Washington Waves
Washington Waves

New Tariff List Doesn’t Include Port Equipment

Washington, D.C.—The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) marked a “big win” when port equipment was dropped from the list of products targeted for tariffs in the trade war between the U.S. and China, a major goal for AAPA and its members.

“We were pleased to see that ship-to-shore cranes, straddle carriers, and other port equipment were removed from the list, as AAPA and a number of our members recommended at the recent hearings,” AAPA President and CEO Kurt Nagle said.

Nagle said tariffs on the cranes, which cost upwards of $14 million each, would have harmed ports’ ability to make the infrastructure investments necessary to handle increasing volumes and the larger vessels now being used in ocean trade, and hurt U.S. international competitiveness.

“Because trade moving through America’s ports accounts for over one quarter of our economy and supports over 31 million U.S. jobs, AAPA is encouraging federal policymakers to swiftly reach successful conclusion to ongoing trade negotiations to restore stability and certainties to U.S. international trade markets,” he added.

In a news alert to its members, AAPA described the development as a “big win,” crediting the efforts of its members to engage members of Congress on the issue.

Equipment dropped from the tariff list included gantry cranes, overhead traveling cranes on fixed support, mobile lifting frames on tires and straddle carriers, transporter cranes, bridge cranes and tower cranes.

That development came about as the U.S. Trade Representative announced tariffs would be delayed on items such as cell phones, laptop computers, certain toys and clothing from September until December.

“We’re doing this for Christmas season just in case some of the tariffs would have an impact on U.S. customers,” President Donald Trump told reporters.

Trump also described a recent call between the U.S. and China as “very productive”

However, it was unclear whether the next round of trade talks in Washington, expected in September, would take place as scheduled.

Environmental Board Terminated

The U.S. Department of Defense announced the August 31 termination of the Chief of Engineers Environmental Advisory Board.

Created in 1970, the board has met one or two times a year to provide outside expert and independent advice on environmental issues.

Officials did not respond to a request for comment on whether the termination announcement was linked to an executive order issued in June by President Trump directing agencies to evaluate the need for advisory committees and terminate at least a third of them by September 30.

A statement posted previously on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website indicated the board added value.

“Over the years, this board has served the Corps of Engineers well,” the statement read. “We intend to not only continue this process, but to also use the board as a vehicle of communication to reach out and build partnerships, understandings and cooperation with the environmental community, and public at large.”

For additional information, contact Jim Freeman at 703-692-5952.

INFRA Transparency

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) lacks consistency and transparency in evaluating grant applications under the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) program, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) stated in a recent report.

GAO recommended that DOT should document and communicate why it seeks additional information from certain applicants and provide information to applicants on how it uses merit criteria scores to advance projects through its process. Congress should consider directing DOT to implement transparency measures in its next reauthorization bill, the GAO stated.

DOT concurred with the recommendations, GAO reported.

In commenting on the GAO report, the American Association of Port Authorities revealed it was interviewed about the INFRA process by the GAO.

AAPA believes the INFRA program can play an important role in helping the freight network and supply chain to work efficiently for its members.

A provision in S. 2302, America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act of 2019, expands the transparency requirements of the INFRA program.

In a recent vote, the bill was unanimously advanced by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Coast Guard Reforms Sought

The American Waterways Operators (AWO) provided a list of reforms it wants in a final version of a Coast Guard reauthorization bill.

Those AWO-backed provisions include language to enact a moratorium on towing vessel inspection user fees until the Coast Guard completes a congressionally mandated report and promulgates a rulemaking to establish a differentiated fee structure for TSMS-compliant and Coast Guard-option vessels.

H.R. 3409, which the House passed by a voice vote, would waive the fee for all towing vessels, while S. 2297, which a Senate committee advanced, would waive it for TSMS-option vessels.

AWO stated that both bills include provisions codifying Coast Guard policy permitting ship assist vessels to nose out beyond the Boundary Line without additional manning or credentialing requirements.

Language granting Coast Guard authority to extend Certificates of Documentation and Certificates of Financial Responsibility during national emergencies or natural disasters appears in the House bill.

AWO said it also will continue to work with Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee, to modify language in the House bill limiting the establishment of new anchorages on the Hudson River.

Maloney, who has worked on that issue for years, sponsored the provision in the House bill to ban establishment of new oil barge anchorages on the lower Hudson River permanently.

DERA Report

The American Association of Port Authorities welcomed a new report to Congress on the accomplishments of the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) and urged its members to tell members of Congress to fund the program at $100 million.

“The program will see a decrease in funds if the Senate does not approve additional funds, as the House only approved $55 million for FY 2020,” AAPA warned in a news alert.

In its fourth report to Congress on DERA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said the grant program has delivered significant health and environmental benefits to communities across America.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said DERA helps fulfill his agency’s agenda on children’s health, describing it as a top priority.

Since 2008, the report said EPA has awarded $629 million to replace or retrofit 67,300 legacy diesel engines, leading to an estimated $19 billion in health benefits and 2,300 fewer premature deaths.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the ranking member of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee and a key player in getting DERA signed into law, celebrated the EPA report and the program’s “$30 in benefits for every single dollar of federal investment.”

Carper has introduced a bipartisan bill reauthorizing DERA.

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