Washington, D.C. – Members of the waterways industry welcomed a funding boost proposed for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in a major spending bill unanimously approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Noting that the bill’s $7.75 billion for the agency’s civil works projects would be $751.5 million over the current level, Waterways Council Inc. described the proposal as a “strong” showing for the Corps.
The American Association of Port Authorities agreed, proclaiming, “Corps Does Well Under Senate Mark-Up.”
That celebration might be shortened, however, by the House Democrats’ introduction of a continuing resolution to extend government funding through November 21.
“While the House did its work, the Senate appropriations committee process is far behind. Because of this delay, we must pass a continuing resolution to avoid another government shutdown,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.).
A stop-gap measure was always a likely possibility for at least some federal agencies because of the time crunch, but members of the waterways industry had held out hope for a quick final vote on the bill funding the Corps.
That hope took another hit when a bid to advance the bill on the Senate floor failed as members of both parties blamed each other for the lack of bipartisanship.
In addition to the boost in funding for the Corps, other provisions highlighted by the Senate panel included those to make full use for the sixth year of the estimated annual revenues from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund and meet the spending targets set in 2014 for the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.
Concerning another Senate measure that funds the Department of Transportation, AAPA expressed disappointment the bill funded the Maritime Administration (MarAd) Port Infrastructure Program at $91.6 million, compared to the $225 million in the House bill and current funding of $293 million.
Approved by a subcommittee, that bill could move quickly to a vote of the full committee.
Committee Works On Infrastructure
A key Senate committee kicked off its work on developing its next major water resources development measure with a hearing on improving American economic competitiveness through water resources infrastructure.
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, cited his panel’s accomplishments on other critical infrastructure such as roads.
“Water infrastructure is also crucial,” Barrasso said.
“America’s water infrastructure helps move goods across the country and prevent catastrophic floods and disasters.”
Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the panel’s ranking member, also welcomed the hearing.
Both men spoke to their interest in passing a water resources bill during the current Congress, which would be in keeping with a recent pattern of passing such bills every two years.
Recalling work on the last bill, Carper referenced reports the committee heard that the Office of Management and Budget micromanages the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and that there is a lack of transparency on the budgeting and project selection process at the Corps.
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a former committee chairman, used his remarks to describe the impact recent major flooding has had on the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System.
Not a single barge has moved from the Port of Catoosa in Tulsa since May 13, Inhofe said, adding that the re-dredging of the channel made necessary by silt deposits may not be completed until November.
Lost Mariner Credentials
Mariners who lost their credentials due to Hurricane Dorian may obtain duplicate Merchant Mariner Credentials (MMC) free of charge, the National Maritime Center (NMC) announced.
Citing federal regulations, the NMC said mariners can obtain an expedited replacement credential by providing a statement of loss either by fax at 304-433-3412 or email at IASKNMC@uscg.mil.
That statement should contain the 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 said, 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.”
If a credential is unserviceable due to damage or a lost credential is subsequently found, the NMC said that credential should be mailed to Commanding Officer, United States Coast Guard, National Maritime Center, 100 Forbes Drive, Martinsburg, WV 25404.
For additional information, visit the NMC website, or contact the NMC Customer Service Center by e-mailing IASKNMC@uscg.mil, using the NMC online chat system or calling 1-888-427-5662.
Extending Sea Service Window
The Coast Guard is accepting public comments on a proposed rule increasing from three years to seven years the period within which qualifying sea service aboard vessels of the uniformed services can be used to satisfy the requirement for recent sea service to qualify for a Merchant Mariner Credential with a national officer endorsement.
Potentially resulting in a boost to the number of merchant mariners available for employment on commercial vessels, the proposed rulemaking would implement into Coast Guard regulations legislation that has been codified in statute several years ago.
Comments and related material must be received by November 18.
For additional information, contact Cathleen Mauro at 202- 372-1449.
Cargo Preference Law Courses
The Maritime Administration (MarAd) launched newly accredited, web-based training courses on cargo preference laws and regulations.
MarAd said the courses were developed in collaboration with Defense Acquisition University (DAU) and are intended to enhance comprehension of and compliance with cargo preference laws by other federal agencies, supporting contractors and program participants such as loan and grant recipients.
“Cargo is king in the shipping business and cargo preference laws help U.S.-flag operators remain competitive and put American workers first,” MarAd Administrator Mark Buzby said.
MarAd stated cargo preference laws and regulations protect the nation’s cargo interest by statutorily mandating the use of U.S.-flag vessels for cargo purchased, furnished or financed with federal funding.
U.S. cargo preference laws require that 100 percent of military and at least 50 percent of non-military government cargo be carried on U.S.-flag vessels
The MARAD / DAU curricula begin with an introduction to maintaining a U.S.-flag merchant fleet with additional courses providing further information regarding U.S.-flag vessel requirements pertaining to government cargo.
Available to the public, the complimentary courses can be accessed at https://www.dau.edu.
Demurrage And Detention
The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) is seeking public comment on a proposed interpretative rule that would provide guidance on how the FMC assesses the reasonableness of demurrage and detention practices and regulations under the Shipping Act.
That request follows a recent vote by the FMC to adopt Commissioner Rebecca Dye’s recommendations on Fact Finding 28, which included a recommendation to issue guidance in the form of an interpretive rule.
Comments must be received by October 17.