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American Shipper

Unions question Military Sealift Command’s cargo ship contracts

Unions question Military Sealift Command’s cargo ship contracts

   The presidents of four U.S. maritime unions met with Vice Adm. David L. Brewer III, commander of the Military Sealift Command, last week to voice their concerns about the naval agency’s handling of 11 large cargo ship contract awards.

   Two weeks ago, the Military Sealift Command awarded American Overseas Marine Corp., a subsidiary of General Dynamics, a $23.5-million one-year contract to operate, crew and maintain nine Large, Medium-Speed, Roll-on/roll-off vessels (LMSRs). Two other LMSRs were expected to be awarded to 3PSC, which meets the government’s small business criteria.

   The LMSRs were managed by Patriot Contract Services, which works with the unions Marine Engineers Beneficial Association; International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots; Sailors Union of the Pacific; and Marine Firemen’s Union. American Overseas Marine and 3PSC do not work with these unions.

   The unions told Brewer the Military Sealift Command's award of the vessel contracts to firms unfamiliar with the LMSR ships during the ramp up of Operation Iraqi Freedom III is “irresponsible and downright dangerous.”

   “It makes no sense,” said MEBA in a Sept. 10 newsletter to its members. “The LMSRs are gearing up right now, to carry supplies — humanitarian and reconstruction aid to our troops overseas — yet MSC unseats the incumbent Patriot Contract Services and the shipboard personnel will have to be changed out. Where is the concern for ‘national defense’ now?”

   MEBA, in particular, pointed out to the Military Sealift Command that the cost of the award is “false — enormously understated.”

   The unions said they would continue to fight the new contract awards.

   “At this point, only two things are certain. First, there is much yet to be uncovered about this dangerous, very questionable deal. Second, MEBA will fight this injustice and will not stop until the government gets it right,” MEBA said.

   The Military Sealift Command operates more than 110 noncombatant, civilian-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships at sea and perform other military support services around the world.

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