Washington, D.C.—Federal agencies that impact the maritime industry such as the departments of Homeland Security and Transportation joined those that failed to receive their fiscal year 2019 funding under the two minibus appropriations packages signed into law by President Donald Trump.
Still, they remain open under a stopgap continuing resolution (CR) included in one of the minibus packages to prevent a partial government shutdown.
Funding provided by that CR runs to December 7, about a month after the crucial midterm elections.
Coast Guard Commandant Karl Schultz was asked during a recent House subcommittee hearing about the impact operating under a CR can have, and he readily explained why agencies and their supporters in Congress dislike them so much.
“CRs preclude us from starting new projects at the beginning of the year,” Schultz said.
Conceding he might sound cynical, he reminded lawmakers the Coast Guard has been “hampered” by CRs over the last eight or nine budget cycles.
“So, we’ve gotten adept at that,” he said.
As an example of an actual impact, he said last year’s CR came just as the Coast Guard was getting ready for a service life extension program on its MH60 Jayhawk helicopters.
“You saw just how critical those helicopters were to the (Hurricane) Harvey response in Houston,” Schultz said.
“We had a lot of helicopters doing a lot of important things for Texans there.”
He said deferring such projects can set the agency back.
“So there is a consequence and we work around it,” Schultz said.
“But ideally, having a budget at the start of a fiscal year makes us the most capable organization we can be.”
Marine Highways Potential
Maritime Administrator Mark Buzby said the nation’s extensive coastwise and island waterways system will be key in responding to population growth over the next 30 years, a corresponding need to move more goods and people and a freight system already under pressure.
“I think all of us here are in agreement that the answer lies back on the water, where cargo movement all began in this country before we had a road and rail network,” Buzby said in remarks prepared for his appearance at a recent marine highways conference—“America’s Blue Highway”—hosted by SUNY Maritime College and the Maritime Industry Museum at Fort Schuyler, N.Y.
“Our marine highways are really the only remaining surface mode of transportation capable of absorbing this excess freight volume.”
To even begin to tap the marine highways’ potential, Buzby laid out a list of options that included significant investment in modernization and capacity improvements, a repurposed pier and wharfage capacity and a coordinated effort from the 10 gateway offices to help local stakeholders create seamless extensions of the surface transportation system.
He challenged local supporters not to wait for a “bright idea” from MarAd and reminded them of what it takes to compete for a Marine Highway Grant.
Missouri Plan Delayed
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers extended the waiting period through October 22 for the Final Missouri River Recovery Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement Record of Decision.
Previously the Corps had set the waiting period through October 9.
For additional information, contact Tiffany Vanosdall, 402-995-2695.
New PREP Guidelines
The U.S. maritime industry could see discounted net cost savings of more than $9 million over 10 years under changes to the National Preparedness for Response Exercise Program (PREP) guidelines.
That estimate came from the U.S. Coast Guard as part of its announcement that the final 2016.1 version of the guidelines were available.
Effective October 1, the final guidelines followed a request for public comment on an economic analysis of potential deregulatory savings resulting from proposed changes that were published December 22, 2017.
Nine of the 11 comments received in response to two requests addressed a proposed reduction to the frequency of the Remote Assessment and Consultation (RAC) drills.
“We estimate the discounted net cost savings to the U.S. maritime industry over a 10-year period of analysis to be between $7.6 million and $9.3 million at 7- and 3- percent discount rates, respectively,” the Coast Guard stated in its October 2 Federal Register notice.
PREP guidelines date back to provisions on developing a workable exercise program included in the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.
For additional information, contact Jonathan Smith at 202-372-2675.
The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) said trade, infrastructure investment and a major water resources development bill topped the agenda of its Capitol Hill fly-in.
Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), co-chairman of the Congressional PORTS Caucus, kicked off a series of meetings that also included “the ever-popular” session with the Office of Management and Budget on the navigation program of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, AAPA stated.
Other key members of Congress that met with AAPA members from across the U.S. included House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.); Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart (R-Fla.), chairman, House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, Urban Development and Related Agencies; Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), ranking member, House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade; and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman, Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
AAPA said other issues on the agenda included the Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) agreement and Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) grants.
Duplicate Merchant Mariner Credentials (MMCs) may be issued free of charge to mariners whose credentials were lost as a result of Hurricane Florence or subsequent flooding, the National Maritime Center (NMC) announced.
In accordance with federal regulations, NMC said mariners can obtain an expedited replacement credential by providing a statement of loss by fax to 304-433-3412 or by email to IASKNMC@uscg.mil.
That statement should contain the following: mariner’s full name, date of birth, reference number or Social Security number, current mailing address, current phone number and/or e-mail address and a brief description of the circumstances surrounding the loss or destruction of the credential.
Unless otherwise requested, the NMC stated, any duplicate MMCs issued per the request process will include a corresponding Medical Certificate.
“We will make every effort to have duplicate credentials mailed out the next business day,” the NMC stated.
“Alternatively, mariners may submit a CG-719B, Application for MMC, to one of the Regional Examination Centers with the information above. If your credential is unserviceable due to damage or your lost credential is subsequently found, that credential should be mailed to Commanding Officer, United States Coast Guard, National Maritime Center, 100 Forbes Drive, Martinsburg, WV 25427.”
For additional information, contact the NMC Customer Service Center at 1-888-427-5662
Congress gave final approval to a Senate bill to boost the Marine Debris Program, improve maritime safety in response to the 2015 El Faro tragedy and create a Blue Technology Center of Expertise to help the Coast Guard with emerging maritime technologies.
Senate Bill 3508, Save Our Seas Act of 2018, was sent to President Trump for his signature.
“The prevalence of marine debris on our shores is a chronic issue,” said Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), the bill’s sponsor.
Under the measure, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration can declare severe marine debris events and authorize additional funds to states for response efforts.
On maritime safety, the bill requires the Coast Guard to enter negotiations with the International Maritime Organization on free-floating voyage data recorders and procure equipment to allow a radio, strobe or beacon to be attached to an object not immediately retrievable.
It also sets a one-year deadline for establishing a Blue Technology Center of Expertise.