Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Coast Guard Proposes Change In Firefighting Training

Washington, D.C.—The Coast Guard proposed a revision of training requirements for mariners seeking national Merchant Mariner Credential endorsements as master of towing vessels (limited) or mate (pilot) of towing vessels on inland waters or Western Rivers routes. Under the proposed change, mariners seeking these endorsements would have the option to take a modified basic firefighting course that eliminates training on equipment that is not required to be carried on towing vessels operating on inland waters or Western Rivers.

Applicants who take the modified basic firefighting course would reduce their costs due to the courses being shorter and less expensive than the longer basic firefighting courses.

Comments and related material must be received by the Coast Guard by November 1 and may be submitted at www.regulations.gov.

For additional information, contact James Cavo at 202-372-1205.

Port Envoy To Address Congestion

The Biden administration announced that John Porcari will be the port envoy to its Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force to address congestion at U.S. ports.

“Envoy Porcari will work with stakeholders and others at the ports to address the backlog and associated delivery delays and product shortages being experienced by American consumers and businesses,” the administration stated.

“Disruptions in global shipping and rapid shifts in demand have led the cost of shipping containers between China and the West Coast to grow more than 90 percent compared to 2019. Containerized cargo volumes rose 40 percent in the first half of this year compared to the same time last year at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which together handle the largest share of containerized cargo moving through U.S. ports.”

On addressing congestion, the administration also touted the Federal Railroad Administration’s announcement making nearly $362 million available through its Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Grant Program and the “historic” $17 billion in port infrastructure investments in the bipartisan infrastructure bill pending in Congress.

Medical Certificate Extension

The Coast Guard proposed a rule extending the maximum period of validity of merchant mariner medical certificates issued to first-class pilots and masters or mates serving as pilot from two years to five years, reducing the frequency of medical certification application submissions.

First-class pilots and masters and mates who serve as pilot on vessels of 1,600 gross registered tons or more would be required to submit the results of their annual physical examinations between medical certificate applications if the mariner does not meet the physical ability requirements, has a condition that does not meet the medical, vision or hearing requirements, is deemed ‘‘not recommended’’ by a medical practitioner for a medical certificate or upon request by the Coast Guard.

“The proposed rule will not compromise safety because it maintains the requirement for pilots to obtain annual physicals and because it provides the Coast Guard opportunity to review the medical examination of pilots who may become medically unqualified between medical certificate applications,” the Coast Guard stated.

Comments and related material must be received by the Coast Guard by October 26 and may be submitted at www.regulations.gov.

For additional information, contact Eric Malzkuhn at 202-372-1425.

Navigable Waters Rule

A key Biden administration official described a federal judge’s decision to throw out the Trump-era Navigable Waters Protection Rule of 2020 (NWPR) as “significant.”

In his tweet, Michael Regan, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, stated his agency is committed to developing a durable solution to protect water quality and the country’s natural resources.

Congressional Democrats also applauded the ruling by U.S. District Judge Rosemary Marquez of Arizona.

“I have pushed for the repeal of this unconscionable rule since it was first issued, and I will keep working closely with the Biden administration to ensure that its new rulemaking is consensus-driven, science-based and consistent with the goals of the Clean Water Act,” said U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Several months ago, the Biden administration announced its intentions to revive a version of the controversial Obama-era Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, which preceded the NWPR.

In response to the ruling, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, blamed Regan’s failure to keep his promise of transparency on getting rid of the NWPR, citing the lack of evidence to support the claim it would lead to serious environmental harm.

An EPA press spokesman did not respond to questions on the court ruling’s impact on federal enforcement and the administration’s effort to come up with a new rule.

“EPA is reviewing the decision, and we’ll share more when we have an update,” he said.