Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Biden Pledges To Reopen Port, Rebuild Bridge Quickly

Washington, D.C.—President Joe Biden has directed a “whole of government” response to the catastrophic collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in the Port of Baltimore.

“I’ve directed my team to move heaven and earth to reopen the port and rebuild the bridge as soon as humanly possible,” the president said.

“To the people of Baltimore, I want to say: ‘We’re with you. We’re going to stay with you as long as (it) takes.’”

Biden said it is his intention that the federal government will pay the entire cost of reconstructing the bridge, which fell after being struck by a container ship.

The Biden administration also included responding to supply chain implications among its major goals.

Speaking at a separate briefing, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg also emphasized the important role the port plays as the nation’s largest vehicle-handling hub, which handles both cars and farm equipment.

“Rebuilding will not be quick or easy or cheap, but we will get it done,” Buttigieg said.

Appropriations Package Signed

Nearly six months into fiscal year 2024, President Joe Biden signed into law the second and last six-bill appropriations package to fund the remaining federal agencies through September 30.

H.R. 2882 overwhelmingly passed the Senate by a 74 to 24 vote following the 286-134 vote in the House.

It funds Defense; Financial Services and General Government; Homeland Security; Labor, Health and Human Services; Education; Legislative Branch; and State and Foreign Operations.

A week earlier, Biden signed an initial six-bill minibus into law that funds other federal agencies, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Maritime Administration.

Credentialing Transformation

As part of its mariner credentialing program transformation, the Coast Guard is accepting comments on a notice of proposed rulemaking to allow for electronic submission of information required for credentialing and future implementation of new technology to support the mariner credentialing process.

Other proposed changes would require the electronic payment of mandatory fees for merchant mariner credentials through Pay.Gov, remove the requirement for prospective mariners to take an oath before an authorized official and change the requirements for the Certificate Discharge to Merchant Mariners.

In addition, technical amendments would update addresses and websites, remove antiquated terminology and amend language to use gender-neutral terms.

Comments and related material must be received by May 13.

They may be submitted at www.regulations.gov, identified by docket number USCG– 2021–0834.

For additional information, contact Charles Bright at 202-372-1046 or Charles.J.Bright@uscg.mil.

Navigation Safety Committee

The National Navigation Safety Advisory Committee has scheduled a series of meetings April 2-3 in Bronx, N.Y., to discuss matters relating to maritime collisions, allisions 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 to begin at 8 a.m. EDT on both days at the Maritime Academic Center at the State University of New York Maritime College.

The meetings also will be held virtually with a limited number of lines available on a first-come, first-served basis, for which preregistration is required.

For additional information, contact Lt. Ryan Burk at 571-613-3779 or Ryan.B.Burk@uscg.mil as soon as possible.

Regulation Clarification

Conceding that a clarification was needed, the Coast Guard announced it will not require “covered small passenger vessels” (CSPVs) to meet certain fire safety requirements mandated by a 2021 rule unless otherwise applicable to the vessel.

Congress adopted the statutory mandate in response to the fire and loss of 34 lives on board the dive boat Conception off the California coast in 2019.

Because the text erroneously omitted the specific wording intended to apply to CSPVs, the Coast Guard stated, some may believe that CSPVs are subject to all of the requirements.

The intention of the applicability statement is for CSPVs to comply with language regarding interconnected fire detection equipment, not the entire section, the Coast Guard stated.

For additional information, contact CGENG@uscg.mil.

NMSAC Applications

The Coast Guard requested applications to fill seven vacancies on the National Maritime Security Advisory Committee (NMSAC) that advises the Homeland Security secretary on national maritime security issues, including enhancing the sharing of information related to cybersecurity risks that may cause a transportation security incident.

Applications must reach the Coast Guard by May 28 and should be emailed to ryan.f.owens@uscg.mil with ‘‘NMSAC Vacancy Application’’ in the subject line.

In this solicitation, the Coast Guard said it will consider applications for seven positions representing the maritime industry, vessel owner/operators, facility owner/operators, academic community, port authorities, maritime labor and state and local governments.

For additional information, contact Ryan Owens, at 202-372-1108 or ryan.f.owens@uscg.mil.

Shipping Safety Fairways

The Coast Guard announced a public meeting April 17 on the proposed establishment of shipping safety fairways along the Atlantic Coast and the extension of the comment period on the proposed rule to allow participants time to prepare their comments.

Scheduled for 6 p.m., the meeting is to be held at 101 Vera King Farris Dr., Galloway, NJ 08205 in the L-Wing Building, Classroom 112.

Comments should be received by May 17. For additional information, contact Brian Mottel at 206-815-4657 or David.b.mottel2@uscg.mil.

China Shipping Practices

The House overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan bill “to get tough on China” by protecting U.S. ports and shippers from the Chinese Communist Party’s influence and allow the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) to investigate shipping exchanges to pre-empt improper business practices.

Approved by a vote of 393 to 24, H.R. 1836 went to the Senate, where it was assigned to the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

It prohibits the use of Chinese state-sponsored LOGINK software and authorizes the FMC to streamline data standards for maritime freight logistics.

“The FMC needs authority to crack down on China’s unfair shipping practices,” said Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.), who introduced the Ocean Shipping Reform Implementation Act.

Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.), a top co-sponsor of the bill, said foreign businesses’ access to the American market and its consumers is a privilege, not a right.