The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has approved a bill that would double the liability limits for single-hulled tankers and tank barges from $3,000 to $6,000 per gross ton for 2009.
The committee approved technical amendments to the bill (S 2700) to correct spelling errors and incorrect dates of implementation.
The proposed increase in liability limits is opposed by the American Waterways Operators because the Coast Guard is still implementing increases mandated by the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2006. Also, the association says, the basis for the bill, a 2007 Government Accountability Office report that found that limits of liability for tank barges are disproportionately low compared with the average cost of a tank-barge spill, “is at best incomplete and at worst flawed.”
Congressman hosts roundtable on short-sea shipping
Tom Allegretti, president and chief executive of the American Waterways Operators, has urged Congress to develop a comprehensive strategy on short-sea shipping — also known as America’s Marine Highway — that includes the repeal of the Harbor Maintenance Tax but does not encourage construction of vessels for which there is no market demand.
Participating in a recent roundtable discussion on short-sea transport, Allegretti said the “single most effective element of maritime policy is when government helps stimulate cargo demand rather than vessel supply.”
Another participant, Paul H. Bea Jr., of Coastwise Coalition, suggested a shift away from “current labeling that defines ‘surface transportation’ as road and rail, to the exclusion of the other surface mode — water.” Bea said that all three are surface modes, distinct from aviation.
The roundtable was hosted by Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.), ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Mica said that shipping cargo from one U.S. port to another via the nation’s inland and coastal waterways has been proposed as a potential solution to freight congestion on the nation’s highways and railroads.
Bill calls for temporary reduction of diesel fuel tax
Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) has introduced a bill that would temporarily reduce the excise tax on diesel fuel and kerosene to the rate applicable to gasoline. The temporary reduction period would be from the time the bill is enacted until Dec. 31, 2010.
Bono Mack’s office said June 9 that under the bill, HR 6106, the diesel fuel tax rate during the temporary reduction period would drop from the current rate of 24.3 cents a gallon to 18.5 cents, the same rate paid by gasoline users.
Inland Waterways Users Board to meet July 31
The Inland Waterways Users Board has scheduled a meeting for July 31 at the Marcus Whitman Hotel and Conference Center, Walla Walla, Wash.
The agenda calls for the board to hear briefings on the status of the funding for inland navigation projects and studies, and on an assessment of the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, and to receive updates of various inland waterways projects.
For more information, contact Mark R. Pointon at 202- 761-4258.
DHS unveils new Small Vessel Security Strategy
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has adopted a new Small Vessel Security Strategy (SVSS) designed to close security gaps and reduce risks associated with the potential exploitation of small maritime vessels.
Recalling the small-boat attack on USS Cole, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said that the new strategy “ensures all small vessel stakeholders across our ports and coastal waterways can play a role in unified threat mitigation efforts and replaces today’s seemingly honor-based neighborhood watch program with an efficient and successful means to combat terrorism along our waterways.”
Among the aims of SVSS is to highlight the use of small vessels as conveyances for smuggling weapons and terrorist into the U.S.
Objectives of the strategy include the development of a strong partnership with the small vessel community to enhance maritime domain awareness, better identification of small vessels operating in U.S. waters, expanded radiological/nuclear detection capabilities and enhanced data analysis to identify high-risk concerns.
USCG drops requirement for nonexistent tank-level monitoring devices
The Coast Guard has suspended for three more years a requirement that single-hull tankers and tank barges install qualified tank level or pressure monitoring (TLPM) devices that still do not exist.
This rulemaking goes back to 2005, when the Coast Guard suspended the requirement for three years, until July 21, 2008, so it could revisit that requirement after conducting a study of potential alternatives for detecting leaks from single-hull tankers. In a report to Congress in March 2006, the Coast Guard said it concluded that no appropriate TLPM device had been submitted for approval and that no manufacturer is likely to invest in the development of a TLPM device because all single-hull tank vessels are scheduled to be out of service by 2015.
Consequently, the Coast Guard removed the regulations for TLPM devices in the fall of 2007 and later determined that “immediate action was needed to avoid burdening the tank vessel industry with a requirement to install a piece of shipboard equipment that does not currently exist and putting the Coast Guard in the difficult position of trying to enforce such a regulation.”
Therefore, the Coast Guard extended the suspension for three more years, to June 6, 2011, to allow the service time to seek public comments on a proposal to permanently remove the regulations on TLPM devices. The new suspension gives the Coast Guard the flexibility to withdraw the suspension if technology improves, a manufacturer decides to pursue approval of a qualifying TLPM device, or the elements of the Coast Guard’s rationale to suspend the regulations become invalid.
For more information, contact Dolores Pyne-Mercier at 202-372-1381.
Compliance date for TWIC postponed to next April 15
The Department of Homeland Security has announced that the final compliance date for the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) has been postponed to April 15, 2009.
The department said that the seven-month extension from Sept. 25, 2008, is a direct result of collaboration with port officials and industry. The department said that the TWIC program, established in the Maritime Transportation Security Act and the SAFE Port Act, is on track to complete enrollment for a substantial number of jurisdictions by the end of 2008. Several ports will be required to comply with TWIC regulations this year.
Owners and operators of facilities located within Captain of the Port Zones Boston, Northern New England and Southeastern New England are required to comply by October 15, 2008.