Wheelhouse Weekly – October 18, 2011

October 18th 2011


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

Volume 15 . . . . . Number 42. . . . October 18, 2011


Did you miss a week? Back editions of the Wheelhouse Weekly are available in the section.


The Coast Guard is proposing sweeping changes in U.S. requirements for the issuance of credentials to both officers and ratings under its interpretation of the new Manila Amendments to the international STCW Code.  The general thrust of the Coast Guard’s proposal is to create a pathway for any mariner to move from entry level to unlimited ocean master by means of onboard experience and assessment–with a minimum of training and the associated costs. MM&P has filed comments objecting to the lowering of standards and the deskilling of officers’ positions on large ocean-going ships.

The Coast Guard proposes, for example, that a 1600 GRT master could have the tonnage limitation removed to an unlimited ocean masters license after six months of service on his limited license. Assessments could be signed off on by any mariner with a license higher than the mariner being assessed, a situation that could clearly raise the risk of fraudulent assessments, undermining the integrity of the licensing system.

The Coast Guard also proposes that a third mate could qualify for unlimited ocean master with 36 months’ sea service, without any time as chief mate. The focus, inappropriately, is on increasing the supply of higher level license holders, rather than ensuring that the mariners in question possess the necessary experience, abilities and skills to safely operate and manage large ocean-going ships. This is a strange position for the Coast Guard to take given the public’s zero tolerance for maritime accidents and the resulting environmental damage.

The USCG Merchant Marine Personnel Advisory Committee (MERPAC) met at USCG Headquarters Oct. 5-7 to consider the USCG proposal. During the course of the meetings, MM&P expressed its concerns with the new licensing proposal and debated with the interests that are pushing to reduce standards.

The proposed regulations and comments to the docket can be viewed on the website and searching for Docket No. USCG-2004-17914.    


A panel of international maritime professionals has named APL “the global ocean carrier of the year.” Members of the panel said they had chosen APL because of its success in using innovative technologies to benefit its customers. APL won both the Global Ocean Carrier of the Year award and the Innovation IT of the Year award at the Containerization International awards, which took place in London on Oct. 13. Other container lines recognized at the awards ceremony include Maersk. APL earned the innovation award for its use of a proprietary satellite tracking system to monitor the temperature and humidity of refrigerated containers carrying sensitive cargo, which the judges said makes ocean freight a viable option for companies that traditionally ship by air.


Horizon Lines says it stocks will begin trading Oct. 20 under an as-yet-to-be-determined symbol on the Over-the-Counter (OTC) market after the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) determined that its average global market capitalization had fallen below its $15 million continued listing standard for 30 consecutive days. The OTC is a decentralized market of securities not listed on an exchange where market participants trade over the telephone, facsimile or electronic network instead of on a physical trading floor. There is no central exchange or meeting place for the OTC market.

Last week, the company closed on a $652.8 million refinancing operation that it said will give it sufficient liquidity to fund its operations and cut its debt. “We now have a new capital structure that eliminates the refinancing uncertainty faced by our company over the past several months and better positions us for the future,” said Horizon Lines President and Chief Executive Officer Stephen H. Fraser in an official statement. “We have put in place a solid financial foundation that affords us the opportunity to grow our business and significantly reduce debt over time.”


The International Transport Workers’ Federation has charged the German operator of the Gibraltar-flagged container vessel PHILIPP with using a double book-keeping system to cheat the Filipino crew of their rightful wages. The alleged scam was discovered by ITF/Nautilus union inspector Tommy Molloy during a routine inspection of the vessel in Liverpool. “We often suspect double book-keeping is being operated on vessels we inspect,” Molloy said, “but it is unusual to get both sets of accounts: the fake accounts showing what the crew should be getting paid, and the real accounts which show they actually get paid approximately a third of what they should. I was also able to get hold of home allotment records–showing wages paid into banks–which were much less than those shown on the fake accounts. The amount of wages the crew had been cheated of was over $ 230,000.”

The companies involved, Vega Friedrich Dauber GMBH & Co KG and its subsidiary, Vega Manila Crewmanagement Inc., have admitted to the “discrepancy” and agreed to make payment in Liverpool. But representatives of the manning agency arrived on the ship the night before payment was to be made and allegedly warned the crew that they would have to give money back. Both the company representative, Vicente Fedelicio of Vega Crewing in the Philippines, and the captain of the vessel denied he had been on board before the morning of Oct. 4, even though the ITF inspectors had seen their names in the visitors’ book when they boarded. “Later, when leaving the vessel after payment had been made, we noted that the relevant page from the visitors’ book had been ripped out,” Molloy said.

Captain Meyn of Vega Reederei signed a formal letter of indemnity stating that no action would be taken against any of the crew by the company or any of its associates and that no attempt would be made to induce the crew to return the wages recovered.
But Tommy Molloy was concerned that the crewmembers were being threatened, and hours later he decided to return to the vessel. He asked the Port Police to accompany him in order to check on the welfare of the crew.

“When we arrived back on board it became immediately apparent that the company had taken back the wages they had so recently paid out,” Molloy said. “The company did not deny they had the wages back but insisted the crew had returned the money voluntarily. When questioned, all but two of the fifteen crew, some barely able to speak and all with heads bowed, staring at the floor, stated they had voluntarily returned their wages as they did not want them! The same crew had been delighted to receive their wages only hours earlier.”

“In my opinion, a high level of threat and intimidation has been leveled at the crew,” the ITF inspector said. “I explained to Capt. Meyn and Mr. Fedelicio that an employer has a duty to ensure that the employee is paid in accordance with their contracts of employment and if they are offered the wages back by the employee as a ‘gift’ any decent employer would refuse and would insist his employee take the wages they are rightfully entitled to. But clearly, being decent seems to form no part of their agenda.”
“We will follow-up in subsequent ports in order to check on the welfare of the two crew members who courageously decided to hold on to their recovered wages,” Molloy said.

Molloy added that the Gibraltar registry has said it is “appalled at the reports” and will investigate fully. “We have advised the charterers of the situation and we will be contacting various supermarkets who are likely customers for the fresh food produce carried, in order to discuss their corporate responsibility policies,” Molloy said. “Fair trade should also extend to the workers who actually transport the goods from one place to another as well as to the growers. We would like to know if such companies are happy to tolerate the kind of abuse we believe we have uncovered here.”

The ship left Liverpool on Oct. 4 en route for Bilbao and Dublin and is due to return to Liverpool on Oct. 11.


Salvage teams are working 24/7 off the coast of New Zealand’s North Island to remove oil from the containership RENA, which grounded 13 days ago on the Astrolabe Reef. Tens of containers have fallen off the ship and into the sea, but salvors are focusing on removing the remaining fuel before the ship breaks in two. As of Monday morning, more than 70 tons of fuel had been removed. The ship’s captain and second officer were scheduled to appear again in court on Wednesday. They are charged with operating the ship in a reckless manner.

In related news, the Guardian News Service has reported that the company that chartered the stricken ship met with representatives of the government of New Zealand and agreed to contribute to the clean-up costs. The company, Mediterranean Shipping Company, the world’s second biggest container line, has said however that the liability for the grounding and salvage is with the ship’s owners, Greece-based Costamare Shipping.


Large state deficits have been caused by the nationwide decline in housing prices—not by public sector workers and their unions, according to a study published last week by the University of California-Berkeley Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics. The study also found that public sector compensation has not grown as a share of public budgets and that public sector workers are not compensated more highly than their private sector counterparts, after levels of education and experience are taken into account.
“The bursting of the housing bubble was the precursor to the Great Recession and it is clear that the large drop in house prices (which capture much of the deteriorating economic climate) was central,” say researchers Sylvia A. Allegretto, Ken Jacobs and Laurel Lucia.

“As states struggled to balance their budgets in this weak economic climate, public officials in multiple states argued that the fiscal gaps were due to government workers and their unions,” the study says. “The fallout from the political jostling around public workers has been that hundreds of bills related to public employees and unions were introduced in state legislatures: most of which sought to restrict public sector unions.”
This year 12 states have significantly restricted collective bargaining through new legislation. They are Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Arizona, Idaho, Michigan, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming. “A common rationale for these proposals is that growing costs associated with public sector workers, especially union-represented workers, are at the root of state budget deficits. Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin says, for example, “we can no longer live in a society where the public employees are the haves and taxpayers who foot the bills are the have-nots.”

The study, which analyzes the relationship between public sector workers, unions and state budget deficits, found that the size of the public sector workforce per thousand residents is not growing and previous studies have found that public sector compensation, as a share of public budgets, has not grown. Researchers have consistently found that public sector workers are not compensated more highly than their private sector counterparts after taking into account level of education, experience and other important factors.  To read the study in its entirety, go to:


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International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) Chairman Spyros M. Polemis has again called on world governments to take stronger action against pirates. “The world community cannot tolerate the abuse and the killing of seafarers,” he said during a speech last week at the India Shipping Summit in Mumbai. Polemis said some Indian mariners have been held hostage for pirates by more than 18 months.

He asked in particular that the Indian Navy continue to make it impossible for pirates to operate within 300 nautical miles of the Indian coast, saying that this corridor “provides a relatively safe route for ships to and from the Gulf of Aden to the Arabian Sea and beyond.” Last month, in another speech, Polemis chastised governments “for ceding control of the Indian Ocean to pirates…” He suggested that western governments would be acting differently if the many seafarers held hostage off the coast of Somalia were “Americans or Europeans…. Sadly, one can only conclude from the current response of many governments that those thousands of seafarers that have so far been captured have simply had the wrong nationality,” he said.


The Ship Operations Cooperative Program (SOCP), an industry-government partnership formed to address maritime safety and environmental issues, invites you to attend its Nov. 2-3 meeting at MITAGS. The topic is safety/security issues and regulatory changes that affect the maritime industry. Topics include vessel security, mariner safety, the North American ECA and STCW. All industry representatives are welcome to attend. To register, go to


SOCP also invites you to attend a joint MARAD/SOCP Anti-Piracy Training and Technology demonstration to be held at 399 East Cromwell Street, Baltimore, on Nov, 1. The number of attendees will be capped at 200 and attendees will not be permitted onboard the ship. Please contact the SOCP Program Administrator for details: or (301) 538-7627.


The Offshore Division Orientation course, formerly called the D-Book Membership Course, will be held: Oct. 21-22 at MM&P headquarters in Linthicum Heights; and Nov. 8-9 in New Orleans. If sufficient showing of interest is demonstrated at other union halls, additional courses may be added to the schedule. 
Under the changes to the shipping rules that were ratified by the membership in August, members who want to upgrade to a B-Book or an A-Book are now required to attend the course. It is also a pre-requisite for D-Book status. Applicants should take this course as soon as possible.

If you are interested in taking the course in a port office, please contact the local union hall. If you are interested in taking a course offered at MM&P headquarters, please contact Mary Seidman at


U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has announced the appointment of Rear Adm. Philip H. Greene Jr. to be the Department of Transportation Chair at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. Greene had served as Superintendent of the United States Merchant Marine Academy since August of last year and prior to that, as director of Navy Irregular Warfare and commander, Combined of the Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa and sea combat commander for the Abraham Lincoln Strike Group during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Academic Dean Shashi Kumar will serve as Interim Superintendent of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. LaHood said DOT is launching a nationwide recruitment for candidates to serve as Superintendent.


On Tuesday, UK and US forces saved 23 crew members aboard a cargo ship that was hijacked by Somali pirates.  Upon being hijacked, the crew consisting of 7 Italians, 6 Ukrainians, and 10 Indians, locked themselves in a secure area away from where the pirates boarded on Monday, Italian official Ignazio La Russa told AP.

Shockingly, what saved the Montecristo crewman was dispersing a message in a bottle from a porthole, alerting ships nearby that the crew was safely sealed inside an armored area of the ship.  The message in a bottle was used after the pirates cut off all other means of communication to the hostages.  Ships nearby became aware of the state of the 56,000-ton Italian cargo ship, but what made the bottled message so important to their rescue is including their location in the armored room, keying rescuers that an operation could be launched on board without risking injuries to the crew.

Two Navy ships, one British and one American, coordinated with NATO’s Ocean Shield to carry out the mission 1,000-km off of Somalia.  Rubber boats circled the Montecristo, while a helicopter kept close aerially.  The pirates immediately surrendered to the military advancements and some of the pirates were allegedly arrested.

The Italian Foreign Ministry confirmed that all crew members aboard the Montecristo are safe.


Pirates boarded the oil tanker, believed to be Marshall Islands-flagged, on Saturday and are still under captivity.  The IMB official said they believe the crew is still board, and that there have been no indications that the crew was taken away.

The Nigerian Navy confirmed the ship as the MT Cape Bird, and that it was transporting 30,000 tons of fuel.  The Cape Bird was taken about 90 nautical miles from Lagos on Saturday night and is still drifting nearby.

Kabir Aliyu, Nigerian official, said that they have no information yet on the crew members, and that how many there are is still unknown.  Aliyu also said Nigerian and Benin navies are looking for the seized tanker.  All Nigerian Navy ships have been ordered to stop the tanker and arrest the pirates when they locate the Cape Bird.

This is another attack in the rising danger area off West Africa.  Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil producer, and allows pirates to hijack ships loaded with crude for black market oil trading.


U.S. officials this week are launching a mission on an underwater WWII shipwreck to uncover how much oil remains in the hull vessel as it sits off of California’s central coast.

The SS Montebello was a WWII-era ship that sank in 1941 after being hit by a torpedo sent by a Japanese submarine.  The Montebello was believed to be carrying more than 3 million gallons of oil, and as of recently fears have been growing about the possibility of a major oil spill, like the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill.  The Montebello sits about 5 miles off the coast and about 900 feet below the surface of Cambria, California.

The 440-foot Montebello may have been leaking oil over the years already, but officials say it’s likely that the majority of the crude remains in the hull.  U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Adam Eggers told Associated Press that the 70-year-old oil likely has the consistency of peanut butter, and that no one knows what oil this old will do.  Eggers said that where the Montebello sits on the seafloor, it is 40 degrees, and in the event of a leak, the oil rising to higher water temperatures causing it to warm and liquefy, or it could be a rock-like substance.


Chinese officials said on Oct. 9 that the bodies of 12 Chinese seafarers who had been killed by drug traffickers had been discovered in Thailand, floating in the Mekong River. The authorities said the victims had been working on two cargo vessels and that a 13th mariner remained unaccounted for. A Thai military official told journalists at United Press International that drug traffickers may have seized the boats to smuggle drugs into Thailand from Myanmar.


Try our on-line interactive calendar to register for class:

For class availability or info on MITAGS courses and programs, contact Kelly Michielli, Admissions Coordinator, toll-free at 866-656-5568 or Email:

BRM – Bridge Resource Management: 11/14

BRMP – Bridge Resource Management for Pilots:  11/28

[CMM – Chief Mate and Master Courses]

CMM-ADVWX – Advanced Meteorology: 11/14
CMM-ADVNAV – Advanced Navigation (=ECDIS & VPEN): 10/31
CMM-ECDIS – Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems: 12/5
CMM-MPP – Marine Propulsion Plants: 10/24
CMM-SHMGT – Ship Management (2 weeks): 12/5
CMM-SHS-ADV-I – Advanced Shiphandling (week 1): 10/24, 11/7, 11/28
CMM-SHS-ADV-I I – Advanced Shiphandling (week 2): 10/31, 11/14, 12/5
CMM-WKP – Advanced Watchkeeping: 11/28

CONT PLNG – Contingency Planning: 11/10
CHS BAS – Basic Cargo Handing and Stowage: 10/31
EP – Emergency Procedures: 10/19
ENVIRO-Regs Permit – Environmental Regulations Permit: 11/8
FSM – Fatigue, Sleep and Medications for Pilots: 10/19

HAZ – Hazardous Materials (5 day): 11/28

LAP-ORG 3rd – License Advancement Program for Original 3/Mate: 12/5
LEG – Legal Aspects of Pilotage: 11/28

MEDIA-RSP – Media Response Workshop: 11/11
MED-PIC – Medical Person In Charge: 10/24
MED-PIC -R– Medical Person In Charge Refresher: 11/14

MED-PRO – Medical Care Provider: 10/24
MED-DOT-DA – Dept. of Transportation Drug & Alcohol Testing: 10/29

MSC -SMA – Military Sealift Command Small Arms Qualification: 11/14

ROR-1 – Radar Observer Renewal Evening Classes: 10/19, 11/2, 11/16, 12/7, 12/14
ROP-5 – Radar Observer Original and Renewal: 11/7

SEC-VCF – Security Officer, Vessel, Company & Facility: 11/7
SHS-BAS – Basic Shiphandling: 12/12
C-NAV – Celestial Navigation: 11/7
…Remember: If you can’t make the class, make the call. Be courteous, don’t be a “no show.”

Check the MITAGS website at for course descriptions associated with the course title abbreviations, and schedule revisions.


Schedule of Courses – Please also see our schedule online at
For registration, call our registrar, Jennifer Pitzen, at (206) 838-1126
October 2011
21st      Radar Renewal
17-21   Management, Communication, and Leadership
17-21   Basic Shiphandling
18-20  Security – Vessel, Company, and Facility
31st     Flashing Light

November 2011

7-11     ECDIS
7-11     TPIC
7-18    GMDSS
28th   Radar Renewal
28-2    Medical Care Provider
28-9    Medical Person-In-Charge
29-2    ARPA

December 2011

5th      Radar Renewal
5-9      Train the Trainer
5-16     GMDSS
12-16   Radar Observer Unlimited
19-22  ARPA


D O W N A S D A Q S & P 500
11,644.49 2,667.85 1,224.58
Fund Name & Trading Symbol
 Vanguard Asset Allocation Fund (VAARX)
 Vanguard 500 Index Fund (VFINX)
 Vanguard Extended Market Index Fund (VEXMX)
 Vanguard International Growth Fund (VWIGX)
 Vanguard Morgan Growth Fund (VMRGX)
 Vanguard Windsor II Fund (VWNFX)
 Vanguard GNMA Fund (VFIIX)
 Vanguard Growth Index Fund (VIGRX)
 Vanguard High Yield Corporate (VWEHX)
 Vanguard LifeStrategy Conservative Growth (VSCGX)
 Vanguard LifeStrategy Growth Fund (VASGX)
 Vanguard LifeStrategy Income Fund (VASIX)
 Vanguard LifeStrategy Moderate Growth (VSMGX)
 Vanguard Target Retirement 2005 (VTOVX)
 Vanguard Target Retirement 2015 (VTXVX)
 Vanguard Target Retirement 2025 (VTTVX)
 Vanguard Target Retirement 2035 (VTTHX)
 Vanguard Target Retirement 2045 (VTIVX)
 Vanguard Total Bond Index (VBMFX)
 Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund (VTSMX)
 Chase Growth Fund (CHASX)
 Fidelity Asset Manager (FASMX)
 Fidelity Growth and Income (FGRIX)
 Fidelity Intermediate bond Fund (FTHRX)
 Fidelity Magellan Fund (FMAGX)
 Fidelity Value Fund (FDVLX)
 Fidelity Equity-Income II Fund (FEQTX)
Fidelity Blue Chip Growth Fund (FBGRX) 43.77
 Fidelity Diversified International Fund (FDIVX)
 Fidelity Dividend Growth Fund (FDGFX)
 Fidelity Freedom Income (FFFAX)
 Fidelity Freedom 2000 (FFFBX)
 Fidelity Freedom 2010 (FFFCX)
 Fidelity Freedom 2020 (FFFDX)
 Fidelity Freedom 2030 (FFFEX)
 Fidelity Freedom 2040 (FFFFX)
 Fidelity Freedom 2050 (FFFHX)
 Fidelity Total Bond Fund (FTBFX)
 Spartan Extended market Index Fund (FSEMX)
 Spartan US Equity Index Fund (FUSEX)
 Domini Social Equity Fund (DSEFX)

The MM&P Wheelhouse Weekly is the official electronic newsletter of the International Organization of Masters, Mates, and Pilots, ILA, AFL-CIO, 700 Maritime Blvd. Suite B, Linthicum Heights, MD 21090-1953. Phone: 410-850-8700; Fax: 410-850-0973; Email: For further info or to subscribe contact Lisa Rosenthal at The Wheelhouse Weekly is sent via Email to MM&P-contracted vessels at sea and is posted on our web page.

© 2011, International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots. All the material contained in this publication is protected by copyright. For permission to reprint text from the Weekly, contact the MM&P Communications Department: For changes of address, contact Lisa Rosenthal at