Brownwater News, August 2018

Trump signs bill delaying installation of TWIC readers

A bill signed into law on Aug. 2 by President Trump prohibited the U.S. Coast Guard from implementing an Aug. 23 deadline requiring the installation of Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) readers for high-risk facilities and vessels. Leaders from the maritime industry and other industries who had challenged the Coast Guard rule welcomed the action.

On June 6, when the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs approved the Coast Guard’s proposed three-year implementation delay for only two specific groups of facilities, industry stakeholders negatively affected by the limited ruling protested.

A notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to allow just two exemptions to the TWIC reader requirement was posted on June 22. Through the July 23 closing date for public comment, the Federal Register received letters of criticism citing excessive logistical challenges, undue economic impacts and a lack of evidence from the Coast Guard demonstrating that installation of the biometric readers would significantly improve maritime security.

The three-year reprieve was proposed for two categories of facilities: Those that handle certain dangerous cargoes (CDC) in bulk but do not transfer the cargoes to or from a vessel, and those that receive vessels carrying CDC in bulk but do not, during the vessel-to-facility interface, transfer the bulk cargoes to or from the vessels. Other facilities and vessels that the Coast Guard considers to be high risk, including facilities that receive vessels carrying more than 1,000 passengers, were still required under the proposal to have the TWIC readers.

Under provisions of the TWIC Accountability Act of 2018, the Coast Guard is prohibited from implementing the TWIC reader rule until after the Department of Homeland Security has submitted an assessment of the program to Congress. The act also restricts the Coast Guard from submitting any proposal or issuing a notice of proposed rulemaking “for any revision to such rule unless it is to extend the effective date.”

Professional Mariner will have full coverage and analysis of this development in the October/November issue.

AWO welcomes Subchapter M, celebrates industry 'milestone'

The American Waterways Operators (AWO) last month welcomed the implementation of the long-awaited Subchapter M towing vessel safety regulations. The rules, which went into effect July 20, are expected to elevate safety standards across the industry while maximizing efficient use of limited U.S. Coast Guard resources.

Subchapter M sets baseline safety standards for all towing vessels, incorporating and building on the safeguards that AWO members have already voluntarily put in place, to now raise the regulatory floor for the entire industry.

Tom Allegretti, president and chief executive officer of the AWO, said the regulations recognize “the important role of safety management systems in promoting a culture of safety.” The rules also allow the Coast Guard to “focus its resources on higher-risk towing vessels.”

The implementation of Subchapter M is “a milestone to be celebrated,” Allegretti said. “AWO members approached the Coast Guard 15 years ago with the goal of making our industry safer for mariners, for the environment and for all Americans who rely on maritime commerce to transport the building blocks of our economy.”

Small shipyards get $20 million in MarAd grants

The Maritime Administration (MarAd) awarded more than $20 million in grants in July for capital improvements at 29 shipyards as part of its Small Shipyard Grant Program.

Small shipyards vary in size but must have under 1,200 production employees to be eligible for grant awards. Maritime Administrator Mark Buzby said that in the past 10 years, the grant program has awarded more than $183 million to small shipyards to help fund upgrades and expansions that allow “this critical industry to compete more effectively.”

The largest sum awarded last month, $1.4 million, went to Fincantieri Marine Group LLC (Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding) in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. The award will support the purchase and installation of four 50-ton overhead cranes.

Other recipients of awards totaling $1 million were Master Boat Builders Inc. in Bayou La Batre, Ala.; James Marine Inc. (Walker Boat Yard), Paducah, Ky.; Jarrett Bay Boatworks Inc., Beaufort, N.C.; Gulf Copper Dry Dock & Rig Repair, Galveston, Texas; Glendale Boat Works Inc., Channelview, Texas; and Ice Floe LLC (Nichols Brother Boat Builders), Freeland, Wash.

The Shipbuilders Council of America (SCA) applauded MarAd for the awards.

“These grants are integral to fostering a highly trained and skilled work force that (is) not only essential to the U.S. shipbuilding and repair industry but also to our country’s economy and national security,” said Matthew Paxton, president of the SCA. “More efficient and sustainable shipyards are critical to maintaining a robust maritime sector that ensures the position of the United States throughout the world.”

Nagle: US freight transport system remains critical

In testimony before a Senate panel last month, Kurt Nagle, president and chief executive officer of the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), said that the role played by the nation’s freight transportation system is “more critical than ever.”

Addressing the Senate International Trade, Customs and Global Competitiveness Subcommittee, Nagle said the importance of the system “is evident in (President Trump's) call for $1.5 trillion to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure and Congress’ 2017 budget agreement to devote an additional $10 billion (for) infrastructure in both (fiscal year) 2018 and FY 2019.”

Nagle said the AAPA has projected that over the next 10 years the seaport industry will need $34 billion for waterside projects and $32 billion for landside projects. To fully maintain deep-draft navigation channels, $26.7 billion will be needed over the next decade, he said. That includes $9 billion in unused Harbor Maintenance Tax revenue credited to the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, as well as full use of future annual HMT collections.

Waterways users board reschedules meeting

Due to a scheduling conflict with the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Olmsted Locks and Dam project, the 88th meeting of the Inland Waterways Users Board has been rescheduled to Aug. 28. The meeting will be held at the Luther F. Carson Four Rivers Center in Paducah, Ky.

On Aug. 29, there will be a tour of the Kentucky Lock project site on the Tennessee River. For more information, contact Kenneth Lichtman at (703) 428-8083.

Coast Guard seeks members for two advisory boards

The Coast Guard has invited interested parties to apply for membership on the Great Lakes Pilotage Advisory Committee and the Inland Waterways Users Board.

The original invitation offered in March for the pilots committee is being extended until the vacancy is filled. The Coast Guard is considering applicants for one position that will become vacant Sept. 30.

For more information, contact Rajiv Khandpur at (202) 372-1525.

The Coast Guard also is seeking nominees to serve on the Inland Waterways Users Board. Seven appointments will be made for terms that will begin May 28, 2019.

For more information, contact Kenneth Lichtman at (703) 428-8083.

Mississippi River Commission plans four meetings

The Mississippi River Commission has scheduled meetings for Aug. 20 at Caruthersville, Mo.; Aug. 21 in Memphis, Tenn.; Aug. 22 in Vicksburg, Miss.; and Aug. 24 in Morgan City, La.

For more information, contact Charles Camillo at (601) 634-7023.

By Professional Mariner Staff