Washington, D.C.–In her first State of the Coast Guard address, Adm. Linda Fagan, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, spoke of the major economic roles played by the nation’s 14,000 miles of waterways on inland rivers, its ports and the Great Lakes.
“The importance of river transportation was made clear this past fall,” Fagan said.
“Extreme low water levels on the Mississippi River restricted vessel traffic, making it difficult for Midwestern farmers to get their harvest to market.”
She recalled how the Coast Guard’s inland river cutter fleet worked feverishly to reset the buoys marking the shifting channels.
Fagan also spoke of new technologies, including offshore wind turbines, increased commercial space operations and threats to cyberspace, that are increasing the demand for operations throughout the Marine Transportation System, which moves more than 90 percent of the nation’s imports and exports.
To combat these threats, she announced the creation of the Coast Guard’s third Cyber Protection Team to help protect America’s ports from cyber threats.
WOTUS Veto Threat
If it arrives on his desk, President Joe Biden would veto a House measure to kill his administration’s rule that redefines Waters of the United States (WOTUS).
H.J. Res. 27, which would disapprove the administration’s WOTUS rule under the Congressional Review Act, was scheduled to receive a floor vote March 10 in the Republican-controlled House.
If approved as expected, the measure goes to the Democratic-controlled Senate for further action.
“The administration strongly opposes passage of H.J. Res. 27,” the Statement of Administration Policy stated along with a stout defense of the WOTUS rule, which is set to take effect March 20.
“The final rule provides clear rules of the road that will help advance infrastructure projects, economic investments and agricultural activities, all while protecting water quality.”
Republican critics describe the rule as an overreach by the federal government that would lead to sweeping changes to its authority over water with enormous impacts on farmers, home builders, small businesses and even private property owners.
Introduced by Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the measure is cosponsored by 170 House members.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said she has the support of her 48 fellow Senate Republicans for her effort to overturn the administration’s rule.
Citing “alarmist media reports,” the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) stated there have been no known security breaches as the result of any cranes at U.S. ports.
“Further, modern cranes are very fast and sophisticated, but even they can’t track the origin, destination or nature of the cargo,” AAPA said.
AAPA Vice President and General Counsel Cary Davis added, “I like a good spy movie, but you need a smoking gun to make it a blockbuster, and there’s no smoke in this story.”
In addition to clarifying the record on recent reports that cranes sourced from China pose a national security threat at ports, AAPA called on the U.S. to build out its reshoring tools to bolster its critical supply chains and correct the imbalance caused by China’s subsidized crane manufacturing that makes their cranes half the cost.
“That’s the opportunity we have here,” Davis said.
“Just picture American factories churning out world-class, connected, low-emissions and user-friendly cranes, trucks and tractors.”
AAPA also warned that any effort to remove cranes from U.S. ports without immediate replacements would harm U.S. supply chains, jack up prices for everyone and exacerbate inflation even further.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to comment on the news reports on Chinese cranes but said President Biden takes national security seriously and pointed to the work by multiple agencies to address potential cyber vulnerabilities across the Marine Transportation System.
The Coast Guard Office of Investigations and Analysis released Marine Safety Alert 03-23 to remind marine radio users of the importance of properly configuring their Digital Selective Calling (DSC)-equipped Very High Frequency (VHF) radios to enable proper function during emergencies.
When properly installed, DSC allows the mariner to simply hit the red DSC button in an emergency to transmit the vessel’s geographic coordinates and registered Maritime Mobile Service Identities (MMSI) number to nearby DSC-enabled vessels and shore-based VHF towers.
During a marine casualty involving the loss of life, it was found that the DSC-equipped VHF radio was not properly configured with the vessel’s GPS system.
While the master was able to broadcast the vessel’s position before sinking, having the DSC alert properly enabled could have provided more opportunity to focus on emergency operations and egress from the sinking vessel while still continuously broadcasting an emergency signal over VHF.
Questions may be sent to HQS-SMB-CG-INV@uscg.mil.
Request For Information
The Maritime Administration (MarAd) issued a Request for Information (RFI) regarding the availability of domestically manufactured components for commercial shipbuilding in the U.S., particularly considering the investment planned in commercial shipbuilding for support of offshore wind farm facilities by MarAd through loan guarantees from the Title XI program.
MarAd is seeking input from the public, including stakeholders such as state and local agencies, the marine component manufacturing industry, component suppliers, labor unions, related associations, ship operators and transportation advocates, on the availability of ship components manufactured in the U.S. that can meet the Title XI domestic content requirement.
Responses must be received by April 3.
To avoid duplication of docket submissions, MarAd said, submit responses by only one of the following ways: www.regulations.gov, mail to Docket Management Facility, U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, W12–140, Washington, D.C. 20590–0001; or hand delivery at W12–140, Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, Washington, D.C.
Responses must include the agency name and docket number, MARAD-2023-0041.
Navigation Safety Committee
The National Navigation Safety Advisory Committee is scheduled to conduct a series of meetings March 28-29 in Portsmouth, Va., to discuss maritime collisions, rammings and groundings; Inland Rules of the Road; International Rules of the Road; navigation regulations and equipment; routing measures; marine information; and aids to navigation systems.
Open to the public, the meetings are set to begin at 8 a.m. EDT on both days.
They will be held at the Renaissance Portsmouth-Norfolk Waterfront Hotel, 425 Water St., Portsmouth, Va. 23704 and virtually with a limited number of lines available on a first-come, first-served basis.
To join the virtual meetings, for which preregistration is required, or for additional information, contact Lt. Ryan Burk at 202-372-1562 or Ryan.B.Burk@uscg.mil.