Wheelhouse Weekly – May 26th, 2020

Volume 25… Number 21… May 26, 2020


Maritime Day:

Also in This Issue:

Coast Guard Update:



News for MM&P Members:


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The crews of five US-flag containerships are among the thousands of mariners who are essentially being held hostage aboard their vessels because of the breakdown in the crew change process caused by Covid-19.

The crews of the five ships–operating in the Mediterranean, the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf, and all participants in the Maritime Security Program–have been working since December 2019 without reliefs.

The vessels run a 24/7 operation delivering goods that help supply US bases overseas as well as commercial and humanitarian cargo around the world.

MM&P and the other American maritime unions have sought to repatriate their members via major ports–including US naval bases in Turkey, Cyprus, Malta, Israel, Egypt, Kuwait, Dubai and Oman—but without success.

“These professional mariners are true frontline workers and now is the time to lend a hand to get them home,” MM&P Atlantic Ports Vice President Tom Larkin told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a May 21 letter.

“Apart from humanitarian concerns, the global supply chain is at risk,” MM&P President Don Marcus wrote leaders of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

He said the situation is particularly difficult to comprehend because US-citizen merchant seamen are America’s fourth arm of defense.

“They are supplying our troops overseas and delivering government cargoes of all sorts, including essential foreign aid to many of the same countries that are preventing their repatriation,” he wrote.

“At the most pragmatic level, how can it be that to date there has been no effective US government intervention to prevent a critical break in the logistical supply chain of our military?”

Marcus has transmitted to Congress a letter drafted by the International Federation of Shipmasters’ Associations, of which MM&P is a member, outlining the magnitude of the global crisis and calling on governments to immediately implement the IMO’s crew change protocols.

“Isolation and excessive lengths of service aboard ship have created grave dangers of fatigue and psychological stress, increasing the likelihood of marine accidents, creating mental health risks, including deep depression and, in extreme cases, suicide,” Marcus wrote.

“Seafarers are being abandoned.”

“We seek your assistance with the State Department and/or the Department of Defense to ensure that US mariners can be relieved in Middle Eastern ports and, for the greater global crisis, we seek the assistance of the US government to see that foreign seafarers can be similarly relieved and repatriated from US. ports,” Marcus wrote leaders of the House Committee.

“Humanity and the global supply chain demand no less.”

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With over 200,000 tired, mentally stretched seafarers stuck on ships across the globe, the international maritime industry is calling on United Nations Secretary General António Guterres to persuade the 193 UN member states to immediately implement the 12-step crew change protocols developed by the International Maritime Organization.

“There is no time to waste,” leaders of the International Chamber of Shipping, the International Trade Union Confederation and the International Transport Workers’ Federation told Guterres.

ICS member shipping companies operate over 80 percent of the world’s merchant tonnage. The ITUC represents around 250 million workers around the world.

The ITF, of which MM&P is a member, connects trade unions in 150 countries that collectively represent nearly 20 million working men and women.

“There are 200,000 seafarers out there right now desperate to get home to their own beds, see their families and hug their kids,” says ITF General Secretary Steve Cotton.

“They’ve been stuck on their ships, keeping global trade running since this pandemic blew up. Enough is enough–they have earned their ticket home. Now governments must make that happen.”

As travel restrictions swept across global economies, trade continued thanks to the 1.2 million seafarers crewing ships across the world.

Their commitment to keeping open the supply lines for food, fuel and goods, including vital medical provisions, has enabled governments to focus on addressing the Covid-19 pandemic.

But the crew change process necessary to support the world’s mariners has–with very few exceptions–ground to a halt.

“It’s time for governments to open their hearts, and open their borders, to the world’s seafarers,” Cotton says.

“The alternative is exhausted crews and the shutting down of global trade. The world can’t afford that.”

Although there has been engagement from some national governments, such as by designating seafarers essential workers, there has been no fundamental progress on the crew change crisis.

“As thousands of seafarers face exhaustion at the helm of critical supply routes, the clock is ticking for governments,” the ITF, the ICS and the ITUC wrote.

“Time is running out. We ask that action be taken immediately, ahead of June 16, the final agreed deadline to implement crew changes for our seafarers.”

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In an interview that aired on Memorial Day, MM&P President Don Marcus described the many serious challenges faced by MM&P members working to keep the supply lines open in the midst of the pandemic.

Marcus was interviewed on the daily labor program America’s Work Force Radio,

America’s Work Force Radio Podcast is available on iTunes, Google Play and wherever you stream your podcasts.

Here is a link to the Memorial Day podcast:

The interview begins at the 41-minute mark.

You can also listen to it on the American Work Force Radio home page:

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Defective equipment and exhausting schedules have been putting the health and safety of Panama Canal tugboat crews at risk since the NEOPANAMAX locks opened in 2016.

Over the course of the past three years, two men have died on the job; a third was seriously injured.

Now a new menace, Covid-19, is exacerbating the situation faced by the tug captains, who are members of the MM&P affiliate Union de Capitanes y Oficiales de Cubierta de Panama.

MM&P, the International Transport Workers’ Federation and Nautilus International have reached out to the Panama Canal Administration in an attempt to facilitate negotiations over the dangerous conditions–including shifts that can last 30 hours or more without a break.

The tug captains say their workload has doubled since the elimination of the motorized “mules” that moved ships in the old locks and the opening of the new locks.

A report commissioned by the ITF in 2018, which included interviews with 55 of the approximately 150 tugboat captains, found that fatigue-inducing schedules were negatively affecting their health and performance, and hence the safety of canal operations.

Captains have complained that they are unable to use the toilet, eat or address other personal needs during vessel assists.

The unions are seeking:

— written hours of service rules in line with STCW and SOLAS requirements and an upper limit to the number of continuous hours that tug captains work; and

— due process for tug captains who have been disciplined for expressing safety concerns.

But management has shown scant interest in addressing the situation.

We “have maintained and enhanced the utmost and stable safety standards and working conditions” for our workforce, a Panama Canal official, Ilya R. Espino de Marotta, insisted in a recent letter to the unions.

“Impartial observers familiar with safe working conditions in the maritime industry do not agree that your agency has maintained and enhanced safety standards for the Canal workforce,” the unions responded.

“A record of workplace injuries, deaths and negative reports from the Panamanian Ministry of Health, the US National Transportation Safety Board and the International Transport Workers’ Federation contradict you.”

“Our effort has been and will remain to bring world attention to the lamentable neglect and wholly unnecessary hazards you are subjecting your workers to on the Canal. It is only a question of time until tragedy will take place.”

The letter was signed by MM&P President Don Marcus, ITF General Secretary Steve Cotton and Nautilus International General Secretary Mark Dickinson.

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Forecasters at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center are expecting an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season.

The Climate Prediction Center, which is part of the National Weather Service, is predicting a range of 13 to 19 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which six to 10 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including three to six major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher).

NOAA provides these ranges with a 70 percent confidence. An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.

Meteorologists say a combination of climate factors underlie their expectation of an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season, including warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.

As storms begin to develop, NOAA hurricane hunter aircraft will prepare to collect valuable data for forecasts and computer models.

NOAA says it is also launching upgrades to products and tools to improve critical services during the hurricane season.

This summer, it will upgrade its hurricane research and forecast models, incorporating new data from satellites and radar from its coastal Doppler data network.

NOAA and the Navy will also deploy a fleet of autonomous diving hurricane gliders during the hurricane season to observe conditions in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea in areas where hurricanes have historically traveled and intensified.

The Atlantic hurricane season officially begins on June 1 and runs through Nov. 30.

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The San Francisco Fire Department Saturday extinguished a fire that was burning dangerously close to the World War II Liberty Ship JEREMIAH O’BRIEN.

The four-alarm fire broke out on Pier 45 at about 0415 on Saturday, in close proximity to the historic ship.

According to firefighters, the fire started at a crab processing plant.

Flames and smoke were visible throughout much of the Bay Area.

At one point, the flames appeared to be behind and above the JEREMIAH O’BRIEN, which is moored adjacent to the processing plant on the northeast side of the pier.

“When firefighters arrived, the flames were literally lapping over the JEREMIAH O’BRIEN,” a spokesperson for the San Francisco Fire Department told journalists.

“They literally saved the O’BRIEN.”

More than 130 firefighters responded to the blaze.

They used ladder trucks to drench the burning building in an attempt to keep the fire from spreading to other warehouses on Pier 45. The spokesperson said the blaze was contained by about 1130 hours.

A firefighter who was injured in the blaze is expected to recover. There was no word on the cause of the fire.

The JEREMIAH O’BRIEN and its sister ship, the JOHN W. BROWN, are the last remaining Liberty ships of the 2,710 that were built and launched during World War II.

The JEREMIAH O’BRIEN, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is a popular San Francisco tourist attraction.

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The Coast Guard has released the following notice.

The Director, Commercial Regulations and Standards (CG-5PS), in conjunction with the Office of Merchant Mariner Credentialing (CG-MMC-2), continues to receive and process mariner appeals that are submitted in accordance with Title 46 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 1.03-40.

However, due to ongoing COVID-19 safety and health concerns and technical constraints that operating in the COVID-19 environment presents, the processing of appeals has been delayed.

Appeals are being processed in the order that complete appeal submissions are received.

Incomplete appeals will be held in abeyance until the mariner finishes supplying information for an appeal.

All appeals will be thoroughly reviewed and evaluated based on the information submitted, the information in the application and reconsideration files and any additional information necessary to complete the appeal. We will pursue this evaluation as quickly as possible while conducting the complete evaluation.

Mariners are encouraged to submit appeals documents via e-mail to; documents should be in a readable format (avoid .gif, .zip, or camera images). Mailed or faxed appeals may be subject to further delays due to reduced manning within CG-MMC-2 office spaces.

Lastly, but most importantly, the Office of Merchant Mariner Credentialing wants to assure our industry customers and stakeholders that their appeals are a high priority. We apologize for any potential inconvenience that a delay in processing an appeal may cause.

Mariners and other interested parties should contact the Mariner Credentialing Program at (202) 372-2357 or with any questions or concerns.

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MM&P and other affiliates of the International Federation of Shipmasters Associations have been asked to convey to current and former shipmasters a request to respond anonymously to a short survey for a student doing research for his master’s thesis.

The survey focuses on dealing with foreign authorities in worldwide ports, in particular, incidents of misconduct by foreign authorities.

The student states that all survey answers will be treated as anonymous. It is estimated that the survey requires 15 minutes to complete. The window for responding ends on July 1, 2020.

The survey is posted at:

“This survey is to gather information from shipmasters who have been dealing with authorities misconducting their authority power at foreign ports,” the student writes.

“If you have faced several misconducting cases, please fill the survey for each case separately and return them as separated survey responses.”

“All responses are received and analyzed anonymously.”

“Responses are collected for analyzing on 7-1-2020 and all responses sent after that are no longer recorded.”

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The coronavirus pandemic is a dream come true for con artists around the globe, writes Herb Weisbaum–“The Consumer Man”–in Consumer Checkbook Magazine.

Scammers are using robocalls, text messages, emails and social media ads offering financial help, or selling bogus treatments and cures. The scams include:

— phone calls from people pretending to work for government health agencies offering the opportunity to get on a waiting list for a vaccine when it becomes available–a credit card number is required to get on the list;

— pop-up ads for cures that don’t exist;

— fake puppy and kitten websites, since the stay-safe-at-home protocols have created a demand for pets.

One senior citizen received a call, ostensibly from her bank, telling her that her credit card and ATM card had been compromised. The caller had the last four digits of her Social Security number and knew where she banked, so the call seemed legitimate.

“Because of Covid-19, we understand that you can’t go to your local branch to have your cards replaced, so we’re going to send over one of our fraud delivery people to pick up the old cards and bring you the new ones,” the caller said.

Within minutes, someone claiming to work for the bank was at the door. Although the apartment had security cameras, the person was wearing a mask (because of the outbreak), and could not be identified.

In two days, the fraudsters–wearing masks—ran up more than $12,000 in charges and cash withdrawals.

Law enforcement officials say they have taken down hundreds of malicious websites, many of them using coronavirus or Covid-19 in the domain name, but new ones appear daily.

The FBI says that in the first four months of 2020, it received almost 4,000 complaints about Covid-19 scams.

Here is a list, published by Consumer Checkbook Magazine, of some of the most prevalent scams:

— offers to help secure or speed up government relief payments—provided you pay a fee and reveal your Social Security number and banking information;

— spam campaigns ostensibly from the Small Business Administration, with attachments that trigger malware infections.

There have even been reports of criminals posing as healthcare workers who have set up fake mobile Covid-19 testing sites in parking lots, charging victims hundreds of dollars for a bogus test.

To read the article, go to

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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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MM&P Pacific Ports will be closed on Thursday, June 11, for King Kamehameha Day, a contract holiday.

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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