BrownWater News, April 2014

Jaenichen boasts StrongPorts and marine highways

The Maritime Administration’s StrongPorts initiative is one of several programs that Acting Maritime Administrator Paul Jaenichen said are designed to establish the U.S. as a nation that moves “more freight and even passengers by water.” Another is the well-known America’s Marine Highway program.

Speaking at the opening of the 2014 Legislative Summit of the National Waterways Conference in Washington, D.C., on March 25, Jaenichen reminded representatives of the U.S. inland waterways industry that domestic shipping accounts for about 40 percent of all freight being moved in the European Union.

“With over 12,000 miles of navigable rivers and waterways (in the U.S.), I see no reason why our nation can’t work toward the same,” he said. “Fully integrating our marine highways into the surface transportation system would further ensure that reliable, regularly scheduled, competitive and sustainable services are a routine choice for shippers.”

Under the StrongPorts program, MarAd has agreed to work with the American Association of Port Authorities “to help our country’s ports attract additional public and private capital. The initial step in this project is developing a port planning and investment tool kit.”

Jaenichen said the tool kit will set out clear guidelines with information on:
·  How to clearly identify future port needs.
·  How to determine the most cost-effective, sustainable and efficient solutions to port problems.
·  How to identify the elements that need to be in a port project investment plan.
·  Identifying the best practices that exist for those elements.

“Upon completion, port authorities will be able to use the tool kit to better attract funding with a clear, concise and functional investment grade plan,” Jaenichen said. “You can expect to see our new port tool kit by the end of September. And we’re going to make it available to anyone that wants it.”

In another reminder, Jaenichen told summit attendees that they have until April 28 to file applications for some of the $600 million that will be available this year in the sixth round of TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grants.

AWO, WCI push ballast water bill, lock chamber upgrades

Regulation and safety were two waterway issues pushed to the forefront March 18 when the barge and towing industry invited stakeholders and reporters to a 90-minute media briefing in Washington, D.C.

Leading the charge were Tom Allegretti, president and chief executive officer of the American Waterways Operators, and Mike Toohey, president and chief executive officer of the Waterways Council Inc.

Allegretti wasted little time declaring that “regulation of ballast water and other vessel discharges is one of the single largest issues that AWO faces today.” He urged all interested parties to get behind S. 2094, a bill calling for the development of a uniform national standard for the regulation of ballast water.

Turning to his industry’s “20-year safety journey,” Allegretti said that nothing is taken more seriously than the safety of vessel operations on the waterways.

Toohey said that while the industry may be happy with the ability of a barge tow to handle large volumes of commodities versus rail or truck, the one item that worries barge operators is the increasing age of the lock chambers that their equipment must negotiate to transport those commodities.

He noted that most lock chambers on navigable rivers — that is, 56 of them — are between 70 and 79 years old; three are 9 years old or less, 11 are between 10 and 19 years of age, and 52 are between 40 and 49 years of age. Statistics show that 57 percent of the locks, both operational deep draft and shallow water, are beyond their 50-year design life, he added.

LNG, as fuel and cargo, getting more attention

Maritime Administrator Paul Jaenichen applauded the attention that LNG (liquefied natural gas) is getting as propulsion fuel and cargo in the maritime industry.

Speaking at the recent Winds of Change Conference in Houston, Jaenichen noted that an analysis of the feasibility of LNG use by vessels operating on inland waters, particularly in the Ohio River basin, should be completed by this summer. He also disclosed that Interlake Steamship of Ohio is working toward converting nine vessels to LNG as their main propulsion fuel. The first ship would be converted by spring of 2015.

Jaenichen said MarAd and maritime stakeholders are laying the groundwork for a National Maritime Strategy. The group’s first symposium in Washington, D.C., focused on international trade, but now it’s in the process of organizing a symposium on the domestic side of the maritime industry.

The immediate need to ensure the U.S. fleet’s future success, Jaenichen said, is to “lock down existing cargo and identify additional cargoes for U.S.-flag ships.” New cargoes are the key, he said, and “the ripest” are oil and gas exports.

Obama budget for FY 2015 cuts USCG to $9.8 billion

The fiscal year 2015 budget proposed by President Obama on March 4 includes $9.8 billion for the U.S. Coast Guard, down from the $10.4 billion approved for fiscal 2014. Part of the funding would be for such surface assets as the eighth national security cutter and other watercraft to complete the recapitalization of the Coast Guard’s cutter fleet.

The FY 2015 budget proposal includes $658 million for the Maritime Administration, up from $377 million for this fiscal year. However, the total proposed for the next fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 includes $291 million to be transferred from the Department of Defense to support the Ready Reserve Force government-owned merchant ships.

Senate panel holds Zukunft nomination hearing

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee held a hearing April 8 on the nomination of Vice Adm. Paul F. Zukunft to succeed retiring Adm. Robert Papp Jr. as the 25th commandant of the Coast Guard.

Zukunft, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area since April 2012, commands the Defense Force West and provides Coast Guard mission support to the Department of Defense and combatant commanders.

A graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, one of Zukunft’s recent assignments was federal on-scene coordinator for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, when he directed 6,500 vessels and 120 aircraft.

Lower Mississippi navigational safety to be addressed

Navigational safety on the Lower Mississippi River will be discussed at a meeting of the Lower Mississippi River Waterway Safety Advisory Committee on April 23 at the Coast Guard’s Sector New Orleans building.

Among other topics will be the status of New Orleans area locks and Gulf Intracoastal Waterway operations. For more information, contact Lt. j.g. Colin Marquis at (504) 365-2287.

Foxx vows to do ‘everything in my power’ to defend Jones Act

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx praised the American Waterways Operators (AWO) on April 3 as “one of the most vocal advocates for moving more freight by water safely and efficiently.”

Speaking at the AWO’s annual spring convention in Washington, D.C., Foxx added that the Department of Transportation “is taking action to ensure that our waterways figure more prominently into our nation’s transportation future.” Foxx also stressed that he would do “everything in my power to defend the Jones Act.”

Tom Allegretti, president and CEO of the AWO, said that Foxx’s attendance at the AWO’s convention “so early in his tenure is an acknowledgment of the critical role the tugboat, towboat and barge industry plays in our national transportation network.”

WCI wins Samuel Plimsoll Award

The editors of Professional Mariner have presented the Waterways Council Inc. (WCI) with the Samuel Plimsoll Award for Outstanding Service by an organization.

WCI said the award recognizes organizations that “may have been instrumental in changing technology, policy or procedure to help prevent future accidents and loss of life.”

The award is named for Samuel Plimsoll (1824-1898), a member of the British Parliament who fought against unsafe maritime industry practices, especially the overloading of ships.

Pilots on Great Lakes to receive new base rates

The Coast Guard is planning to establish new base rates Aug. 1 for pilots operating on the Great Lakes.

The Coast Guard said the new base rates would more closely align with recent Canadian rate increases. The final rule also adjusts weighting factors used to determine rates for vessels of different sizes, adopts a new procedure for temporary surcharges, applies a temporary surcharge for one pilotage association, and allows pilotage associations to recoup the cost of dues paid to the American Pilots Association.

More details on the final rule are spelled out in the Federal Register of March 4. For additional information, contact Todd Haviland at (202) 372-2037.

White House considers U.S. ports ‘essential’ to transport system

Victor Mendez, acting deputy transportation secretary, made it clear to the port industry March 24 that the Obama administration considers ports “essential to our modern, multimodal transportation system, and to our national economy.”

Speaking at the spring conference of the American Association of Port Authorities in Washington, D.C., Mendez said that every business “depends on safe, affordable transportation.” Furthermore, Mendez said that while U.S. ports may be important today, they will only become “more essential as we look to the future.”

By Professional Mariner Staff