Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Small Shipyard Grants Announced

Washington, D.C. — The Maritime Administration (MarAd) announced $20.8 million in grant awards to 27 small shipyards in 20 states through the Small Shipyard Grant Program to help shipyards modernize, increase productivity and expand local job opportunities.

“Small shipyards strengthen America’s commercial fleet, bolster our economic security and generate good jobs,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said, citing their vital role in the maritime sector.

Since 2008, MarAd’s Small Shipyard Grant Program has awarded $303 million to nearly 350 shipyards in 32 states and territories.

“As shipbuilding technologies continue to advance, Small Shipyard Grants help America’s shipyards acquire the equipment they need to compete, thrive and expand America’s maritime industry,” MarAd Administrator Ann Phillips said.

A list of inland and Gulf Coast grant recipients can be found here.

Oral Fluid Testing

The American Waterways Operators (AWO) welcomed a highly anticipated action by the Department of Transportation (DOT) on adding oral fluid testing as an option for its drug testing program.

“AWO supports the Department of Transportation’s action to add oral fluid testing to the federal drug testing program,” said Patrick Parson, AWO’s counsel and director of government affairs.

“And we applaud DOT for following AWO’s recommendation to grant employers full discretion in deciding whether to utilize the oral fluid or urine testing method.”

Parson said AWO is working with the Coast Guard to understand its implementation process for the maritime industry.

“We continue to advocate for timely implementation,” he said.

In its final rule posted in the Federal Register on May 2, DOT stated the Department of Health and Human Services will need to certify at least two laboratories for an employer to be able to implement oral fluid testing.

That has not yet been done, DOT said, adding its rule takes effect June 1.

Debt Limit Talks

President Joe Biden invited top congressional leaders to meet on the debt limit after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen informed Congress the federal government may not be able to pay its obligations as early as June 1.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) received calls from Biden about the May 9 meeting.

At stake: a default and financial havoc for the country.

Still, it remained unclear whether Biden and McCarthy will be able to get past a months-long impasse over raising the debt limit and cutting spending.

McCarthy wants any talks to cover both topics at the same time, while Biden remains committed to keeping the two issues separate.
McConnell insists it is up to Biden and McCarthy to reach a deal.

FHA Port Grants

The Federal Highway Administration opened applications for the first round of a new $400-million grant program to modernize ports’ infrastructure, strengthen supply chains and cut air pollution.

Totaling $160 million for fiscal years 2022 and 2023, the Reduction of Truck Emissions at Port Facilities Grant Program focuses on projects that reduce emissions from idling trucks at ports, which impacts air quality for surrounding communities as well as truck drivers and port workers.

According to the grant announcement, 35 awards are expected to be selected.

The closing date for applications is June 26.

Awaiting Information

The National Maritime Center (NMC) announced it is centralizing the processing for submission of all information sent in response to 60- and 90-day Awaiting Information (AI) Letters.

Noting that email remains the preferred method of AI documentation submission, the NMC advised that all requested AI documentation should be emailed to MMC-Awaiting-Info@uscg.mil.

For those preferring to send AI documentation through the mail, the NMC directed that it be sent to: United States Coast Guard, National Maritime Center, Attention: AI In-Processing, 100 Forbes Dr., Martinsburg, WV 25401-7120.

The NMC advised that sending AI documentation to IASKNMC@uscg.mil or a Regional Exam Center is still acceptable but warned those methods may delay the processing of AI documentation and the issuance of MMCs.

For additional information, contact the NMC Customer Service Center by emailing IASKNMC@uscg.mil or calling 1-888-IASKNMC (427-5662).

Documentation Forms Expired

The National Vessel Documentation Center (NVDC) posted a notice on the Coast Guard’s website that it is aware the forms it uses were scheduled to expire on April 30.

“NVDC will continue to accept these versions until replacement forms are available for use,” the agency stated.

Dates can be found in the upper right corner of blank forms, NVDC stated.

CBP Staffing Shortages

Two leading senators reintroduced their bipartisan bill to address staffing shortages at seaports and other ports of entry.

S.1253, The Securing America’s Ports of Entry Act, by Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and John Cornyn (R-Texas) would require the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to hire no less than 600 additional officers a year until the agency’s staffing needs are met.

Steve Fisher, executive director of the American Great Lakes Ports Association, joined others in expressing support for the legislation.
“CBP staff inspect and clear both cargo and passengers at our ports, ensuring the safe flow of commerce,” Fisher said.

Commercial Fishing Committee

The National Commercial Fishing Safety Advisory Committee is scheduled to conduct a series of meetings May 23-25 in Norfolk, Va., on marine casualty investigation cases related to Personal Flotation Devices (PFD), cold water and falls overboard.

Open to the public, the meetings are set to begin at 8 a.m. EDT each day at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott, 235 E. Main St. Norfolk, VA 23510.

For additional information on submitting comments or other matters, contact Jonathan Wendland at 202-372-1245 or Jonathan.G.Wendland@uscg.mil.

Reducing Plastic Waste

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) posted a notice on a draft version of its national strategy to reduce plastic waste and other materials in waterways and oceans and is seeking public comments from stakeholders to help implement the strategy.

Comments must be received by June 16.

Identified with Docket No. EPA-HQ-OLEM-2023-0228, the comments may be submitted at www.regulations.gov.

Additional submission methods and other guidance can be found at www.epa.gov/dockets/commenting-epa-dockets.