Wheelhouse Weekly – May 5th, 2020

Volume 25… Number 18… May 5, 2020


In This Issue:

Good News:




MM&P Holiday Closing Schedule


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The Covid-19 pandemic has essentially halted global commercial seaborne trade and most of the military and civilian government cargo on which the US-flag fleet depends.

Unless Congress steps in with emergency funding, the ships in the Maritime Security fleet could be laid up “for a protracted period,” maritime unions and US-flag shipping companies are warning.

In an April 28 letter to Congressional leaders, the USA Maritime Coalition—of which MM&P and MIRAID are members–has called on legislators to provide help in the next Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

“Covid-19 is having a significant and extremely negative effect on the operation of US-flag vessels in the international trades,” the coalition says.

“This situation, which shows no sign of ending any time in the immediate future, puts at severe risk the ability of our industry to provide the sealift readiness and surge support the Department of Defense relies on to support American troops deployed abroad.”

The group said a loss of MSP vessels due to the pandemic would exacerbate the critical shortfall in the number of qualified American merchant mariners essential to maintaining US sealift readiness.

Congress has repeatedly reaffirmed its strong support for MSP and its fleet of 60 militarily useful US-flag ships: legislators voted on a bipartisan basis in the last national defense authorizations legislation to extend the program through fiscal year 2035.

They also voted to increase the annual stipend intended to supplement the revenue generated by commercial and government cargoes.

To keep crews fully employed and MSP ships in a state of operational readiness, the coalition is urging Congress to authorize and appropriate $109.8 million—equal to an additional $1.83 million for each MSP vessel–for the period April 1, 2020 to the end of the current fiscal year.

The coalition is also requesting that Congress authorize an additional $109 million–$1.82 million per vessel—to be appropriated as needed for the period Oct. 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021.

“The assistance we are requesting will significantly mitigate the impact of the coronavirus on the US-flag international fleet, the US citizen merchant mariners who have been recognized as part of America’s essential workforce and the commercial sealift capability provided by our industry under the Maritime Security Program,” the coalition wrote.

The stipend plus the emergency readiness payment would allow MSP vessels to remain 100 percent militarily ready, although significant carrier expenses–including those directly related to dealing with the pandemic itself—would remain uncovered.

“Maritime labor and the US-flag shipping companies stand together during this difficult time for our industry and our country,” they wrote.

“We will continue to do what we can to meet the current challenge,” but “we need your help to protect the jobs of American merchant mariners and to ensure the continued viability and effectiveness of the Maritime Security Program and the international US-flag shipping industry.”

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A group of senators has written to President Trump, urging him to oppose any efforts to weaken the Jones Act as the economy begins to reopen.

The letter was sent on April 27 by Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.).

“As the nation prepares to reopen the economy,” they wrote, “we urge you to oppose any proposal that would weaken the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, commonly referred to as the Jones Act.”

“Undermining this law would cost American jobs and damage the domestic maritime industry.”

At the beginning of April, MM&P and MIRAID joined the rest of the US-flag maritime industry in asking the president to deny a Jones Act waiver request made by domestic oil and gas interests seeking financial stimulus from the government.

Citing the impact of the crude oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, energy company officials met with members of the administration on April 3, reportedly to request a waiver of the Jones Act.

The Jones Act mandates that only American vessels that are owned and crewed by American citizens can be used to transport goods between US ports.

“The Jones Act has enhanced American prosperity and national security for 100 years,” the senators wrote in their recent letter.

“It ensures that maritime transportation between two US ports is carried out by vessels that are US-built, US-owned and US-crewed. The law is fully consistent with your Buy American, Hire American agenda.”

“Opponents of the Jones Act have used the Covid-19 crisis as an opportunity to attempt to undermine existing law,” they wrote.

“There is absolutely no connection between the Jones Act and Covid-19. In fact, the law has helped produce the types of vessels and qualified mariners necessary to support a variety of crisis response operations.”

“If anything, the administration and Congress should look for ways to strengthen the Jones Act,” they added.

The senators closed by asking the president to stand with them in opposing any efforts to weaken the Jones Act.

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“The Maritime Security Program is a critical national security asset, and we must support the operators and crews of US-flag vessels to ensure they can continue to operate and be ready to support our armed forces,” says Congresswoman Elaine Luria.

Luria, a Democrat who represents Virginia’s Second Congressional District, is a highly decorated veteran who retired with the rank of commander.

Prior to her election to the House of Representatives in 2018, she served two decades in the Navy, including at-sea deployments on six ships as a nuclear-trained surface warfare officer.

In an April 29 letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, she urged the US to strengthen MSP and protect the jobs of American mariners.

The Maritime Security Program gives the US access to a fleet of privately owned, militarily useful vessels.

These ships, in turn, support a global transportation network. But they are being hit hard by Covid-19, which has led to a precipitous drop in cargo.

“The crews of U.S.-flagged vessels support our nation in times of need, and Congress has an obligation to ensure these ships and their crews remain ready and viable after this crisis ends,” Luria wrote.

She urged Congressional leaders to support MSP participants by promoting a policy of 100 percent US- flag cargo preference for all government-generated cargoes.

She also urged the administration to reject any requests for Jones Act waivers during the pandemic.

Luria has called for economic relief for MSP operators to cover costs associated with maintaining their vessels and keeping crews employed.

She has also advocated for Covid-19 testing kits for mariners aboard US-flag vessels and allowing maritime union vocational training facilities to be eligible for assistance under the Congressional pandemic relief package known as the Paycheck Protection Program.

A member of the House Armed Services Committee and the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Luria was one of the first women in the Navy’s nuclear power program and among the first women to serve the entirety of her career in combatant ships.

She leads the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, and is vice chair of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces.

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The AFL-CIO describes the Labor Department’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic as “chaotic” and “totally inadequate.”

Since the crisis erupted, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has been calling on the US to issue an emergency health and safety standard that requires employers to develop plans to control infection and limit exposure through social distancing, adequate sanitation and personal protective equipment.

“Workers are dying by the hundreds, getting sick at work by the thousands,” Debbie Berkowitz, director of the National Employment Law Project’s Worker Safety and Health program, was quoted in Bloomberg Law as saying.

“If this is not an emergency, what is?”

Millions of Americans face exposure to Covid-19 in the workplace, tens of thousands have been infected and hundreds have died.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of April 23, in the health care sector alone, 71 workers have died and 21,804 have been infected.

“Since this crisis began, the Department of Labor and federal government have failed to meet their obligation and duty to protect workers; the government’s response has been delinquent, delayed, disorganized, chaotic and totally inadequate,” Trumka wrote in a letter to Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia.

The union federation is calling for two DOL agencies responsible for protecting American workers—the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Mine Safety Administration—to issue an emergency standard requiring employers to limit workers’ exposure to the coronavirus or risk fines.

Instead of mandatory requirements, in recent weeks OSHA has issued suggestions that employers keep surfaces clean and provide PPE, and Scalia maintains that nonbinding guidance is sufficient.

Many in Congress disagree: bills requiring DOL agencies to issue an emergency standard have been introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

“Workers are risking their lives in this public health emergency to keep our citizens safe and they need proper protection from the virus at work,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who introduced the Senate bill, said in a statement.

“We need a real plan to reopen the economy safely with enforceable safety standards that will enable employers to adequately protect both workers and customers.”

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Workers at several giant retail companies walked off the job Friday over low pay and working conditions they say expose them to the coronavirus.

Among the strikers were Amazon warehouse workers, employees at the company’s Whole Foods subsidiary and gig workers for Instacart and Shipt, which is owned by Target.

The news was reported by journalists at Vice and Motherboard who covered the job actions in person.

Strikers called for more and better personal protective equipment, paid sick leave, deep cleaning of their workplaces and hazard pay.

Strikers feel their bargaining position has been strengthened by the fact that more people are turning to online shopping and gig delivery services out of fear of being exposed to the virus and to comply with stay-at-home orders.

The increase in business had also drawn public and media attention—much of it negative–to gig operators which generally do not provide benefits to employees.

At the May Day protests, journalists at Vice reported, a small crowd of Amazon workers as well as nurses and other health care professionals offering support gathered in front of an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island.

“It was surreal,” said Christian Smalls, a former Amazon worker who was fired from a Staten Island warehouse in March.

“I see heroes–nurses and doctors were out there, transit workers.”

He called Amazon “a breeding ground for this virus.”

Amazon workers at warehouses in Staten Island, Detroit, Chicago, and most recently Shakopee, Minnesota have staged their own walkouts.

There was no word on how many people participated in Friday’s strikes, which were scheduled to take place in the Bay Area, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Ohio and Kentucky.

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After an extensive steel repair project and overhaul was completed last week, the Alaska Marine Highway System ferry MV LECONTE was refloated.

AMHS has said the LECONTE is expected to be back in service in the middle of June.

Maintenance efforts have now shifted to the MV AURORA, which is also in drydock.

“It’s very good news that the AURORA is being returned to service, because she was previously on the chopping block,” said MM&P Juneau Representative Shannon Adamson.

Three other AMHS ferries are still undergoing a winter overhaul period, according to AMHS, leading to a delay in the resumption of full summer-season service.

Currently the COLUMBIA, KENNICOTT and TUSTUMENA are all in the completion phase of their overhauls.

Alaska’s ferry system has been in disarray for the past 18 months, with 10 of 12 vessels out of service for repair or lack of funds, leaving many communities without service.

AMHS provides essential access to the outside world for parts of coastal Alaska lacking road connections.

But Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy has taken an axe to its funding since he entered office, leaving local communities isolated and businesses cut off from supplies.

Hundreds of Alaskans have rallied in the state capital, Juneau, to protest the cuts and the governor’s attempt to privatize the system.

Members of MM&P and the other maritime unions that represent AMHS personnel have been fighting the cuts, which not only harm vulnerable communities but also risk severely damaging the state economy.

Dunleavy is the object of a recall campaign (, motivated in part by his attempt to decimate the ferry system.

The budget cuts have been compounded by maintenance and other issues, prompting the Alaska Department of Transportation to contract with private companies to transport people on smaller catamarans with no vehicles or heavy freight allowed.

Now, AMHS has received $10 million in support as part of the federal government’s coronavirus relief efforts.

The funding is a component of a $29 million package, intended to assist rural area transit services, from the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration.

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A pilot escaped injury last week after a rope ladder broke while he was disembarking a ship in the harbor of Durban, South Africa. The news was reported by Maritime Executive.

On the morning of April 28, emergency services were alerted that a pilot had fallen into the sea from a crude oil tanker. A rescue boat, medics and police search and rescue teams were activated.

Witnesses reported that a securing rope on a rope ladder had severed for unknown reasons while the pilot disembarked.

In an effort to protect him from injury, the pilot boat veered away from the ship, allowing the pilot enough space to push away from the ship’s hull and avoid being sucked into the propellers.

The crew of the pilot boat rescued him from the water and took him to shore, where they were met by police and emergency medical personnel.

The pilot was treated for mild hypothermia and transported, as a precaution, to a hospital for observation. He was expected to make a full recovery.

“The immediate reaction of the skipper and crew of the pilot vessel LUFAFA and the calm and deliberate actions taken by the casualty after he fell into the water contributed to his survival, and they are commended,” said Durban National Search and Rescue Jonathan Kellerman in a statement.

The cause of the incident is under investigation.

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The Department of Homeland Security has pushed back the deadline to get a REAL ID due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

The new date for REAL ID enforcement will be Oct, 1, 2021.

The delay is due to the coronavirus pandemic and the national emergency declaration.

States have also temporarily closed or restricted access to motor vehicle departments, which would prevent Americans from applying for and receiving their REAL ID.

People who do not obtain a compliant ID card by Oct. 21, 2021, will not be allowed to board an airplane, enter a federal building or go on a military base.

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The International Transport Workers’ Federation says some companies are trying to use the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to undermine industry standards and lower mariners’ wages.

In a statement released last week, the ITF said some employers are trying to undercut hard-won improvements in working conditions by replacing domestic crews with seafarers working under international terms and conditions that are substantially lower.

“The pandemic cannot be used as an excuse for shipowners, managers or crewing agencies to dismiss their obligation to protect local jobs, local conditions or the health, safety and economic standards in an industry–especially for key workers including seafarers,” the union said.

“Regardless of a seafarer’s nationality, he or she deserves to work under the terms and conditions applicable in national trade.”

The international union federation reported that a number of ferry companies have laid off seafarers since the pandemic began, forcing them to choose between taking unpaid leave or being furloughed.

“Further,” the ITF says, “companies are using the pandemic to undermine long existing collective bargaining agreements,” calling such actions “totally unacceptable.”

“National governments must play a role in ensuring market downturns due to Covid-19 do not turn into unfair redundancies for seafarers or undercut current wages,” says James Given, president of Seafarers International Union of Canada and chair of the ITF Cabotage Taskforce.

“Now more than ever, critical trade routes that deliver essential supplies should be crewed with national seafarers. To use this pandemic as an opportunity to further erode conditions on ferry routes is opportunism at its worst.”

Companies that receive government funds have an obligation to ensure jobs for domestic seafarers since those funds are taxpayers’ money, he says.

He urged governments to require employers who receive public funds to protect the wages of furloughed seafarers and preserve existing terms and conditions of employment.

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Thirty-nine bulk carriers with a total of 173 seafarers aboard were lost between 2010 and 2019, according to the trade association INTERCARGO, which represents the owners of dry cargo bulk carriers.

The group’s Bulk Carrier Casualty Report 2019 includes an analysis of ship losses—and their suspected causes—between 2010 and 2019.

Shifting cargo, liquefaction or both were responsible for the greatest loss of life over the past 10 years: 106 mariners who died in eight bulk carrier casualties.

The most common reported cause of ship loss was grounding (17 ships).

Losses due to flooding accounted for five ships. The loss of four ships in the period was attributed to “unknown causes.”

INTERCARGO said in a statement that it welcomes the latest amendment to the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code, which will enter into force on Jan. 1, 2021, because it incorporates lessons learned from the loss of the BULK JUPITER, which was carrying a cargo of bauxite fines.

The International Maritime Organization is expected to consider additional bulk and ore carrier safety measures in SOLAS chapter XII, and the 2011 International Code on the Enhanced Program of Inspections during Surveys of Bulk Carriers and Oil Tankers.

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The American Maritime Partnership is seeking photos of American mariners to feature in its “Maritime Heroes Covid-19 Response” campaign.

The campaign will run on social media and be posted on the AMP website through the month of May. MM&P and MIRAD are both members of AMP.

What AMP is looking for is a good group photo of you and your shipmates, or even a good selfie of one or more mariners, with the names of those pictured and the name of the ship you are sailing on.

No need to include any additional details.

The pictures will be used to represent all American maritime workers on the front lines. The goal is to show American mariners making American maritime work today.

Please email your photo or photos as soon as possible to:

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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 8.

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.

We now offer the following blended learning options:

— 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