Washington Waves: March 26, 2018

Washington, D.C.—Deputy Maritime Administrator Richard Balzano, conceding even he did not know key details of the Trump administration’s infrastructure initiative, laid out markers the maritime industry must meet to participate, ranging from a heavy financial commitment from local communities to innovative approaches on maintaining and operating projects.
“It is going to be a very competitive plan,” Balzano predicted during remarks at the 2018 Spring Conference of the American Association of Port Authorities.
“It is not a stimulus package.”

Successful participants, he explained, will be promoting long-term investments “as opposed to let’s just get some jobs going here and get some work going.”
“When it comes to the maritime sector, we are included of course,” Balzano said. “That whole how-to and what has not been determined yet.”

So far, the administration has provided “principles” to Congress with hopes lawmakers will fill in details on how to use $200 billion in federal funds to encourage local and state governments as well as the private sector to provide another $1.3 trillion to fund infrastructure projects over the next decade.

Floor votes kept Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, from delivering his message to AAPA in person, but one reference in the video he submitted instead still connected with the audience.
“If I were in the private sector, and I were charging you money for one thing but actually taking it and spending it on something else, that is called embezzling. In the federal government, that’s called budgeting,” Graves said, triggering laughter.

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He was referring to a gap between what is generated by the harbor maintenance user fee and what is actually spent on harbor projects, a contentious subject for the industry.

“We need to be dedicating the dollars to the same purpose the user fee was charged for, and that is for ensuring the depth of our navigation channels,” Graves said.

In addition to moving ahead with a Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2018, Graves also singled out specific legislative goals such as multi-year and regional contracts for dredging, and additional flexibility and discretion for ports.

“We have got to be a more reliable federal partner,” he said.

Western Rivers Study

The U.S. Coast Guard announced it is seeking input from mariners and maritime stakeholders for a study of navigation requirements for the entire Western Rivers system.

Available until July 1, 2018, the survey can be found
at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/WRWAMS.

It is the third in a series of Coast Guard navigation systems reviews, which the agency’s Waterways Analysis and Management System (WAMS) will use to study its nationwide policy on the use of Aids to Navigation (ATON) system and delivery of marine safety information to promote the safety of future maritime transportation and commerce on U.S. navigable waters.

In addition to survey input, the WAMS study also will analyze cargo data from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Waterborne Statistics Center. Automatic Identification System marine traffic data will be analyzed and compared with environmental conditions, such as ice and water levels.

The Coast Guard’s announcement pointed out the ATON system on the Western Rivers differs from the U.S. Coastal ATON system due to the unstable nature of the river and channels.

Great Lakes Committee

The Great Lakes Pilotage Advisory Committee will hold a public teleconference meeting at 1 p.m. April 11 to receive a briefing from the subcommittee tasked to respond to Executive Orders 13771 and 13777 on regulatory reform and controlling costs and 13783 on promoting energy independence and economic growth.

To ensure comments can be reviewed prior to the teleconference, they should be submitted by April 4.

For additional information, contact Todd Haviland at 202-372-2037.

Boating Safety Council

The U.S. Coast Guard is seeking applications for membership on the National Boating Safety Advisory Council, which advises the Guard on recreational boating safety regulations and other matters.

Completed applications should arrive by May 21.

Applications will be used to fill seven vacancies expected in January, including two representing state officials responsible for boating safety programs, two representing recreational boat and associated equipment manufacturers and three representing national recreational boating organizations or the general public.

Members serve three-year terms and may be considered for a maximum of two consecutive terms.

For additional information, contact Jeff Ludwig at 202-372-1061.

Casualty Reporting Thresholds

The Coast Guard is raising property damage thresholds for reporting a marine casualty from $25,000 to $75,000 and from $100,000 to $200,000 for those called a ‘‘serious marine incident’’ that require drug and alcohol testing.
Established in the 1980s, the dollar threshold amounts have not been updated since then.

“Because the monetary thresholds for reporting have not kept pace with inflation, vessel owners and operators have been required to report relatively minor casualties,” the Coast Guard stated in the Federal Register.
In addition to providing relief to vessel owners and operators, the Coast Guard explained it also will see a cost savings associated with investigating the reported incidents.

“As a result, the maritime industry and Coast Guard resources will be able to focus their efforts on higher-consequence incidents,” the Coast Guard stated.