Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Battling Coronavirus On Multiple Fronts

Washington, D.C.—President Donald Trump referred to himself as a “wartime president” as he pushed his administration and Congress for bold actions to help Americans cope with the COVID-19 virus, including a $1 trillion stimulus package that could provide billions in relief to industries hit hard by the economic fallout, small business loan guarantees and direct payments to individual workers.

“We have to help everybody. It was nobody’s fault,” Trump told reporters, making it clear specific numbers and provisions are still being worked out between his administration and congressional leaders.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) served notice his chamber would remain in session for as long as it takes.

 “The Senate is going to stay around until we finish the bill,” McConnell said.

His comments came shortly after the Senate gave final congressional approval to the House-passed Families First Coronavirus Response Act, H.R. 6201, that addresses free coronavirus testing, paid medical leave, nutrition assistance and unemployment insurance.

Passed by votes of 363 to 40 in the House and 90 to 8 in the Senate, the bill was quickly signed into law by the president.

Trump opened his remarks to the press by announcing several “important developments in our war” against the virus, including signing the Defense Production Act to engage domestic industries, activating the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Response Coordination Center to fully engage FEMA at the highest level, and dispatching two hospital ships, with one headed to New York.

In response to questions about the decision to close the border between the U.S. and Canada to non-essential crossings, he repeatedly stressed that trade would not be included.

“It won’t affect trade at all,” Trump said.

Those comments tracked efforts by the president and others in the administration to clarify his statements concerning trade in his televised address to the nation last week in which he included trade and cargo in new restrictions.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the administration’s point man in the ongoing negotiations with congressional leaders, blamed a misinterpretation of Trump’s comments and pointed to a follow-up statement during his appearance on ABC’s “This Week.”

AAPA Recommendations

The American Association of Port Authorities shared recommendations to members of Congress and the Trump administration to help the port industry weather the economic downturn linked to the coronavirus pandemic.

Those included $1billion in supplemental funding to the Port and Intermodal Improvement Program (PIIP), another $1 billion in “targeted, direct assistance” to ports impacted by the epidemic, $4.5 billion in supplemental funding to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Navigation mission for channel improvement and maintenance projects, exempt supply chain and freight movement workforce from travel restrictions and repeal the ‘301’ China tariffs.

Walk-In Documentation Suspended

The National Vessel Documentation Center (NVDC) announced the suspension of walk-in customer service, citing heightened concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.

Applications and amplifying documentation can be submitted via e-mail (.pdf filing), fax and U.S. mail, the NVDC stated,  adding one-year Certificate of Documentation (COD) renewals, certified copy of COD and Abstract of Title A/T requests are available via pay.gov.

To view updates and additional guidance and to download and complete application forms, customers were advised to visit www.uscg.mil/nvdc.

For additional information, contact NVDC by e-mail at nvdc.w.webmaster@uscg.mil or at 1-800-799-8362.

Vendors and repair workers, with identified points of contact and scheduled appointments, will be permitted on the premises, the NVDC stated.

NMC And Coronavirus

The National Maritime Center (NMC) advised mariners to minimize exposure risks of exposure to COVID-19 by submitting application materials and paying user fees electronically and visiting www.uscg.mil/nmc for latest updates on completing application forms.

Mariner training providers also were encouraged by the NMC to follow guidelines posted at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov. They can pose questions or requests for temporary approval of alternative delivery methods to NMCCourses@uscg.mil or 304-433-3720.

For additional information, contact the NMC Customer Service Center by emailing IASKNMC@uscg.mil or calling 1-888-427-5662.

MERPAC Teleconference

The Merchant Marine Personnel Advisory Committee and its working groups are scheduled to meet via teleconference April 8 to discuss issues related to the training and fitness of merchant marine personnel.

Open to the public, the meetings are set to begin at 8 a.m.

The number of individuals on a teleconference will be limited with availability on a first-come, first-served basis, according to the meeting notice.

A public comment period is included on the agenda.

To participate in the teleconference or for additional information, contact Megan Johns Henry at 202-372-1255 no later than 1 p.m. on April 1.

Merchant Mariners Honored

President Donald Trump signed H.R. 5671 into law to award the Congressional Gold Medal to merchant mariners who served during World War II.

“Throughout the Second World War, our armed forces relied on the Merchant Marine to ferry supplies, cargo and personnel into both theaters of operation, and they paid a heavy price in service to their country,” said Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.), who introduced the bill in the House.

“The Merchant Marine suffered the highest per capita casualty rate in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II. An estimated 8,300 mariners lost their lives, and another 12,000 were wounded, to make sure our service members could keep fighting. Yet, these mariners who put their lives on the line were not even given veteran status until 1988.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who introduced the companion bill to the Merchant Mariners of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act, in the Senate, called the Merchant Marine the unsung heroes of World War II.

Murkowski said a congressional gold medal is one of the nation’s highest civilian honors.

NOSAC Meeting Canceled

The Coast Guard published two separate notices on the National Offshore Safety Advisory Committee announcing the cancellation of its upcoming meeting and requesting applications to serve on it. Scheduled for March 24–25, the canceled meeting will be rescheduled at a later date.

For additional information, contact Cmdr. Myles Greenway at 202-372-1410.

Applications to fill one of the 15 positions must be received by the Coast Guard by May 18.

Members will advise the secretary of Homeland Security on matters related to the exploration of offshore mineral and energy resources.

For additional information, contact Patrick Clark at 202-372-1358.

Coronavirus stories in the March 23 edition of The Waterways Journal:

As COVID-19 Grips Country, Maritime Industry Keeps Moving With Precautions

Publishers Note: This Too Shall Pass, Right?

WJ Editorial: Towboats Will Help Keep Economy Moving

Washington Waves: Battling Coronavirus On Multiple Fronts

AWO Requests Subchapter M Inspection Suspension During Coronavirus Emergency

NMC Extends Document Deadlines, Closes Regional Exam Centers

Agency Guidance: Maritime Workers Are Critical

Coping With Coronavirus In The Marine Industry

PVA Seeks Administration Help As Two Cruise Lines Suspend Operations

Coronavirus Delays Chinese Investors’ Visit To Kentucky Fisheries Park