COVID-19 General

Coast Guard Makes Masks a Shipboard Safety Requirement. 

MSIB 2-21 COVID 19 Safety Requirements in the Maritime Transportation System.

Labor Demands Vaccine Access

Seagoing Labor came together to express a unified message of appeal for prioritized access to the COVID-19 vaccine as essential front-line workers. Address to all the Governors of the United States, who hold the vaccine distribution authority, as well as the CDC working group that came up with the original and amended prioritization schedule, here is the Joint Union letter.


Vaccine Information on the SUP COVID-19 Vaccine Page here


Guidance from the CDC on Shipboard Management of COVID-19

On July 20, the Center for Disease Control issued important new guidance on the "non-cruise" ship management of COVID-19 prevention, treatment, and sanitization. The guidance is detailed and specific to commericial cargo ships. Previously, much of the CDC focus was on the cruise ship industry since that is where many of the first serious outbreaks began. Although the CDC has no enforcement role on ships, the guidance may be an important first step towards a uniform set of protocols for handling shipboard cases of the virus. See the links below:

CDC Maritime Recommendations

For a description of the essential worker status of merchant mariners see the latest federal guidance here: CISA guidance on Essential Workers

City of San Francisco Board of Health Definitions and Risk Mitigation Guidelines and Regulations

Coronavirus Statistics from Johns Hopkins University

For the most detailed and up to date answers on all coronavirus questions see the following FAQ with references:  DHS Master Question List



To all the workers on the front lines: thank you!

Thank you to the essential workers everywhere, especially those in health care, grocery workers, and all forms of transportation, including maritime transportation. They deserve our special recognition as everyday workers and members who are risking everything, their own personal safety and the safety of their families, to treat the disease and maintain the supply chains of sustenance during the crisis. Doing it day after day, on the front lines of a pandemic, is above and beyond the normal call of duty. It's not what we expected, not what built into the contract, and more than what you would expect of the average worker. But it is not all that unfamiliar to the heirs of the professional resolve that won World War II, and to maintain such poise in the face of danger is somewhat second-nature: standard procedure for SUP sailors and American patriots.

Thank you too for staying at home when it feels like you are doing nothing. In fact you are facing down the boredom that can be as challenging as facing down danger. In fact you are staying healthy, ready to step up and relieve your Union brothers and sisters when the time comes. Doing that preserves our readiness and maintains the freedom and democracy of our entire hiring hall system. Thank you. 

Thank you for the additional work, for the additional precautions and limitations. Thank you for taking on more despite the potential exposure, and delivering the goods so that so many others can live better and with less hazard.

Thank you for the long hours, for making more with less, and against all odds for making safety out of risk. You are all heroes and deserve our highest recgonition, our sincere thanks, and deep appreciation. 

On July 10, 2020 maritime labor joined together again to set forth our understanding of the stress and tension of the shipboard work:


It has become increasingly apparent the COVID-19 crisis is not going away anytime soon. Our members aboard ships in distant waters as well as aboard vessels of all types in inland waters remain in grave danger and the global supply chain is at risk.

Despite continuous appeals for meaningful assistance from both maritime labor and U.S.-flag vessel operators, the federal government has not mandated enforceable standards of shipboard health and safe operations. Further, our advocacy for a consistent, reliable, and rapid testing regimen for mariners remains without definitive support. As the supply chain and military security of the country are becoming increasingly at risk, we have demanded a more active role of government in support of mariners.

Each shipowner/operator has established its own diverging policies and protocol, and they vary greatly from employer to employer, even from ship to ship depending on shipboard culture. In the absence of uniform and government-enforced protocol during vessel in-port time with such critical evolutions as cargo operations, vendor/contractor access and shipyard repairs remain essentially unregulated and haphazard. This is an unacceptable situation that is beyond the control of ship’s personnel.

However, as always, the burden on maintaining safety at sea remains in large part with the licensed and unlicensed personnel aboard ship. While every member of a crew recognizes his or her duty to their shipmates, employers and government must share ship safety responsibility through consistent policies and regulations. Health and safety aboard ship is a joint endeavor and should not be placed on the shoulders of mariners alone.

To do our part, we the undersigned urge our Members to take every precaution against the Coronavirus as recommended by company protocol and by such CDC guidelines that are applicable. Masks, social distancing, hand and respiratory hygiene, cleaning and sanitizing must all become routine and strictly maintained, whether aboard ship, in transit to or from a ship, in a hiring hall or at home in preparation for shipping out.

As your representatives, we are working together and using every advantage to both protect your health and safeguard your rights. With infection rates spiking again we must protect our lives and our livelihoods with renewed vigilance and discipline. Employers may intervene with reasonable or ineffective workplace policy; either way we will let them know that our contract rights remain in place. We understand the stress and anxiety of working in persistent and intensified danger and so we support common sense safety practices ashore and at sea. Your dedication, professionalism and perseverance is recognized, and your efforts are best honored by ensuring your own safety and that of others you encounter onboard ship, in your travels, at home or otherwise. Please continue to notify your Union if you have concerns regarding potential or actual COVID-19 exposure or the safety of your vessel.

Wishing all health, safety, and fraternity,

Dave Connolly
Sailor’s Union of the Pacific

Michael Sacco, President
Augie Tellez, Executive Vice President
Seafarers International Union

Marshall Ainley
Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association

Paul Doell
American Maritime Officers

Anthony Poplawski
Marine Firemen, Oilers, Watertenders and Wipers Association

Don Marcus
International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots

Unified Message of Maritime Labor on COVID-19 Ship Operations


On June 8, the SUP will resume its meeting schedule in conformance with all state and local rules and requirements for social distancing and safety. The meeting will be held in the expansive dispatch hall and is open to members only. Face coverings, a separation of a minimum of six feet between people, limited interatction, as well as strict adherence to posted hand and respiratory hygiene is required. Anyone who is or may be among the higher risk population, has an underlying health condition or is immune deficient in any way, or who is sick or may be sick, is urged not to attend. The meeting will span shortest period required to get the business done. The resumption of the meeting schedule is temporary and remains subject to any new health information or local orders.

COVID related credential extensions and exemptions on expirations can be found on the Shipping Documentation page at Shipping docs and credentials


On March 18, 2020, transportation labor including the SUP joined to set forth our principles in response to the COVID 19 pandemic. 

Access the position statement here in this letter to Congress signed by the Union presidents.

On this Workers' Memorial Day we are also taking action in Washington through our affiliation with the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO. We are pressing for passage of HR 6559 which would create a single emergency temporary standard of a variety of worker protections against COVID-19 in the workplace. Below is a letter from the TTD President Larry Willis to House members on the topic. 



April 28, 2020

Give Frontline Essential Workers the Federal Support They Deserve

Cosponsor H.R. 6559, the COVID-19 Every Worker Protection Act

Dear Representative:

Every year on April 28th, we pause to commemorate Worker’s Memorial Day and to remember and honor those who have been killed or seriously injured on the job. This day has particular poignancy this year, as millions of essential workers put themselves in harm’s way and continue to do their jobs in order to help in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. That is why, on behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), and our 33 affiliated unions, I urge you to cosponsor H.R. 6559, the COVID-19 Every Worker Protection Act of 2020, which would require the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) to promulgate an emergency temporary standard (ETS) to protect workers from exposure to the coronavirus.

All across our country, millions of transportation workers are among those who have been bravely doing their part to see our country through this disaster. They have driven the buses and trains that bring health care workers and patients alike to medical facilities. They have kept our skies open and operating in order to deliver goods and supplies quickly across the country. They have kept our supply chain running, crewing, loading and unloading commercial ships, and operating and maintaining the freight rail network that connects communities from coast to coast. They have helped keep our federal, state, and local governments operating and serving the public good. In fact, if you look at the guidance issued by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), every single union in the TTD family represents essential workers who go to work every day knowing they are putting themselves and their families at risk in order to serve the public good.

Unfortunately, these workers are being let down by their federal government. There is no basic regulatory framework that comprehensively addresses an employer’s responsibility to protect their employees from infectious disease. As a result, measures that have been proven to save lives, including full deployment of personal protective equipment (PPE), adequate cleaning and disinfecting protocols, and policies to ensure social distancing in the workplace have not been universally mandated or implemented. Instead, employees have been left with vague unenforceable guidelines that do not address sector specific or vocation specific risks and protective needs. An ETS is a vital and necessary step that the federal government can and must take to help protect workers and their families from occupational exposure to COVID-19. 

OSHA could act on its own and issue an ETS today, but so far they have refused to take action. Unfortunately, the administration’s recalcitrance – even as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. has soared past 1 million and the deaths approach 60,000 – has made Congressional action necessary. Not only will H.R. 6559 help protect essential workers right now, it will prove vital as our country begins to reopen. Even a modest expansion of economic activity and increased social interactions will add passengers and density to a transportation system that cannot protect workers under current limited demand. We can only do this safely if enhanced protective measures are in place. 

The frontline workers that TTD unions represent are proud to do their part to see our country through this public health and economic crisis. But it is simply unacceptable that they continue to do so without the federal protections that they need to stay safe on the job. As a country we cannot confront this pandemic with half-measures and voluntary, vague guidance that fails to reflect the seriousness of the situation. I urge you to cosponsor H.R. 6559 and pass it into law. Our nation’s essential workers deserve nothing less. 

Larry I. Willis



Please see the following guides and guidelines for more on coronavirus safety and SUP hiring hall operations:


Master FAQ list on COVID-19 -- DHS 

SOCP guidelines on COVID shipboard treatment


CDC Interim Guidance for Managing Suspected COVID 19 Aboard Ships


COVID 19 -- A Mariner's Guide

This is a useful and accurate guide that can be read and absorbed quickly.


CDC guidelines: Basic steps to protect yourself

Clean your hands often

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

Avoid close contact

Maintain at least 6 feet distance from other people whenever possible. Avoid close contact with people who are sick

Put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.

Take steps to protect others

Stay home if you’re sick

Stay home if you are sick, except to get medical care. Learn what to do if you are sick.

Cover coughs and sneezes

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.

Throw used tissues in the trash.

Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Wear a facemask if you are sick or if required by local orders.

If you are sick: You should wear a facemask when you are around other people (e.g., sharing a room or vehicle) and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office. If you are not able to wear a facemask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), then you should do your best to cover your coughs and sneezes, and people who are caring for you should wear a facemask if they enter your room. Learn what to do if you are sick.

Despite initial advice to the contrary, health experts now advise that mask or face coverings can provide some incremental protection. Some jurisdictions, such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, now require their use. 

Clean and disinfect

Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.

If surfaces are dirty, clean them: Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection

Check out the full range of CDC analysis and response here: CDC COVID 19 prevention guidelines


SUP hiring hall operations guidelines during coronavirus

As described in the President's Report of the March issue of the West Coast Sailors, and authorized by the membership, the Union is taking the appropriate steps to both safeguard members and maintain our the continuity of operations. Much of it is basic best practices of the type described above. Additionally, the union is engaged in the following activities:


Self-quarantine measures: any member who has returned to the United States from one of the World Health Organization’s affected countries or “hotspots” of the outbreak is required to maintain a 14-day self-quarantine. Any member who is, in any case, exhibiting symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath) must maintain a 14-day self-quarantine until free of such symptoms.

Remote service: During this period phone registration for shipping is acceptable in all Halls according to the normal rules (during the Port’s registration window, sequentially by call, etc.)

Ship visits: limited to an as-needed basis as individually approved by the President. Delegates are urged to maintain email and phone contact with agents and grievances will be handled according to normal shore-based procedures.

Best practice safety: Members and agents are instructed and authorized to use and enforce all safety and health best practices including but not limited to the self-quarantine measures above; reducing unnecessary numbers of people in gatherings, routine procedures, and job calls; practicing radical social distancing; frequent washing hands/use of sanitizer; cleaning and sanitizing on a daily basis; posting safe behavior information sheets; keeping contact to a minimum.

Risk Mitigation Measures

The Union also adopted several temporary measures in support of safety and continued hiring hall operations based on the recommendations of Emergency Committees convened under the SUP Constitution. Here is the outcome in memo form of both the March regular and emergency meetings: 



March 15, 2020


To: SUP Members and Agents

From: Dave Connolly, President

Re: Hiring hall operations update during coronavirus

As part of our ongoing coronavirus emergency response, and as authorized by the membership at the March regular and emergency meetings, be advised of the following hiring hall adjustments for safe operations:

  1. Union halls will remain open for essential business. Essential business is mainly job calls and dispatch purposes only. Registration and dues payment may be considered essential business, but members will register one at a time at the Branch or HQ designated time and only if phone or electronic registration is impossible.
  2. Union halls are closed to non-essential business. Supplemental Benefit or vacation applications, registration by phone, dues payments by check or money order, medical clinic dispatch, credential advisory services are all normal Union business activities that can and should be done remotely. The interior spaces of SUP halls are closed to visitors, members socializing, or members with business that can be handled electronically or over the phone.
  3. Union halls are not for congregation during the emergency. Members must arrive and depart the Halls shortly before and directly after job call. Attendance at job call is for the purpose of gaining work only: non-essential congregation is inappropriate as per the guidance of health experts. Job calls and job call periods may be limited. Branch agents are authorized to take necessary steps to protect the safety of members.

We will avoid congregation as a matter of health, safety, and Union strength. Thank you for your understanding and assistance in maintaining the continuous safe operation of our hiring hall system. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask me.



Like the Union, the SUP Welfare Plan and related trusts remain open on a limited basis, and subject to social distancing rules. For more detail see the related documents on the Welfare Plan page of this site.


Local Orders and Social Distancing Protocols

The SUP is also complying with all local, state and federal orders including but not limited to radical social distancing towards continuous improvement of safety and the mitigation of COVID 19 exposure risk. The following are the posted rules at SUP Headquarters in San Francisco:


By Order No. C19-07b of the City and County of San Francisco Department of Public Health

This hiring hall is an Essential Business under the federal, state and local public health guidelines. In accordance with those guidelines and furthermore, under the authority of the California Health and Safety Code, the City and County of San Francisco Health Officer orders that all persons at this location are hereby advised and required:

  1. NOT to enter this building if they are experiencing symptoms of respiratory illness, including fever or cough;
  2. to practice social distancing by requiring all persons to be separated by six (6) feet, to the extent feasible;
  3. to have access to washing facilities with soap and water or hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol;
  4. to adhere to communicable disease control recommendations provided by the County of San Francisco Department of Public Health.

All Essential Businesses shall implement the Social Distancing Protocol and provide evidence of its implementation to any authority enforcing this Order upon demand. The Social Distancing Protocol must explain how the business is achieving the following, as applicable:

  • Limiting the number of people who can enter into the facility at any one time to ensure that people in the facility can easily maintain a minimum six-foot distance from one another at all times, except as required to complete the Essential Business activity;
  • Where any lines may form at a facility, marking six-foot increments at a minimum, establishing where individuals should stand to maintain adequate social distancing;
  • Providing hand sanitizer, soap and water, or effective disinfectant at or near the entrance of the facility and in other appropriate areas for use by the public and employees, and in locations where there is high-frequency employee interaction with members of the public (e.g., cashiers);
  • Providing for contactless payment systems or, if not feasible to do so, the providing for disinfecting all payment portals, pens, and styluses after each use;
  • Regularly disinfecting other high-touch surfaces;
  • Posting a sign at the entrance of the facility informing all employees and customers that they should: avoid entering the facility if they have a cough or fever; maintain a minimum six-foot distance from one another; sneeze and cough into one’s elbow; and not shake hands or engage in any unnecessary physical contact; and
  • Any additional social distancing measures being implemented (see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance at:


If you have any questions, please call SUP Headquarters at 415 777 3400