Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Buttigieg, Carriers Discuss Red Sea Shipping Safety

Washington, D.C.—Mariners, maritime labor organizations and U.S.-flag shipping companies met with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg about the ongoing situation in the southern Red Sea and western Gulf of Aden.

Buttigieg expressed his gratitude to mariners for their bravery and work moving goods across the world that the American people count on, even in the face of danger, the Department of Transportation (DOT) reported in its readout of the meeting.

“He affirmed that the safety of mariners is the department’s top priority and that national security officials continue to closely monitor attacks on merchant vessels in close coordination with the White House and interagency partners,” DOT said.

“Secretary Buttigieg stated that the Maritime Administration was keeping a close eye on impacts to U.S. flag vessels and mariners and coordinating closely with U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM), the Department of Defense and the Federal Maritime Commission.

DOT said that U.S. carriers, which included participants in the Maritime Security Program, Tanker Security Program and Cable Security Fleet, said the safety of their crews remains their priority.

Labor organizations expressed that communication and information are key for mariners during security situations like this, DOT said.

Both labor and industry stakeholders shared recommendations with DOT officials to ensure future communication is ongoing and open where possible, secure where needed and ensures the safety of mariners, the agency added.

Principles, Requirements & Guidelines

The National Waterways Conference (NWC) issued a news alert on the release of the draft text of a rule proposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on implementing the Principles, Requirements and Guidelines (PR&G) for federal investments in water resources.

As directed by a 2020 law, the Corps proposed the rule to provide a framework on how it evaluates water resource investments, including the identification of which activities are subject to the PR&G.

A 60-day comment period will be announced once the text is published in the Federal Register, which NWC said is expected in the coming weeks.

Comments are welcome on the Agency Specific Procedures (ASPs), which will be established for the PR&G implementation.

Virtual meetings also are to be held to provide an overview of the ASPs and gather additional input on the proposed rule.

The NWC noted the agency has invested several years in developing the proposed rule, adding it will thoroughly scrutinize the proposal.

In addition, the NWC said a member work group also will be established to study the proposal and generate remarks for submission.

LNG Export Pause

Key panels in both houses of Congress scheduled hearings on the Biden administration’s pause on liquefied natural gas (LNG) export approvals.

In the House, Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Energy, Climate and Grid Security Subcommittee, used his panel’s hearing to accuse President Biden of ignoring science and heeding the loudest in his political base.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.Y.), ranking member of the full committee, applauded the administration’s action that he said would allow for the examination of LNG exports’ impact on energy prices and greenhouse emissions.

In the Senate, a Democrat took the lead.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said he will use his panel’s hearing to look into the administration’s motivations and their implications.

Bridge Schedule Deviation

With a goal of allowing mariners “safe access to the waterway,” the Coast Guard is seeking comments on an updated temporary deviation from the operating schedule that governs the Florida East Coast Railroad Bridge across the Okeechobee Waterway, mile 7.41, Stuart, Fla.

Published in the Federal Register on Tuesday, February 6, the deviation is effective at 12:01 a.m. on February 12.

The Coast Guard said it will accept comments on the revised temporary deviation for a period of 90 days to allow stakeholders an opportunity to provide input or feedback.

Comments and related material may be submitted at www.regulations.gov, identified by docket number USCG-2022-0222.

They must be submitted by May 6.

According to the Coast Guard, the modification tests an alternate temporary deviation to determine if the updated mobile application and simplified drawbridge opening requirements are reliable and predictable to meet the reasonable needs of navigation and competing modes of transportation, given the increase of railway activity.

“As the regulatory agency responsible for drawbridge operating regulations, the Coast Guard’s priority is to establish a predictable operating schedule that allows mariners reasonable and safe access to the waterway,” said Randall Overton, director of the Seventh Coast Guard District Bridge Program.

“The Coast Guard is committed to striking a reasonable balance between the competing needs of land and waterborne modes of transportation.”

Details on the operation of the FEC Stuart Railroad Bridge under the temporary deviation can be found at news.uscg.mil.