Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Infrastructure Bills Advance In House

Washington, D.C.—House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) once again managed divisions within her own caucus to advance a $3.5 trillion human infrastructure proposal and keep alive a trillion-dollar traditional infrastructure bill that includes $17 billion for ports and waterways.

“We are committed to passing the bipartisan infrastructure bill by September 27,” Pelosi said in a letter to her fellow Democrats.

That commitment led a group of moderate Democrats who had been insisting the bipartisan bill move first to support the much larger nontraditional proposal and wait for what could be a final vote on the trillion-dollar bill, which has passed the Senate already.

With the moderate Democrats on board, the vote to move ahead with the $3.5 trillion effort came down to a party-line vote of 220-212.

That action set up a weeks-long process to put the human infrastructure framework into actual legislative language that supporters describe as transformative and will cover policies ranging from universal child care and Medicare expansion to climate change.

Pelosi told reporters the goal is to have the legislative language from various committees by September 15.

The next challenge for Democratic leaders will be to put together a measure that not only pleases their progressive members but also wins the support of all 50 Democrats in the Senate, which sets up Vice President Kamala Harris to cast the tie-breaking vote in that evenly divided chamber.

Marine Highway Projects

The Maritime Administration (MarAd) announced the designation of six new Marine Highway Projects and a new Marine Highway Route as part of the America’s Marine Highway Program (AMHP), which encourages the use of navigable waterways.

A designation makes projects on Marine Highway Routes eligible for grants when AMHP funding is available, MarAd stated.

In May, the Transportation Department announced the availability of nearly $11 million in grant funding through the AMHP, which will be awarded to advance marine highway projects previously designated. 

“These new project designations will improve the movement of freight by water all around the nation, including along our coasts, on our inland waterways and to Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands,” said acting Maritime Administrator Lucinda Lessley.

“Making better use of our inland waterways can boost America’s maritime industry and create jobs while cutting emissions and traffic congestion.”

Since its inception, the AMHP has designated 46 Marine Highway Projects. 

The new project designations:

• M-5 Coastal Connector (California/Oregon/Washington),

• Missouri River Container on Barge Project (Missouri) (see related article in this issue),

• Port Raritan Terminal Facility (New Jersey),

• M-90 Transbay Freight Service Project (Wisconsin)

• Guam Marine Transportation Enhancement Initiative (Guam) and 

• CNMI Freight Improvement Project (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands).

The new route designation:

• Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Route designation (M-GNM1).

Credential Application Advice

To help streamline application processing for Merchant Mariner credentials, the National Maritime Center (NMC) suggested mariners apply 90 days in advance and ensure applications and electronic files are complete.

NMC said 50 percent of all application submissions need additional information.

Other suggestions from NMC, which continues to experience increased processing times for MMC and medical certificate applications: Submit MMC and medical certificate applications electronically in PDF format only, and do not submit pictures from a smart phone or in other digital format, which are not accepted. Multiple smaller files are no longer needed because of the new size limit for electronic submission. Include height, weight and gender in applications.

To request expedited service, contact the customer service center at IASKMMC@uscg.mil.

Qualified Assessors

Once again citing hardships faced by mariners due to a limited number of approved Qualified Assessors, the Coast Guard announced it will continue to allow STCW assessments to be signed by an assessor who meets requirements specified in NVIC 19-14 until December 31, 2023.

“These assessments must be submitted to the Coast Guard as part of a complete application no later than June 30, 2024,” stated an announcement on the NMC website.

Mariners were encouraged to obtain approval as a QA and can find additional information in NVIC 19-14 at www.dco.uscg.mil/Our-Organization/NVIC/.

They and other interested parties also can contact the Mariner Credentialing Program Policy Division at 202-372-2357 or MMCPolicy@uscg.mil.

NVDC Emails

Touting an improvement in service, the National Vessel Documentation Center (NVDC) announced that beginning August 26 customers will receive confirmation emails in response to submissions sent to vdc-pf-nvdcrenewals@uscg.mil or nvdcrenewals2@uscg.mil.

Responses will indicate either ‘Submission Received’ or ‘Submission Not Accepted’ in the subject line, with additional information in the body of the response, the NVDC stated.

“Please ensure all attachments are in .pdf format,” the agency added.

Section 401

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, applauded action by the Biden administration on implementation of 2020 Clean Water Act’s Section 401 certification rule linked to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permits.

Carper said that action was included in a joint memorandum issued by the Corps and the Environmental Protection Agency, adding it also would delay finalization of pending nationwide permits and allow a full review by states and tribes.

“This action is a good step forward on advancing clean water access and flexibility for our states and tribes,” said the senator.

Medical Advisory Committee

The National Merchant Mariner Medical Advisory Committee will meet September 8 via teleconference to discuss matters relating to medical certification determinations for issuance of licenses, medical standards and guidelines for the physical qualifications of operators of commercial vessels, medical examiner education and other topics.

Open to the public, the meeting is set to begin at 11 a.m.

Written comments should be submitted by September 1 to ensure they are received prior to the meeting.

To participate, contact Michael Lalor at 202-372-1361 by 1 p.m. September 1.

Teleconference lines are limited and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.


The Maritime Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (MACOSH) is scheduled to meet September 14 by teleconference and WebEx to discuss issues including power mechanic safety, ondock rails, safe use of small boats in the workplace and worker participation in reducing workplace injuries.

Set to begin at 1 p.m., the meeting can be accessed by the teleconference number 1-888-566-5976 and passcode 6446452.

Comments and requests to speak must be submitted electronically by September 7 to www.regulations.gov.

For additional information, contact Amy Wangdahl at 202-693-2066.