SIU Retains Jobs Aboard SL-7s, Telemetry Ships

March 2011

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The much-anticipated award of operating agreements covering eight fast sealift ships and two telemetry vessels happened in mid-February, and SIU-contracted companies were selected to operate all 10 ships.


Turnover on the U.S. Maritime Administration’s (MarAd) fast sealift ships, also known as SL-7s, is scheduled for March 1. Those vessels are the Regulus, Pollux, Denebola, Antares, Altair, Bellatrix, Algol and Capella. The telemetry ships – the Pacific Collector and Pacific Tracker – remain with their old operator, Interocean American Shipping (IAS).


IAS also will operate the Altair and Bellatrix, while Ocean Shipholdings, Inc. will operate the Algol and Capella. Keystone Shipping will operate the Regulus, Pollux, Denebola and Antares.


The respective contracts are for one year, but they have a series of options that would extend the term to five years.


U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said the awards “will help make sure these important ships are manned with skilled mariners and are ready when our nation calls.”


SIU Vice President Contracts George Tricker stated, “We are thrilled by the announcement. Any time you have job security for the next five years, it’s a bonus. Our membership values these jobs and is eager to continue manning these vessels to the highest standard.”


Company officials were no less enthused.


Capt. Louis Cavaliere (USN-Ret.), Keystone’s general manage for government contracts, said his organization “is delighted to inherit the operation of the SL7s, which have a very unique and distinguished history. We are further delighted to be able to work these ships which are so close to our home office in Philadelphia. And finally, we look forward with our labor partners to ensure a smooth transition and a successful operation of these vessels.”


Bob Rogers, vice president of human resources at IAS, said his company “is gratified to be able to continue our relationship with MarAd aboard the Tracker, Collector, Altair and Bellatrix. Our ability to perform to the high standards demanded by MarAd has only been made possible through the dedication of the reduced operating status and full operating status SIU crews and AMO officers we have been so fortunate to employ. The crews aboard our current MarAd vessels – Petersburg and Cornhusker, Gopher and Flickertail State – plus the personnel we’ve had on the Tracker and Collector under General Agency can only be described as excellent. This award is a credit to IAS, AMO and SIU, and we appreciate the teamwork we have been able to achieve.”


Jim McGregor, president and chief operating officer at Ocean Shipholdings, stated, “We are really pleased, appreciative and excited that MarAd has awarded us the small-business set aside on the two ships in Alameda, Calif., which are critical mission ships for national defense. We as a ship operator and you as a union are working together for our mutual benefit and for the benefit of the United States Merchant Marine.”


The fast sealift ships officially became part of MarAd’s Ready Reserve Force (RRF) in October 2008, although custody of the vessels had been transferred from the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command a year earlier. They were built as containerships but have been converted and given roll-on/roll-off features, cranes and a series of decks connected by ramps so that vehicles can be driven in and out of storage areas for rapid loading and unloading.


According to MarAd, fast sealift ships “are currently the fastest cargo ships in the world, capable of speeds in excess of 30 knots. The ships are capable of sailing from the U.S. East Coast to Europe in just six days and to the Persian Gulf via the Suez Canal in only 18 days, thus ensuring rapid delivery of military equipment in any crisis. When combined, all eight fast sealift ships are able to transport nearly all the equipment needed to outfit a full mechanized division of the U.S. Army.”


The vessels have been utilized during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, and they were a major asset during the Persian Gulf War. Some helped play a key early role in helping provide relief after Hurricane Katrina.

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