerns, lack of communications and extreme frustration.”

Her report included interviews with two CIVMARS, who asked to remain anonymous because of fear of retaliation.

Rockwood summed up their situation as being “locked up on your own ship, treated like you’re a prisoner, with no foreseeable light at the end of the tunnel.”

The union contends that the CIVMAR-only gangway-up order increases MM&P members’ risk of being exposed to the virus because it allows all others aboard ship to come and go, which means they can embark while asymptomatic but infected and contagious.

“If conditions ashore are unsafe because of Covid-19, they are unsafe for all workers across the Navy enterprise–including military and contractor personnel—not just for CIVMARS,” says MM&P Government Fleet Representative Randi Ciszewski.

“The union is supportive of valid liberty restrictions that have the genuine effect of safeguarding the health of our members, but for Navy to restrict the civil liberties of CIVMARS—and only CIVMARS–results in MM&P members being disparately impacted by an arbitrary and capricious liberty restriction.”

Since the gangway-up order was imposed on March 21, at least five MSC ships have become “infected” with the Covid-19 virus.

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

According to a spokesperson for the House Armed Services Committee who was interviewed for the WTKR report, lawmakers “trust that Military Sealift Command is acting in good faith… [but] have concerns about reports that military crewmembers and contractor personnel are freely allowed on and off MSC ships, diminishing the effectiveness of the bubble MSC is trying to create.”

“The mariners on ships worldwide, as well as in the United States, are very often not recognized or understood,” Rockwood said.

“People go about their business every day and they don’t know where items come from.”

[CIVMARS] are trying to do a good job, supporting the United States, our security and the Navy.”

To view the report, go to:

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The Maritime Administration has implemented significant improvements in the Federal Ship Financing Program, commonly known as “Title XI” in reference to the part of the Merchant Marine Act of 1936 that established it.

The program is intended to help US shipowners cost effectively obtain new vessels from US shipyards using long-term debt repayment guarantees issued by the US government.

It also assists US shipyards with modernizing their facilities for building and repairing vessels.

The repayment term allowed under the program generally is much longer, and the interest rates lower, than those available from the commercial lending market because obligations are guaranteed by the US government.

Under the recent changes, the Federal Financing Bank has become the lender of choice–the designated buyer of Title XI guaranteed debt—which means that borrowers no longer have to issue traditional commercial bonds.

Congress designated the Federal Financing Bank as the lender of choice for the program in 2019.

Going forward, all government guaranteed debt issued by shipowners that have successfully undergone MARAD’s application process will be purchased by the Federal Financing Bank.

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The Coast Guard has issued a policy letter providing guidance on the affidavits required for applications for duplicate merchant mariner credentials (MMC) and medical certificates.

Mariners applying for a duplicate credential must submit an affidavit describing the circumstances of the loss.

An affidavit serves as evidence that the applicant is affirming that the information provided is true and correct.

The newly released policy letter is available on the National Maritime Center’s website in the Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Credentialing policy area.

Mariners and other interested parties can contact the Mariner Credentialing Program Policy Division at (202) 372-2357 or with any questions or feedback.

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With more than 150,000 seafarers around the world blocked aboard their ships—in some cases for more than a year–the pandemic-induced halt to crew change poses grave risks to shipmasters, mariners, employers, insurers, the environment and the general public.

A coalition of industry leaders–including the International Maritime Organization, the International Transport Workers’ Federation and the International Shipmasters Association–are calling on the world’s governments to take immediate action to allow crew changes to resume.

Although G20 trade and investment ministers at their March 30 meeting had pledged to ensure the smooth operation of global supply chains and find ways for logistics networks via air, sea and land to remain open, “it appears that little has been done,” IFSMA says.

In April, a broad cross section of global maritime industry associations developed protocols for safe ship crew change and travel during the pandemic.

The IMO transmitted the protocols—accompanied by an urgent call that they be implemented without delay–to all IMO member states, the United Nations and key international organizations.

But there has been no sign of progress.

Now, IFSMA has issued an open letter urging world governments to implement the crew change protocols without delay.

MM&P and other shipmaster associations located around the world that are affiliated with IFSMA, including the Council of American Master Mariners (CAMM) and Nautilus International, signed on to the letter and will be transmitting it to their national governments.

MM&P became an association member of IFSMA earlier this year.

“Governments must act now to avoid personal injury and mental breakdown of seafarers and significantly increased risk of accidents and the consequential danger to life and damage to the environment,” the International Federation of Shipmasters Associations wrote.

“There are an estimated 150,000 seafarers in urgent need of being relieved by refreshed crew.”

“With a crew that is suffering from fatigue, ships are running a much higher level of risk in what is already a high risk profession. When errors are made on board ships, it is often the shipmaster that is held responsible.”

“Shipmasters have been forced into a situation which is not of their making and they feel pressurized to remain at sea for the safety of their crew.”

“It is that very pressure and fatigue that is bearing down on them and that increases the risk of an accident occurring and significantly increases the risk of them being criminalized by the courts ashore and the loss of their livelihoods.”

The IFSMA letter is posted on under Latest News.

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The ITF and the JNG—the group that represents companies that employ seafarers working under ITF contracts—are prodding countries to take urgent measures to enable the crew change process to restart.

After twice agreeing to contract extensions covering personnel aboard ships at sea, the two have decided that the situation has become untenable.

“Increasing numbers of seafarers are several months over their contracted times and have been at sea for up to 15 months,” they said.

“Currently, it is estimated that there are in excess of 150,000 seafarers at sea or in ports around the world that are in urgent need of being relieved by refreshed crew.”

“This number will only increase week by week unless governments act.”

“Many of our seafarers are now suffering from fatigue, not only from the excessive length of time they have spent at sea, but also with the additional stress they are under from worrying about their family and relatives at home and the effect the pandemic is having on them.”

Not all seafarers have access to the internet at sea and pandemic regulations now forbid them from accessing facilities ashore, even for reasons of acute medical emergency.

The JNG and the ITF are urging governments to move quickly to adopt the protocol on safe crew changes that has been circulated by the IMO.

Previously, the JNG and the ITF–representing 215 seafarers unions and their 1 million members–agreed twice to extend seafarers’ contracts “in order to keep them safe from exposure to Covid-19 and also appreciating the enormity of the challenges the pandemic poses in terms of travel restrictions and flight availability.”

“Consequently,” they say, “a significant number of seafarers have been required to stay on board beyond their employment contract period while others are waiting to be deployed so that they can join their ships and continue to earn a living.”

In discussions last week, JNG and ITF agreed that the current situation cannot continue since it could be “detrimental to the health and wellbeing of the seafarers, putting them at risk as well as the environment and the global supply chain.”

The ITF and the JNG therefore agreed to not extend the contracts, but to support an implementation period of no longer than 30 days (up until June 15) so that governments have time to implement the framework of protocols as set out by the IMO.

The two are also urging companies to consider:

— financially acknowledging every seafarer whose employment contract has expired but who has continued to work;

— providing seafarers waiting to be deployed an advance salary payment; and

–providing seafarers with extra bandwidth and internet access to be able to communicate with home.

They also urge that, when crew change commences, seafarers who have been on-board the longest be prioritized and repatriated first regardless of rank.

The ITF and the JNG warn all parties involved that if the safe crew change protocols do not take effect by mid-June, the consequence of stress-related sickness affecting seafarers and their inability to consistently access medical support ashore may negatively impact the commercial viability of ship operations.

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With the pandemic wreaking havoc on the crew change process and grounding the world’s cruise ships and their crews far from their home ports, several deaths have been reported among crewmembers awaiting repatriation.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation is expressing profound regret on reports that a young Ukrainian seafarer serving aboard REGAL PRINCESS has died by suicide and a young Chinese crewmember aboard the MARINER OF THE SEAS has died of unknown causes.

The ITF said it appears that the young Ukrainian crewmember took her own life in the Port of Rotterdam while awaiting a flight home.

“Due to the shortage of international air travel, government restrictions, and ports applying additional restrictions to seafarers working on cruise ships, getting seafarers home is very challenging and thousands of cruise ship workers have been forced to remain on board their ships,” said David Heindel, ITF seafarers’ section chair.

“The stress associated with social isolation for seafarers can be tough even in normal times, but what we are seeing through the Covid-19 pandemic is the tragic consequences that heightened stress and uncertainty are having on seafarers’ mental health.”

“Seafarers are being penalized by the strict restrictions put in place by governments to contain the spread of the virus despite no justification or scientific proof that seafarers on cruise vessels pose any greater risk than other categories of workers or members of the public,” he added.

Approximately 150,000 seafarers are currently waiting to leave or join ships, with tens of thousands currently trapped onboard ships across the globe due to the continuing imposition of travel restrictions.

Seafarers’ unions are calling for the same response from governments that facilitated the repatriation of tens of thousands of passengers in a matter of weeks from cruise ships around the world.

“It’s time for crews to be treated as humanely as passengers were,” Heindel said.

“The ITF and our social partners warned just last week that failure to do so risks the wellbeing of seafarers, maritime safety, as well as the supply chains that the world relies on. Time has come to get these seafarers home before we see more people taking their lives.”

Four crewmembers have now reportedly ended their lives in less than two weeks.

“For the sake of seafarers’ health and mental wellbeing, it is now absolutely vital that governments and flag states redouble their efforts to facilitate the return home of all seafarers who are suffering a terrible burden at the present time. Our service to the global economy should not be taken for granted,” Heindel said.

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The AFL-CIO has gone to court to compel the Department of Labor to issue regulations to protect American workers from Covid-19.

Thousands of workers have contracted the virus on the job through exposure to sick patients, infected co-workers and unscreened members of the public.

The union federation petitioned the US Court of Appeals on May 18 to compel the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a DOL agency, to issue an emergency standard requiring employers to evaluate workplaces for the risk of airborne disease transmission and to develop a comprehensive infection control plan that could include social distancing measures, masks and other personal protective equipment, and employee training.

“As the economy reopens and people return to work, person-to-person contact will increase and health experts predict the already shocking number of infections and deaths among workers will rise,” says AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka.

“It’s truly a sad day in America when working people must sue the organization tasked with protecting our health and safety.”

Millions of Americans have been infected with the novel coronavirus, and nearly 90,000 have died.

“It’s beyond urgent that action be taken to protect workers who risk their lives daily to respond to this public health emergency,” Trumka says.

“If the Trump administration refuses to act, we must compel them to.”

Unions, he said, “have been left with no choice.”

Even with overwhelming evidence that additional protections are essential, Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia says mandatory regulations addressing the risk posed by the virus are not necessary.

The agency has chosen instead to issue suggestions that employers are free to follow or disregard.

Unions across the country have filed dozens of OSHA complaints related to the pandemic.

These “have been met by silence as the Trump administration refuses to do its job to enforce a safe workplace standard,” says American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

“Our members are getting sick and dying—we have lost more than 160 members including public employees, health care workers and educators to Covid-19…”

She said many deaths could have been prevented if proper protections had been provided.

“Health care and other essential workers can’t simply rely on their union buying them PPE, as we have done, or the gratitude of strangers,” Weingarten said.

“This action is needed to get the Trump administration to do its job.”

The AFL-CIO and several of its affiliated unions have pursued worker protections for years without success, petitioning OSHA to adopt a general infectious disease standard as early as 2009 in the wake of SARS and other threatened pandemics.

The Trump administration abandoned the standard-making process completely when it took office in January 2017.

National Nurses United petitioned OSHA to issue an infectious disease standard on March 4.

The AFL-CIO, together with 23 national unions, did the same on March 6. To date OSHA has taken no action.

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Armed security forces on Sunday routed pirates in two skiffs who attacked a product tanker, the UK-flagged STOLT APAL, in the Gulf of Aden.

The attack began at 1230, when the oil/chemical tanker was approached by two speedboats about 75 nm off the coast of Yemen.

After the embarked security team fired warning shots, the pirates opened fire on the ship.

The security force responded, disabling one of the speedboats.

An anti-piracy patrol boat responded, and the tanker was able to continue its voyage.

The shipowner said no crewmembers were injured in the attack.

This is the ninth reported pirate attack in the Gulf of Aden since the beginning of 2020.

The British anti-piracy coordinating agency UKMTO cautioned all vessels in the area to exercise extreme caution.

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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 has added an additional session of the blended learning course Basic Training Revalidation for Friday, May 22.

Students can register online here:

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:

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us! (East Coast Team) (West Coast Team)

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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 ( 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:

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.

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We now offer blended learning options ( 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)

— Basic Firefighting (Blended)

— Basic Training (Blended)

— Basic Training Refresher (Blended)

— Basic Training Revalidation (Blended)

— Cargo Handling & Stowage (Operational Level) (Blended)

— Fatigue, Sleep & Medications (Online)

— Leadership & Managerial Skills (Blended)

— Personal Safety and Social Responsibilities (Blended)

— Personal Survival Techniques (Blended)

— Terrestrial Navigation and Compasses (Blended)

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

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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 Back issues of The Weekly are posted on