Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Coronavirus Relief Negotiations Stall

Washington, D.C.—Renewing the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for small businesses and creating an emergency relief grant for ports were among the issues caught up in stalled efforts by top congressional Democrats and key Trump administration officials to pass another major coronavirus relief measure.

Each side took turns blaming the other for being unwilling even to continue negotiations.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the administration’s lead negotiator, said the Democrats “have no interest in negotiating.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the administration “still does not grasp the magnitude of the problem that American families are facing.”

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump promoted his own executive actions on extending a reduced benefit to the unemployed, deferring the payroll tax, temporarily barring home evictions and suspending student loan payments even as questions continue to surround some of those actions and the actual relief they might provide.

In addition to the PPP, other issues involved in the stalemate range from relief to cash-strapped state and local governments to liability protections for essential workers and child care.

Sponsors also hope their bill to help ports recover from the economic woes caused by the ongoing pandemic as well as future disasters would be folded into whatever relief package was passed.

The Maritime Transportation System Emergency Relief Act would establish a comprehensive emergency relief authority for the Maritime Administration to provide grants to ports.

Shallow-Draft WAMS Study

The U.S. Coast Guard is seeking comments from waterways users, stakeholders and other interested parties as part of its assessment of the Shallow Draft Waterway Systems, the fourth in a series of studies to determine the navigation requirements for mariners in the U.S. Marine Transportation System (MTS).

The Waterways Analysis and Management System (WAMS) study will help the Coast Guard to determine the Aids to Navigation (ATON) requirements in the Shallow Draft Waterway Systems, which include all navigable waterways of the United States less than 12 feet.

“The WAMS study is focused on providing consistent, program-wide policy necessary to support Coast Guard district commanders in the execution and management of ATON services within the Shallow Draft Waterway System,” stated a posting on a Coast Guard blog.

“The shallow draft system is present in all nine Coast Guard Districts.”

According to the statement, recommendations will not determine what individual ATON to add, keep or remove, but may shape policy for the next generation of waterway system management and design.

All ATON activities remain under the purview of the local district commander.

The assessment is part of the Coast Guard’s effort to make navigable waterways of the United States safer, more efficient and resilient.

Comments can be submitted via the tool posted at www.surveymonkey.com/r/ShallowWaterWAMS, which is to remain available until November 1.

Questions can be emailed to CGNAV@uscg.mil using the subject line: “Shallow Draft WAMS.”

QMED Consultation

The Coast Guard is seeking mariners with Merchant Mariner Credential endorsements as Qualified Member of the Engine Department (QMED) to help validate information gathered as a part of a Job Task Analysis (JTA).

“This is a unique opportunity for you to provide insight into your job as a QMED or as a supervisor of QMEDs and contribute to Coast Guard examination improvements,” a posting on a Coast Guard blog stated.

“The Coast Guard will use the results of the JTA in consultation with industry to evaluate and update examination content for QMED endorsements.”

According to the blog posting, the initiative is to validate real-world occupational tasks carried out by mariners conducting JTAs.

Currently, it added, the Coast Guard is working on a JTA of QMED ratings with members of industry with QMED experience to identify tasks QMEDs are responsible for while signed on a vessel.

Mariners will be asked to validate the QMED tasks and report how frequently they complete the tasks.

Mariners who hold endorsements as QMED will receive an e-mail from JobTaskAnalysis@uscg.mil containing a link to the survey and its dates.

Links will have a unique identifier to record responses, which will remain anonymous.

Questions regarding the survey can be directed to JobTaskAnalysis@uscg.mil.

Autonomous Vessels

The Coast Guard is seeking input on the introduction and development of automated and autonomous commercial vessels and vessel technologies on U.S. flagged commercial vessels and in U.S. port facilities as well as input on barriers to the development of autonomous vessels.

Comments must be received by October 13 and can be submitted via the federal portal at https://www.regulations.gov.

“The Coast Guard views public participation as essential to understanding the emerging automated and autonomous commercial vessels and vessel technologies, how vessel owners and operators foresee implementing such technologies, and the Coast Guard’s role with regard to such technologies,” the Federal Register notice stated.

For additional information, contact Ted Kim at 202-372-1528.

Great Lakes Pilotage Committee

The Great Lakes Pilotage Advisory Committee is scheduled to meet September 1 in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., to discuss Great Lakes pilotage matters.

Open to the public, the meeting is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. EDT at the Hotel Ojibway ballroom, 240 W. Portage Ave., Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., 49783.

Comments and supporting documentations should be submitted no later than August 24.

Attendees will be required to follow as closely as possible COVID–19 safety guidelines promulgated by the Centers For Disease Control, including social distancing and wearing masks when in an enclosed space, according to the Coast Guard.

For additional information, contact Ellen Engleman Connors at 202-578-2815.

FLOODS Act

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) introduced the Flood Level Observation, Operations and Decision Support (FLOODS) Act to improve the forecasting and communication of flood, tornado and hurricane events by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Co-sponsored by Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), the bipartisan bill would establish a National Integrated Flood Information System to coordinate flood research at NOAA.

S. 4462 was referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which is chaired by Wicker.

OPC Homeport

The Coast Guard announced the homeport of future Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs) will be Naval Station Newport, R.I.

“NAVSTA Newport provides strategic operational reach and significant logistics support to our service, helping secure our national interests in the Atlantic,” Coast Guard Commandant Karl Schultz said.

As the Coast Guard’s top acquisition priority, OPCs are to provide the majority of its offshore presence, bridging the capabilities of the 418-foot National Security Cutters and the 154-foot Fast Response Cutters.

Their missions include law enforcement, search and rescue, homeland security and defense operations.

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