Washington Waves
Washington Waves

As Coronavirus Surges, Leaders Work On Relief Package

Washington, D.C.—With coronavirus cases surging across the nation, the White House, congressional leaders and others stepped up efforts on another relief package.

“I think right now the focus is making sure that there is stimulus relief for Americans who are hurting right now,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said. “So that is the current active policy priority.”

To speed up the legislative process, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) even suggested that package could be combined with an omnibus appropriations bill both sides want passed during the current lame duck session to replace the stopgap measure that expires December 11.

Despite that sense of urgency, the same differences that led to a months-long impasse on a relief package threaten the latest efforts.

McConnell quickly dismissed a $908 billion framework unveiled by a bipartisan group of senators, again calling for passage of a “targeted” bill now and leaving it to the incoming Biden administration to come up with a broader package next year.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) urged McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to use the bipartisan group’s framework to begin serious talks.

AWO Honors Richmond

American Waterways Operators (AWO) described Rep. Cedric Richmond as a “Maritime Champion,” adding it will work to ensure the Louisiana Democrat continues his strong support of the industry as senior adviser in the Biden White House.

“Rep. Richmond’s district is home to the second highest number of Jones Act jobs in the country,” AWO stated in its November 25 newsletter.

AWO has reason to expect the incoming Biden administration to be a staunch supporter of the Jones Act.

Biden’s campaign website states “the U.S.-flag Merchant Marine fleet and the men and women who operate U.S.-flag ships are crucial to America’s national security, our international trade relationships and economic development.

“For this reason, Biden has been a consistent and strong advocate for the Jones Act and its mandate that only U.S.-flag vessels carry cargo between U.S. ports.”

Richmond was named a senior adviser to the president and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Currently he also serves as a co-chair of the Biden-Harris transition team.

AWO also cited Richmond’s International Propeller Club’s Salute to Congress Award in 2019.

Defense Veto Threat

President Donald Trump issued another veto threat against major defense legislation that usually includes language important to the maritime industry.

Trump’s new threat targets existing law that provides immunity to social media companies for content posted by their users.

In a tweet, the president described the provision as corporate welfare that poses a “serious threat to our National Security & Election Integrity.”

“Therefore, if the very dangerous & unfair Section 230 is not completely terminated as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), I will be forced to unequivocally VETO the Bill,” Trump tweeted.

Previously the president threatened to veto the NDAA, legislation that has passed annually for more than half a century, over language on renaming military bases currently named for Confederate leaders.

Electronic Manual Submissions

The Coast Guard published its proposed rule to enable electronic submission of Operations Manuals and Emergency Manuals and electronic communication between it and the operators of regulated facilities, reducing the time and cost associated with mailing and processing printed manuals.

Comments must be received by January 26 and may be submitted via federal portal www.regulations.gov.

Under current regulations, facilities send the Coast Guard two copies of their Operations Manual, their Emergency Manual, if applicable, and any amendments to the manuals.

The proposed rule would allow them to submit one electronic or printed copy of the manuals and amendments and also would require the facilities to maintain either an electronic or printed copy of each required manual in the marine transfer area of the facility during transfer operations.

A public meeting has not been planned, but the Coast Guard said it would consider holding one if it determines from public comments that a meeting would be helpful with details announced in a subsequent Federal Register notice.

For additional information, contact Lt. Omar La Torre Reyes at 202-372-1132.

LGC Newsletter

The Coast Guard’s Liquefied Gas Carrier National Center of Expertise (LGC NCOE) published its 2020 edition of The Gas Gauge, a newsletter that shares Coast Guard updates about the liquefied gas industry.

Available on the LGC NCOE website, the newsletter provides information to both the Coast Guard and the industry on matters related to foreign and U.S. flagged vessels and barges that carry liquefied gases in bulk and the marine transfer systems associated with LNG/LPG terminals.

Plastic Pollution

The Senate gave final congressional approval to a bipartisan bill to address what supporters described as a plastic debris crisis threatening coastal economies and marine life.

Passed by unanimous consent, S. 1982, the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act, seeks to reduce the creation of plastic waste and keep existing plastic waste from entering the oceans.

“Save Our Seas 2.0 is the most comprehensive marine debris legislation ever to pass Congress,” said Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), who sponsored the bill.

“The progress we have made over the past few years on the marine debris crisis, beginning with the original Save Our Seas Act, is historic and constitutes a whole-of-government approach to helping protect our pristine environment across the globe.”

The bill now goes to President Trump for his signature.

Recreational Boating Safety

The Coast Guard published its detailed accounting of projects, programs and activities funded under the national recreational boating safety program provision of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act.

Made available from the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, the funds are used to pay for activities related to the national recreational boating safety program.

According to the mandated report, $709,802 of the $8.3 million available in fiscal year 2020 has been committed, obligated or expended with an additional $6.2 million of prior fiscal year funds committed, obligated or expended as of September 30, 2020.

Offshore Patrol Cutters

A government watchdog agency issued a report on reducing risks for a $12 billion acquisition of 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters, citing its design process, a deficient construction schedule and incomplete cost estimate.

Key members of Congress who requested the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report said it reinforces their concerns.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, called on leaders of both the Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to explain “how they plan to get this process back on track, ensure mission readiness, and protect the interests of U.S. taxpayers.”

Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), the committee’s ranking member, expressed hope the Coast Guard learns from the mistakes as the construction and recompete process moves forward.

“They must also work constructively with the committee to address the mission gap caused by these delays,” Graves said.

GAO said it is making eight recommendations to the Coast Guard and DHS, including those to stabilize its design and update its cost estimate.

FRCs In American Samoa

National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien announced the U.S. Coast Guard plans to evaluate the feasibility of basing Fast Response Cutters (FRCs) in American Samoa, citing China’s illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and harassment of vessels operating in the exclusive economic zones of other countries in the Indo-Pacific.

“Efforts of the United States government, including the United States Coast Guard (USCG), are critical to countering these destabilizing and malign actions,” O’Brien said in a statement.

He referenced enhanced FRCs already homeported in the Western Pacific and built “in a proven Louisiana-based shipyard.”

In a statement, Ben Bordelon, president and CEO of Bollinger Shipyards and chairman of the Shipbuilders Council of America, said: “Should the proposed feasibility study demonstrate a need for additional FRCs, Bollinger Shipyards and the maritime defense industrial base stand ready to construct and deliver the high-quality and high-endurance vessels necessary to carry out and perform the mission at hand.”

Earlier this year, Bollinger Shipyards delivered its 163rd vessel to the Coast Guard over 35 years and the 40th FRC delivered under the current program.