Washington Waves
Washington Waves

MarAd Announces New Round Of Marine Highway Grants

Washington, D.C.—The Maritime Administration announced the availability of $10.8 million in grant funding for the America’s Marine Highway Program (AMHP), whose purpose is to encourage the use of America’s 25,000 miles of navigable waterways.

 “The America’s Marine Highway Program increases the use of environmentally sustainable practices to move freight across our transportation system,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said.

“These investments help local communities reduce congestion and create more economic opportunities.”

Acting Maritime Administrator Lucinda Lessley said AMHP provides essential funding to support the expanded movement of freight by water, while also supporting port communities on the coasts and inland waterways.

Only Marine Highway Projects previously designated by the transportation secretary are eligible to receive funding under the AMHP.

Applications are due by 5 p.m. EDT on June 25.

For additional information, contact Fred Jones at 202-366-1123.

Surface Transportation Bill

A $250 million program to reduce air emissions from trucks idling at port facilities was included in a much-anticipated transportation bill approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Passed unanimously, the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act (STRA) of 2021 now heads to the Senate floor.

It is to replace the FAST Act, which has been extended to September 30, and authorizes $303.5 billion out of the Highway Trust Fund over five years, which the committee said represents a historic 34 percent boost in funding for surface transportation.

Action on the bill comes as President Joe Biden and Senate Republicans are struggling to find common ground for a much larger infrastructure package.

“I’m hopeful this bipartisan product can be the anchor of a larger infrastructure package moving forward,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the committee’s ranking member and lead negotiator with the White House.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the committee, described his bill as the “first down payment” on Biden’s American Jobs Plan.

Republicans on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee have introduced their surface transportation bill, which would provide more than $400 billion over five years.

Democrats on the panel are expected to unveil their version after Memorial Day.

Infrastructure Negotiations

Waterways and ports could receive $22 billion as part of Senate Republicans’ latest counteroffer to President Biden’s massive infrastructure and jobs proposal, one week after negotiations hit a major setback.

Called a Republican Roadmap, the offer calls for spending $928 billion over eight years and sticks to traditional infrastructure plus broadband.

It also currently does not call for tax increases—a key part of the Biden proposal—and pays for much of the spending by repurposing up to  $700 billion approved in recent COVID relief legislation but unspent.

“It is a serious effort to try and reach a bipartisan agreement,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), her party’s lead negotiator.
In advance of the offer, the White House dismissed the suggestion that hundreds of billions of dollars in COVID relief funds are available to be spent on infrastructure.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters he planned to move ahead on infrastructure in July in response to a question about Democrats acting alone if bipartisan negotiations failed.

“Our goal is to deal with a big, bold plan in July,” Schumer said.
Biden, however, continues to hold out hope for a bipartisan compromise and cut at least $550 billion from his initial proposal that clocked in at more than $2 trillion.

Senate Republicans said that offer remains “well above the range of what can pass Congress with bipartisan support” and suggested the two sides were growing apart, not coming closer to a deal. Capito initially had proposed a package totaling $568 billion, acknowledging later that figure would have to rise.

Maritime Day Proclamation

President Biden proclaimed May 22 as National Maritime Day and used that decades-old tradition to reaffirm his commitment to the Jones Act.

“Recognizing the contributions of our merchant mariners, my administration strongly supports protecting the Jones Act—the cornerstone of our domestic maritime industry,” his proclamation stated.

“We must protect those who protect our country.”

Biden’s proclamation recognized the critical role the U.S. Merchant Marine plays in ensuring “our economic security by keeping our coastal and inland waterways open to trade.”

It specifically praises the merchant mariners for overcoming “seemingly insurmountable obstacles” during the worldwide pandemic.

Mariner Mental Health

The Coast Guard assistant commandant for prevention policy has published Marine Safety Information Bulletin 07-21 to highlight the issue of mariner mental health.

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have significant impacts on the U.S. Marine Transportation System, the global shipping industry and on mariners themselves,” the bulletin stated.

“The risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 infection and the prolonged nature of the pandemic have compounded existing stressors and created new stressors on maritime personnel, including feelings of isolation and physical and mental fatigue caused by pandemic-related restrictions on crew changes, shore leave and repatriation of seafarers.”

According to the bulletin, the Coast Guard is committed to working closely with industry partners and the National Merchant Mariner Medical Advisory Committee to identify successful strategies to promote mariner mental health, adding, however, such strategies will only be successful if mariners feel safe accessing and utilizing available mental health resources.

The bulletin assured mariners seeking mental health care will not jeopardize a mariner’s medical certification.

Information on the medical review process for mariners is available in the Merchant Mariner Medical Manual, COMDTINST M16721.48.

Tankerman PIC Endorsements

The Office of Merchant Mariner Credentialing announced the cancellation of Policy Letter 01-17, Guidelines for Issuing Endorsements for Tankerman PIC Restricted to Fuel Transfers on Towing Vessels.

The Coast Guard also said it will no longer issue or renew Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC) endorsements for Tankerman PIC Restricted to Fuel Transfers on Towing Vessels.

Mariners have two options to qualify as the PIC of Fuel Transfers for the transfer of fuel oil on both inspected and uninspected vessels: (1) Hold a valid MMC with either an officer or Tankerman-PIC endorsement (not restricted to fuel transfers); or (2) use the option for inspected vessels of designating a PIC with an LOD as described in 33 CFR 155.715.

For additional information, email MMCPolicy@uscg.mil.

NAVSAC Meeting

The National Navigation Safety Advisory Committee (NAVSAC) is scheduled to meet June 8 via teleconference to discuss maritime collisions, rammings and groundings; Inland Rules of the Road; navigation regulations; routing measures; and aids to navigation systems.

Open to the public, the meeting is set to begin at 9 a.m. and can be accessed by calling 202-475-4000 and using code 78281729#.

Comments from the public can be submitted at any time, including during the meeting if time permits, but to have them reviewed before the teleconference, submit them by June 1.

For additional information, contact George Detweiler at 202-372-1566.

MMC Input Sought

The Coast Guard is seeking input from mariners with national Merchant Mariner Credential deck officer endorsements for unlimited tonnage vessels to validate information gathered as part of a job task analysis (JTA).

With a goal of improving credentialing examinations, the Coast Guard is inviting eligible mariners to validate the unlimited tonnage deck officer tasks and sharing the difficulty, importance and frequency of performance of these tasks.

The Coast Guard will use the results of the JTAs in consultation with industry to evaluate and update examination content for all the unlimited tonnage deck officer endorsements.

Eligible mariners will receive an e-mail from JobTaskAnalysis@uscg.mil containing a link to the anonymous survey and the dates the survey is open.

For additional information, email JobTaskAnalysis@uscg.mil.

Shipper Advisory Committee

The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) has voted to establish the National Shipper Advisory Committee (NSAC).

Created by the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, the NSAC will consist of 24 members, even divided between exporters and importers who will advise the FMC on competitiveness, reliability, integrity and fairness of the international ocean freight delivery system.

According to the FMC, a notice will be published soon in the Federal Register soliciting nominations and outlining qualifications of applicants, obligations of NASC members and steps for applying for membership.

Pilot Ladders

The Coast Guard’s Office of Design and Engineering Standards (CG-ENG) has published a policy letter on the approval of pilot ladders and embarkation ladders.

CG-ENG Policy Letter No. 01-21 provides equipment manufacturers guidance to seek approval of pilot ladders and embarkation ladders that meet ISO 799-1:2019 or ISO 5489:2008, respectively.

In addition to harmonizing approval of pilot ladders and embarkation ladders with updated international standards, the policy letter provides updated guidance on embarking and disembarking of pilots.

Great Lakes Board

The Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation’s advisory board is scheduled to meet June 24 and September 28 via conference call.

Open to the public, both meetings are set to begin at 2 p.m. EDT.

Requests to attend or for accommodations to a disability must be received by June 17 and September 21, the same dates for written materials to be submitted and written copies of remarks for those who wish to speak during the meetings. 

For additional information, contact Martin Welles at 315-764-3231.