Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Biden Team Begins Transition Work

Washington, D.C.—Even without an official concession from the current White House occupant, President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team has received official authority to take its initial steps toward a transfer of power.

“In the days ahead, transition officials will begin meeting with federal officials to discuss the pandemic response, have a full accounting of our national security interests and gain complete understanding of the Trump’s administration’s efforts to hollow out government agencies,” said Yohannes Abraham, the Biden transition team’s executive director.

That action was made possible by a two-page letter to Biden from Emily Murphy, administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration, making government resources and services available to his transition team.

Abraham called Murphy’s decision necessary to “carry out a smooth and peaceful transfer of power.”

President Donald Trump, however, made it clear he was not ready to acknowledge Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as the winners of the 2020 election, even though his legal team’s efforts contesting election results have not prevailed in several states the Biden-Harris ticket won.

“In the best interest of our Country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same,” Trump said on Twitter.

He added: “Our case STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good fight, and I believe we will prevail.”

As more states meet their own deadlines for certifying election results, the Electoral College is scheduled to meet December 14 to cast official ballots for president and vice president.

Defense Impasse

Major defense legislation that traditionally includes key provisions important to the maritime industry and remains on a must-pass list for the current lame duck congressional session may be headed toward an impasse.

President Donald Trump issued a veto threat months ago over language on renaming military bases that honor Confederate leaders.

Multiple news reports indicate Trump stands by that threat.

After both houses of Congress easily passed their versions last summer, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) currently is in conference where differences between the House and Senate bills are to be hammered out.

An annual NDAA has been passed by Congress for more than half a century, and key supporters hope to keep that historic record intact.       

Grant Webinar

The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) announced it will co-present along with the U.S. Maritime Administration (MarAd) a free, live webinar December 3 on federal grant requirements.

Set to begin at 2 p.m. Eastern, AAPA said, the two-hour Federal Assistance Domestic Preference Interactive Listening Session is intended to raise awareness of domestic preference rules (Buy America and Buy American) and highlight best practices that can minimize project management disruptions arising from federal grant requirements.

“In theory, everyone’s in favor of using federal grant dollars for stuff ‘Made in America,’” said Cary Davis, AAPA’s senior government relations director and general counsel.

“The rubber hits (the) road, however, when (U.S.) ports try to source construction materials and cargo equipment that may have been American-made 40 years ago but have since been off-shored.”

Davis stressed the importance of the port industry’s work with MarAd.

“The government is looking out for our industry by: a) fulfilling its responsibility for maritime infrastructure; and, b) working with us to identify U.S. manufacturers that can build infrastructure back,” he said.

Davis added that participation in the session will be useful to U.S. manufacturers that might have the capabilities domestically to produce equipment needed by grant awardees, but may not realize the extent of the needs or the market size of those needs.

Those interested in participating in the session can go to https://bit.ly/3kLct8i to register for the session.

Terminating Distress Frequencies

The Coast Guard is seeking comments on its proposal to terminate monitoring four High Frequency (HF) voice distress frequencies within the contiguous United States and Hawaii because they are rarely used.

According to the Coast Guard, only four potential distress calls were heard over the four voice frequencies (4125 kHz; 6215 kHz; 8291 kHz; and 12290 kHz) during a six-year period, and none required a Coast Guard response.

“We would continue to monitor HF Digital Selective Calling (DSC) distress alerting for all existing regions and voice distress and hailing from Kodiak, Alaska, and Guam,”  the Coast Guard said in its November 20 Federal Register notice.

“We believe this change would have a low impact on the maritime public as commercial satellite radios and DSC-marine-Single-Sideband HF radios have become more prevalent on board vessels.”

Still, the Coast Guard specifically asked for comments from those who use HF but currently do not have a commercial satellite radio or an HF DSC capable radio aboard their vessels.

Comments must be submitted by January 19 to the online docket via www.regulations.gov.

For additional information, contact Russell Levin at 202-475-3555.

Port Bottlenecks

The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) expanded its Fact Finding 29 into cargo delivery system challenges to include practices possibly amplifying bottlenecks at major ports.

“The time has come to resolve the most serious impediments to port performance,” stated Commissioner Rebecca Dye, who has been leading the ongoing investigation.

In a statement thanking fellow commissioners for their support, Dye said she is focusing the investigation on “the extreme conditions in the Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach and New York/New Jersey.”

She did not identify any companies that may be involved.

“The commission has a compelling responsibility to investigate the situations that currently exist in our major port gateways. The commission is concerned that certain practices of ocean carriers and their marine terminals may be amplifying the negative effect of bottlenecks at these ports and may be contrary to provisions in the Shipping Act of 1984,” Dye said.

According to the FMC, the practices are related to detention and demurrage, container return and container availability.

Dye said the “potentially unreasonable practices of carriers and marine terminals” present a serious risk to the nation’s ability to handle trade growth.

“Removing the obstacles to port performance allows ocean carriers, ports and marine terminals, drayage truckers, American importers and exporters and every other business engaged in freight delivery to grow and prosper,” she said.

REC Juneau Relocates

The National Maritime Center has announced the relocation of the Regional Exam Center (REC) Juneau from the Mendenhall Mall to the Hurff A. Saunders Federal Building.

Mariners seeking to schedule an examination at this location, which is open for limited services only, may do so by e-mailing a request to recjun@uscg.mil.

REC Juneau’s new mailing address is 709 W. 9th St., Suite 322, Juneau, AK 99801, and its telephone number (907-463-2458) and fax number (907-463-2482) remain the same.