Ports worry about CBP staffing shortages
The American Association of Port Authorities said in its latest alert on June 5 that 47 members of Congress have signed a letter urging Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to allocate more resources to address Customs and Border Protection (CBP) staffing shortages at the nation’s seaports.
AAPA said the letter by the House Ports Opportunity, Renewal, Trade and Security (PORTS) Caucus cited a “disproportionate share of resources” for maritime-related CBP activities. The letter said in part:
“In fiscal year 2015, when CBP was funded to hire 2,000 staff, fewer than 20 officers were assigned to seaports. We cannot let this disproportionate approach to security continue. Our nation’s seaports handle more than 11 million maritime containers and over 11 million international passengers each year. Annual increases in volume and periodic surges in ship traffic have continually led to repeated dockside delays in inspecting and clearing cargo. This, paired with a muted response from the department (of Homeland Security), creates a ripple effect throughout our economy and supply chain.”
The Lexington Institute, a nonpartisan nonprofit Washington think tank, has released a study in which researchers stress “the critical role” that the American maritime industry and the Jones Act play in strengthening U.S. border security.
The study found that since 9/11, the Jones Act has taken on new significance for national security, with the law playing a critical role in helping to secure the homeland from the threat of international terrorism. “Were the Jones Act not in existence, the Department of Homeland Security would be confronted by the difficult and costly requirement of monitoring, regulating and overseeing foreign-controlled, foreign-crewed vessels in coastal and internal U.S. waters,” the study says.
The institute said the study highlights the “impossible task” of guarding the U.S. against threats from foreign ships and foreign crews operating in the heartland of the U.S. “The prospect of terrorists on the inland waterways system is a particularly daunting challenge to homeland security. Via the inland waterways, a terrorist could reach America’s heartland and many of its largest and most important urban centers. (These centers) carry an enormous weight of the nation’s internal commerce.”
For more information, contact Chloe Toman at (202) 525-8553.
Senate confirms three FMC commissioners
The Senate has confirmed Rebecca F. Dye, Michael A. Khouri and Daniel B. Maffei to serve on the Federal Maritime Commission.
Dye and Khouri, both of whom currently serve as commissioners, were renominated by President Obama to serve terms that will last until 2020 and 2021, respectively. Maffei is new to the commission and will serve a term that expires June 30, 2017.
Dye has worked on maritime policy issues throughout her career, beginning with her service in the Coast Guard. Khouri has broad experience in the maritime industry, including service on ocean vessels from deck crew to pilot and captain, and shoreside assignments in law, administration, marine operations and general management.
Maffei, sworn in on July 18 as a member of the FMC, is a native of New York state. He served two non-consecutive terms in the House of Representatives after working as a journalist and a congressional aide. He replaces Richard Lidinsky, who became a commissioner in 2009.
Port-related projects awarded $62 million in TIGER grants
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced 40 grants in July totaling nearly $500 million through the fiscal 2016 Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program.
Of the 585 applications submitted totaling $9.3 billion in requests, six awards totaling $61.8 million are going to commercial seaports, or to projects that directly aid the efficient movement of goods to and from America’s ports. Fifty-three port applications were submitted.
A transportation advocacy group, the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors, faulted the grants for “shortchanging freight.” The coalition said in a statement that freight-dense areas like New Jersey’s rail corridor, Florida’s seaports and Memphis’ freight and logistics hub should have been better recognized by both the TIGER program and another DOT program, FASTLANE.
Foxx said the TIGER program rewards “innovative thinking and collaborative solutions to difficult and sometimes dangerous transportation problems. A great TIGER program doesn’t just improve transportation; it expands economic opportunity and transforms a community.”
Kurt Nagle, president and CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities, said he was pleased that a number of port projects were included in the eighth round of TIGER grants, but that this year’s grants included “few funds for major maritime freight gateways. It’s important that projects from the full range of port sizes and types receive grant awards in upcoming rounds of TIGER funding.”
For a list of awards, contact AAPA at (703) 684-5700.
Coast Guard updates Mariner Credentialing Program
The Coast Guard recently implemented a change to its organizational structure related to the Mariner Credentialing Program.
The Coast Guard said the change will improve mission execution and organizational efficiency by ensuring all aspects of the service’s credentialing program report to a single directorate. The action creates one centralized office at headquarters responsible for all technical aspects of the program, including statutory, regulatory and policy development.
The director of standards will now have responsibility for all aspects of the program, including oversight of National Maritime Center operations and the newly created Office of Merchant Mariner Credentialing.
For more information on the new office, dial (202) 372-1492.
Coast Guard eyes expansion of automatic pilot systems
The Coast Guard proposes to permit tankers with automatic pilot systems that meet certain international standards to use those systems in waters subject to the shipping safety fairway or traffic separation scheme controls specified in Coast Guard regulations.
The Coast Guard said its proposal would remove an unnecessary regulatory restriction, update the technical requirements for automatic pilot systems, and promote the Coast Guard’s maritime safety and stewardship (environmental protection) missions by enhancing maritime safety. Details of the proposal are in the Federal Register of July 11.
Comments must be submitted by Oct. 11 via www.regulations.gov. For more information, contact Lt. Cmdr. Matthew J. Walter at (202) 372-1565.
Amendments to STCW to become effective in 2017
The National Maritime Center has reminded mariners that the 2010 amendments to the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers Convention (STCW) will come into force on Jan. 1, 2017.
The center said that after Dec. 31, 2016, mariners with an operational- or management-level STCW endorsement will not be able to renew their endorsement without meeting certain additional training and assessment requirements. The new requirements will affect operational-level deck officers, management-level deck officers, and engineering officers.
For detailed information about the requirement, mariners should contact the Customer Service Center at (888) 427-5662.
U.S.-bound cargo still not scanned overseas
The Government Accountability Office reports that the Department of Homeland Security still has not come up with a solution to the requirement that all U.S.-bound cargo must be scanned before leaving foreign ports.
In 2009, DHS officials acknowledged that most, if not all, foreign ports would not be able to meet the July 2012 target date for scanning all U.S.-bound cargo, GAO said. Although DHS has issued three two-year extensions for implementing the 100 percent scanning mandate, pushing the deadline to July 2018, “DHS has not yet identified a viable solution to meet the requirement,” the GAO said.
Army seeks representatives on Inland Waterways Users Board
The Department of the Army has requested nominations for representatives to serve on the Inland Waterways Users Board, which is sponsored by the Army Corps of Engineers.
The secretary of the Army appoints the 11 representative organizations. The nominations will be for appointments with terms beginning by May 27, 2017.
Representative organizations are selected from among commercial carriers and shippers using the inland and intracoastal waterways to represent geographical regions and to be representative of waterborne commerce as determined by commodity ton-miles and tonnage statistics.
All nominations must be received by the Army Corps of Engineers no later than Sept. 1. For more information, contact Kenneth E. Lichtman at (703) 428-8083.