Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Spending Agreement Gives $7.65 Billion To Corps

Washington, D.C.—Members of the waterways industry chalked up key gains on appropriations, defense authorization and trade despite the historic drama of Donald J. Trump becoming only the third U.S. president to be impeached.

Top appropriators unveiled a two-bill, $1.4 trillion agreement to complete funding for the federal government through the rest of fiscal year 2020, which ends September 30.

The House passed H.R. 1865, which includes funding for the Army Corps of Engineers, by a vote of 297 to 120.

Both of those bills were expected to receive final votes in the Senate by week’s end.

If senators were able to get both bills to the president for his signature before a December 20 deadline (after WJ press time), the need to pass yet another stopgap measure would be avoided.

Corps Details

For the Army Corps of Engineers, the measure provides $7.65 billion, a hike of $652 million over the last fiscal year.

Other figures: Investigations, $151 million, a $26 million increase; Construction, $2.68 billion, up $498 million; Operation and Maintenance, $3.79 billion; and Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund projects, $1.63 billion, which exceeds a target set by a 2014 law and represents 91.5 percent of estimated revenues compared to a 2020 target of 80 percent.

The bill also makes full use of the estimated receipts and additional prior year revenues for the Inland Waterways Trust Fund and provides six new study starts and six new construction starts.

The National Waterways Conference also singled out provisions for the assistant secretary of the Army for civil works to receive $5 million, with a restriction on those funds until after submission of a baseline report and a work plan showing allocation of at least 95 percent of the funds in each Corps account.

The Corps also will be required to brief the House and Senate appropriators on plans to develop implementation rules and guidance for the final Principles, Requirements and Guidelines for Federal Investments in Water Resources (March 2013) and the final Interagency Guidelines (December 2014).

In addition to provisions for the Corps, the American Association of Port Authorities also focused on funding for other agencies.

Those include $104 million for Customs and Border Protection for additional staff; and $1 billion for BUILD (Bet-ter Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development) grants for Transportation with an increase in eligible port investments and leveraging local and state investments.

Defense Authorization Act

The Senate gave final congressional approval to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020 that includes important provisions for the waterways industry.

After that 86-8 vote, a December 20 ceremony was scheduled for President Trump to sign the measure into law.

According to Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, S. 1790 authorizes funding for the Port and Intermodal Improvement and Small Shipyard Grant programs, a report on infrastructure needs for strategic ports around the country, reauthorization of the Maritime Security Program and codification of a program to help retiring and transitioning service members obtain mariner credentials.

By codifying what the Maritime Administration was doing in awarding Port Infrastructure Development Grants and by authorizing significant sums for a similar program, the American Association of Port Authorities said Congress indicated continued investment in ports remains a priority.

Trade Agreements

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the submission of the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to Congress and the announcement of the first phase of a U.S.-China trade deal brought about “probably the most momentous day in trade history.”

Lighthizer said on CBS’ Face the Nation that USMCA is worth about $1.4 trillion in trade, with the China deal about $600 billion.

“It is extremely momentous,” he said, confirming the $50 billion China has agreed to buy from U.S. agriculture is in writing.

In a Call to Action, the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) encouraged members to tell Congress to support USMCA, which is expected to receive a vote in the House this month and the Senate in early 2020.

“Ratification of the agreement is crucial for the continued growth of goods flow in the North American bloc,” AAPA stated.

“Ports stand to benefit significantly from the increase in trade and the certainty USMCA will provide for the flow of trade and travelers.”

Ballast Water Regs

The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) received a briefing on proposed Canadian ballast water regulations that it said might adversely impact U.S.-flag Great Lakes operators.

According to the FMC, topics covered by the December 12 meeting included the origin of the Canadian regulation, the inter-agency response of the U.S. government and authorities the FMC has to investigate and respond to policies of other nations.

“As an Indiana native, I am looking forward to doing everything we can to ensure that our U.S. fleet is able to continue operating on the Great Lakes,” Commissioner Louis Sola said.

Commissioner Daniel Maffei, a native of Syracuse, N.Y., also referenced his connection to the Great Lakes region.

“I understand particularly well how vital our U.S. Laker fleet is to the region’s economy and to U.S. industry. As our commission has the responsibility to ensure all of our shipping is treated equally, we will continue to monitor developments of these Canadian regulations,” Maffei said.

STCW Assessors

Mariners may face a hardship in completing STCW (Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers) assessments after December 31 as a result of a limited number of approved Qualified Assessors (QAs), the Coast Guard acknowledged in a bulletin posted on the National Maritime Center website.

“In consideration of this, the Coast Guard will continue to allow STCW assessments to be signed by an assessor who meets the requirements specified in NVIC 19-14 until December 31, 2021,” the bulletin state.

“These assessments must be submitted to the Coast Guard as part of a complete application no later than June 30, 2022. Qualified military personnel need not be approved QAs and may continue to sign assessments after December 31, 2021.”

The bulletin also encourages mariners to obtain approval as a QA in accordance with 46 CFR 10.405(a). Additional information on obtaining approval can be found in NVIC 19-14 Enclosure (1).

For additional information, contact the Mariner Credentialing Program Policy Division at 202-372-2357.

Diesel Regulations

The Environmental Protection Agency is amending its diesel fuel regulations to allow suppliers to distribute distillate diesel fuel that complies with the sulfur standard that applies internationally for ships instead of the fuel standards that otherwise apply in the United States.

The affected fuel may not be used in the United States’ Emission Control Areas.

 This final rule is effective on December 18, 2019.

For additional information, contact Robert Anderson at 734-214-4280.

BCMR Moves

The Coast Guard’s Board for Correction of Military Records (BCMR) posted its new address 2707 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE, Washington, D.C. 20528 for submitting an application to correct a record.

BCMR moved in April from its former location at 245 Murray Lane in Washington.

Effective December 16, the change does not create or change any substantive requirements.

For additional information, contact BCMR Chair Julia Andrews at 202-447-4099.

OTI Licensing

The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) amended its rules governing licensing, registration, financial responsibility requirements and general duties for ocean transportation intermediaries (OTIs).

Described as mainly administrative and procedural by the FMC, the changes took effect December 16.

For additional information, contact Sandra Kusumoto at 202-523-5787.