Brownwater News, August 2017

House approves $6.2 billion for Army Corps' Civil Works

The House voted 235 to 192 on July 27 in favor of a fiscal year 2018 spending bill that includes $6.2 billion for the Civil Works program of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Senate Appropriations Committee, following in the footsteps of its House counterpart, passed similar legislation eight days before the full House vote.

Both pieces of legislation include $1.2 billion more than President Trump’s FY 2018 request. The Senate proposal was $190 million more than the funding approved for this fiscal year ending Sept. 30, while the House proposal, the Make America Secure Appropriations Act, was $120 million more than the funding proposal enacted for FY 2017. The FY 2018 Corps spending bills before House and Senate legislators allow $1.7 billion for construction and $3.5 billion for operations and maintenance (O&M).

“Restoring the 17 percent cut to the Corps’ FY 2018 budget as proposed by the administration in its budget request, and proposing full use of the Inland Waterways Trust Fund annual revenue, benefits American consumers and workers — farmers, steel producers, manufacturers and transporters,” Michael J. Toohey, president of the Waterways Council Inc., said following the Senate committee’s approval of the budget proposal.

The bill approved by the House includes $175 million for the Olmsted Locks and Dam project, and calls for full use of estimated annual revenue from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund of at least $332.5 million. Furthermore, the Corps’ O&M account received a record $3.5 billion, which is $419 million more than the administration’s request for FY 2018. Also included was $1.3 billion from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, $40 million more than the FY 2017 enacted level.

Before the final vote was taken, the House approved an amendment by Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., and Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., that prohibits the use of funds for an economic re-analysis of the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program. The Senate version of the funding bill was still awaiting final congressional action in early August.

Buzby sworn in as new MarAd administrator

Before going on its August vacation, the Senate confirmed several nominations, including Mark Buzby as the new administrator of the U.S. Maritime Administration (MarAd).

Buzby, sworn in Aug. 8 as successor to Paul Jaenichen, is a retired Navy rear admiral whose career has spanned 34 years. He has served in at-sea billets, primarily in cruisers and destroyers, and has held key positions on the Navy staff, the Joint Staff and several fleet staffs. He holds master’s degrees from the U.S. Naval War College and Salve Regina University.

Upon learning of Buzby’s confirmation, Larry Willis, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, said he had no doubt that Buzby’s “distinguished military career and experience as president and CEO of the National Defense Transportation Association will serve him well as he works to support and strengthen America’s maritime transportation system.”

Study documents importance of US barge industry

The American Waterways Operators (AWO) has released a study documenting the contribution of the American tugboat, towboat and barge industry to the U.S. economy.

The study, conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), explores the industry’s economic contributions to several business areas, including the types and quantities of vital commodities transported on American waterways, and compares waterborne transport to other modes of freight transport in terms of efficiency, environmental impact and public safety.

The PwC study confirmed the relative efficiency of tugboat, towboat and barge transportation. The study said that one inland barge can haul 1,750 tons of dry cargo, the equivalent of 16 bulk rail cars or 70 tractor-trailers, with greater fuel efficiency and fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

“AWO could not be prouder to unveil this PwC study thoroughly quantifying what the dedicated men and women who make up the tugboat, towboat and barge industry have long known, from decades of firsthand experience,” AWO President Tom Allegretti said.

Joel Szabat, executive director of the Maritime Administration, added that the maritime industry “enables the movement of goods and cargo quickly, efficiently and at low cost between producers and markets along our nation’s waterways. Waterborne commerce opened our nation to trade and helped transform a fledgling democracy into the economic superpower it is today.”

Towboats have one year to comply with Subchapter M

The American Waterways Operators reminded towboat owners on July 20 that in a year’s time, on July 20, 2018, their vessels will be required to be in full compliance with Subchapter M.

Subchapter M requires owners or operators of more than one existing towing vessel to obtain certificates of inspection (COI) for at least 25 percent of their towing vessels in each year of the four-year COI phase-in period, which begins July 20, 2018. The AWO suggested that towboat owners and operators who plan to utilize a towing safety management system (TSMS) while preparing for compliance consider choosing an AWO-recognized Coast Guard-approved third-party organization (TPO).

The AWO also advised its members that they must obtain a TSMS certificate at least six months before obtaining a COI for any of the vessels covered by the TSMS certificate.

“If you have an upcoming RCP (Responsible Carrier Program) management audit, talk to your TPO and your auditor to ensure that the scope of the audit will qualify you to obtain a TSMS certificate when you successfully complete it,” the AWO told its members. “If you have completed an RCP management audit within the past three years, you may be issued a TSMS certificate according to CG-CVC (Commercial Vessel Compliance) Policy Letter 17-02, but your TPO may request additional information or documentation to verify that you are in compliance with the TSMS requirements of Subchapter M.”

Coast Guard eyes ‘21st-century infrastructure' for US

Adm. Paul Zukunft, Coast Guard commandant, and Rear Adm. Michael Haycock, assistant commandant for acquisition, testified on Capitol Hill in July about ways the Coast Guard could help build “a 21st-century infrastructure for America.”

Appearing before the House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee, Zukunft and Haycock said that the Coast Guard plans to evaluate options next year to replace the capabilities provided by the current fleet of inland tenders and barges commissioned between 1944 and 1990.

“Given the age and functionality of this fleet, requested funding supports initial exploratory activities to replace this vital capability, including the potential for commercial services and alternative crewing options, as well as recapitalization alternatives,” Zukunft said.

Haycock added that the Coast Guard was “mindful of our collective need to ensure that the facilities that receive new assets and the people (who) will operate and maintain them are properly equipped and trained to meet mission demands.”

Lower Miss safety committee seeks new members

The Coast Guard has invited interested parties to apply for membership on the Lower Mississippi River Waterway Safety Advisory Committee, which advises the Department of Homeland Security on navigation safety related to the Lower Mississippi River.

Applications should be submitted to the Coast Guard by mid-September. The Coast Guard is considering applications for 25 positions that expire or become vacant on May 23, 2018.

For more information, contact Lt. Brian Porter at (504) 365-2375.

By Professional Mariner Staff