Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Jones Act Supporters Want Accountability For Waivers

Washington, D.C.—Major supporters of the Jones Act want  those seeking to benefit from a waiver of the 100-year-old maritime law to be held accountable by the government.

To ensure that accountability as well as transparency, American Waterways Operators (AWO) President and CEO Jennifer Carpenter urged the Biden administration and Congress to apply the relevant provisions of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act.

American Maritime Partnership (AMP) President Mike Roberts “strenuously” encouraged such accountability to avoid undermining American jobs and consumers.

Roberts said the Jones Act should not be waived unless it was to respond to an urgent national security need that cannot be met reasonably with American ships.

Carpenter and Roberts issued their statements after Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas approved a targeted and temporary Jones Act waiver in response to the ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline.

Roberts said the Jones Act strengthens the nation’s industrial base and readiness, supports U.S. jobs and infrastructure and protects homeland and national security

Carpenter described the law as the statutory foundation of the domestic maritime industry and critical to America’s economic, national and homeland security. 

Roberts said AMP does not object to the Biden administration’s “targeted” approach, which Mayorkas said was announced after consultations with the departments of Defense, Transportation and Energy to ensure the waiver was in the interest of national defense.

Maritime Workforce Training

The Maritime Administration (MarAd) has announced the designation of 27 Centers of Excellence (CoE) for Domestic Maritime Workforce Training and Education in 16 states and one U.S. territory.

“Our collaboration with these institutions represents an important expansion of MarAd’s role in supporting maritime education and will help form pathways to good-paying American jobs in our nation’s maritime industry,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, whose agency includes MarAd.

Five of the 27 centers are located on or near the inland waterways system or Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. They are: West Kentucky Community & Technical College, Paducah, Ky.; Delgado Community College, New Orleans, La.; Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Perkinston, Miss.; Hinds Community College, Raymond, Miss; and San Jacinto Community College District, Pasadena, Texas.

Authorized under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2018, the CoE program is designed to assist the maritime industry in gaining and sustaining a well-trained labor force while enhancing diversity and inclusion in the industry. 

 “These institutions play vital roles in our nation’s maritime industry by providing the training and skills students need to begin and advance careers afloat and ashore,” said acting Maritime Administrator Lucinda Lessley.

A searchable, interactive map is available on the MarAd website to provide information on each CoE designee.

Infrastructure Discussions

Despite huge differences on the size, scope and funding source for an infrastructure package, key Senate Republicans and Biden administration officials continued to meet and exchange ideas.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the lead negotiator for her party, told Bloomberg TV her group offered the White House what she called a “repurposing” of its original proposal.

Capito said a White House response was expected by the weekend, which would keep the process moving.

 She declined to be pinned down on an eventual price tag but acknowledged her original $568 billion amount would have to increase and expressed support for letting private investment provide additional funding.

“I think that is critical,” Capito said.

While acknowledging the White House is not on board yet, she also mentioned repurposing some of the COVID relief funding that certain states are no longer using, such as the enhanced unemployment payments.

Red lines previously announced by both sides remain in place.

For Republicans, that is repealing any of the 2017 tax cuts.

For Biden, it is raising taxes on those making under $400,000, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed that raising the gas tax would violate that red line.

Capito remained optimistic that a compromise could be reached but added it will have to come together quickly.

She also noted the different committees continue to work on infrastructure issues, citing the surface transportation legislation that could serve as an anchor to infrastructure.

“We’re hopeful we will have much more clarity by Memorial Day,” Capito said.

Biden At CG Commencement

President Joe Biden told the 2021 graduating cadets of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy that their nation’s ability to trade with the world is essential to its strength.

“Alexander Hamilton may have been among the first to champion the principle that economic security is national security when he created the Revenue Cutter Service,” the president said in his address at the academy’s 140th commencement exercises in New London, Conn.

“But if it was true in 1790, it’s gospel in 2021.”

More than one quarter of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product is transported through the waters that keep us safe, Biden said.

He noted the graduating cadets’ class motto: “We are the future.”

“I don’t think you have any idea how profound that assertion is,” the president said.

“The world is changing. We’re at a significant inflection point in world history.”

Biden delivered his first commencement address at the academy in 2013 as vice president.

Homendy Nominated To Chair NTSB

President Joe Biden announced plans to nominate National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) member Jennifer Homendy to serve as the NTSB’s chair.

 Homendy has been on the NTSB since August 2018 and has more than 25 years of experience in transportation safety, including nearly two decades supporting the NTSB’s critical safety mission.

Before her appointment to the NTSB, she served more than 14 years as Democratic staff director for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials.

Previously Homendy held positions with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO and American Iron & Steel Institute.

She received her B.A. from The Pennsylvania State University and is pursuing a Master of Transportation Safety Administration from the Institute for Global Road Safety and Security at Clemson University.