Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Next Inland Waterways Users Board and N-MERPAC Meetings Scheduled

Washington, D.C.—After a year-long suspension, the Inland Waterways Users Board is scheduled to meet on April 20 in its first meeting since being reactivated.

Open to the public, the meeting is set to begin at 10 a.m. at the Westin New Orleans Canal Place, 100 Iberville St., New Orleans, La. 70130.

A virtual portion of the meeting is to be accessible at https://usace1.webex.com/meet/ndc.nav; public call-in: USA toll-free 844-800-2712, USA caller paid/international toll: 1-669-234-1177, access code: 199 117 3596, security code 1234.

The agenda includes the status of the Inland Waterways Trust Fund; the status of Fiscal Year 2022 funding for inland and coastal Navigation and the Continuing Resolution Act, the funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and Disaster Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, and the FY 2023 Budget for Navigation; the inland waterways Capital Investment Strategy activities; updates of future inland waterways projects for Three Rivers-Arkansas, Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP), Upper Ohio River Navigation and Gulf Intracoastal Waterway; status of the ongoing construction activities for the Monongahela River Locks and Dams 2, 3 and 4, the Ohio River Montgomery Lock projects, the Chickamauga Lock Project and the Kentucky Lock Project; and status of Inner Harbor Navigation Canal Lock and Bayou Sorrel Lock.

For additional information on submitting comments, contact Mark Pointon at 703-428-6438.

Multimodal Projects Grant
Port, marine highway and freight projects could be eligible for a unique $2.9 billion funding opportunity announced by the Biden administration possibly to combine three major grant programs into one Multimodal Projects Discretionary Grant.

Funded through the historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the program is to streamline the application process and increase the pipeline of “shovel-worthy” projects.

According to the Notice of Funding Opportunity, applicants have the option of applying for only one grant, two or all three through a combined solicitation.

The three programs include the new National Infrastructure Project Assistance program, known as MEGA, to fund projects that are too large or complex for traditional funding programs; Rural Surface Transportation Grant program, also new; and the existing Nationally Significant Multimodal Freight and Highways Programs grants program (INFRA).

“Under this approach and with a major infusion of new funding, we have the capacity to green-light more transformational projects that will create good-paying union jobs, grow the economy and make our transportation system safer and more resilient,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said.

Buttigieg’s agency will award 50 percent of funding to projects greater than $500 million in cost, and 50 percent to projects greater than $100 million but less than $500 million in cost.

The program is expected to receive up to $1 billion this year alone and could provide multi-year funding to projects.

Applications must be submitted by 11:59 pm EDT on May 23.

For additional information, visit transportation.gov, email MPDGrants@dot.gov or call Paul Baumer at 202-366-1092.

Ocean Shipping Reform
A key Senate committee advanced a bipartisan bill to make it harder for ocean carriers to unreasonably refuse goods at U.S. ports and “level the playing field” for American farmers, other exporters and consumers.

Passed by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, S. 3580, the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, would give the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) greater authority to regulate harmful practices by carriers.

“Congestion at ports and increased shipping costs pose unique challenges for U.S. exporters, who have seen the price of shipping containers increase four-fold in just two years, raising costs for consumers and hurting our businesses,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), the bill’s sponsor.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the bill’s original co-sponsor, said it would provide tools to the FMC to hold ocean carriers accountable for “bad-faith efforts” that disenfranchise American producers who feed the world.

Provisions of the bill require ocean carriers to certify that detention and demurrage charges comply with federal regulations, shift burden of proof on reasonableness of those fees from the invoiced party to ocean carriers and bar ocean carriers from unreasonably declining shipping opportunities for U.S. exports as determined by the FMC.

Small Passenger Vessel Safety
Despite new safety requirements taking effect this month, the Coast Guard drew sharp criticism for the pace of its response to deadly accidents involving small passenger vessels as well as subsequent congressional action.

“It took congressional action to force the Coast Guard’s hand,” Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.) said at a hearing to review efforts to beef up small passenger vessel safety.

Still, Carbajal added, it took nearly a year for interim rules to be released after provisions of his Small Passenger Vessel Safety Act were passed as part of a major Coast Guard measure even though the recommendations had been provided years earlier by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

As chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, Carbajal held the field hearing in Santa Barbara, Calif., just miles from where a 2019 fire engulfed the dive boat Conception, killing 33 passengers and one crew member.

NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy told the subcommittee currently there are 19 open NTSB recommendations regarding small passenger vessels.

Rear Adm. John Mauger, assistant commandant of the Coast Guard for prevention policy, assured the subcommittee small passenger vessel safety “has the service’s utmost attention.”

Addressing the pace of the Coast Guard’s responses, Mauger explained the Coast Guard coordinates with the Department of Justice on investigating criminal cases, and federal law requires it to conduct cost-benefit analyses of changes.

Waterways Commerce Cutter
The Coast Guard announced the availability of the Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for the Waterways Commerce Cutter (WCC) Program’s acquisition and operation of a planned 30 WCCs.

Comments and related material must be postmarked or received by April 22. Comments may be submitted by docket number USCG–2021–0191 at www.regulations.gov or by U.S. Mail: U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters, ATTN: LCDR S. Krolman (CG–9327), 2703 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE, Stop 7800, Washington, D.C. 20593, where requests for additional information also should be sent.

Committee On Levee Safety
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers extended the application period by 45 days to fill non-federal member positions for the Committee on Levee Safety.

Applications now must be submitted by May 6 either by emailing hq-leveesafety@usace.army.mil and including ‘‘Committee on Levee Safety’’ in the subject line or by mailing to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Vicksburg District, ATTN: Levee Safety Center-RM 221, 4155 East Clay St., Vicksburg, MS 39183.

For additional information, contact Tammy Conforti at 202-365-6586.

N-MERPAC Subcommittee Meetings
The Office of Merchant Mariner Credentialing is hosting intersessional meetings of three subcommittees of the National Merchant Marine Personnel Advisory Committee (N-MERPAC).

All three meetings will be held virtually through Microsoft Teams.

On April 5, the subcommittee on Sea Service for Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC) Endorsements will meet at noon EDT.

On April 6, the subcommittee on Communication Between External Stakeholders and the Mariner Credentialing Program will meet at 11 a.m. EDT.

On April 12, the subcommittee on the Review of Job Task Analysis Reports for Merchant Mariner Credential Endorsements will meet at noon (EDT).

Anyone not on the N-MERPAC e-mailing list who wants to attend the meetings should contact Megan Johns Henry at megan.c.johns@uscg.mil.

NMC Exam Working Group
After sessions were canceled due to lack of participation and COVID, the National Maritime Center (NMC) is seeking participants for an examination working group it is hosting from April 12-14 to review USCG deck officer examination questions related to piloting knowledge topics (chart plot).

”The Coast Guard needs your participation and asks each of you to consider attending working group sessions and/or spreading the word to encourage others to participate,” Capt. Bradley Clare said.

Those interested in participating can visit the Examinations page of the NMC website, open the Working Group tab, and follow the instructions, the NMC said.