Brownwater News, August 2020

Funding for port relief moves forward in House

A bill aimed at helping America’s ports through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond was introduced in the U.S. House on July 30 to accompany the Maritime Transportation System Emergency Relief Act introduced earlier this summer.

The bipartisan act would establish a maritime emergency relief authority to provide grants to allow the U.S. maritime transportation system to remain functional and reliable in the event of a national emergency or natural disaster. The grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MarAd) could pay for ports’ operating and overhead costs associated with emergency response operations, cleaning, sanitizing, janitorial services, staffing, workforce retention, paid leave, procurement of protective health equipment, debt service payments and infrastructure repair projects.

“COVID-19 relief is critical for the port and maritime industry in response to challenges faced as a result of the pandemic,” said Christopher Connor, president of the American Association of Port Authorities. “This proposal (the companion bill) would establish a permanent vehicle to provide relief to U.S. ports and the maritime industry following a natural disaster, whether that be a hurricane, flood, earthquake, tsunami or future pandemic. It’s become crystal clear that such a program is necessary to help our nation’s ports to manage the effects of this pandemic and future disasters as they impact ports’ ability to function efficiently and maintain a state of readiness.”

AWO ‘proud to back’ changes in WRDA 2020

A bill reported out of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in July has wholehearted support from the American Waterways Operators (AWO).

H.R. 7575, the Water Resources Development Act of 2020 (WRDA), would change the cost-sharing formula for inland waterway infrastructure projects from a 50/50 split to a ratio of 65 percent federal funding and 35 percent covered by the Inland Waterways Trust Fund. It also would amend WRDA 2018 to allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to send dredges to areas affected by high- or low-water events.

"AWO is proud to back this bill, which will strengthen our waterways infrastructure system to the benefit of American shippers; the tugboat, towboat and barge industry; and American maritime as a whole," said Jennifer Carpenter, AWO’s president and CEO.

Lock and dam repairs shut down Illinois River barge traffic

Illinois River barge traffic is on hold while locks and dams are shut down for extensive repairs.

Included on the Army Corps of Engineers project list is the LaGrange Lock and Dam, which was completed in 1939 with a life expectancy of 50 years, and four other locks and dams on the river. The Corps hopes to finish repairs by Oct. 1.

The American Society of Civil Engineers has estimated it will cost nearly $5 billion over 20 years to repair and upgrade the nation’s aging locks and dams. Work on the Illinois River is estimated to cost between $150 million and $200 million. 

Lake Carriers’ Association: Funding crucial for new Soo lock

Legislation recently passed by the U.S. House Appropriations Committee would provide more than $123 million to support ongoing construction of a new deepwater navigational lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

The Lake Carriers’ Association (LCA) applauded the committee for approving the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (2021), which includes the funding for the new Soo lock, $59.2 million for construction of “locks not on the inland waterways system,” and $17 billion in emergency funding to accelerate work on Army Corps of Engineers projects around the country.

The 62-year-old Poe Lock, the only Soo lock large enough to handle 1,000-foot ships, has aging components and thus has had many closures in recent years. The new lock would prevent a national economic disaster should Poe Lock fail, according to the LCA.

“Efficiently funding the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers so the project can remain on track is crucial to the overall health of the Great Lakes Navigation System,” said LCA President Jim Weakley in praising the committee’s action.

AWO presents safety award to CITGO project in Louisiana

CITGO Petroleum Corp.’s Lake Charles (La.) Marine Department and facility is the recipient of the first safety award from the American Waterways Operators’ Tankering & Barge Operations Subcommittee.

The award, presented virtually in August, recognizes the department’s commitment to workplace safety, which was demonstrated by its requirement that a dock operator be present while someone is transiting the gangway from the facility to a vessel.

"AWO is proud of the work that the Tankering & Barge Operations Subcommittee is doing to raise awareness of best practices in maritime safety,” said AWO President and CEO Jennifer Carpenter. “The subcommittee has identified safe access/egress at the vessel-to-facility interface as a serious safety issue, and CITGO's Lake Charles Marine Department richly deserves this inaugural award for its leadership in this area and for its commitment to ensuring its facility is a safe work environment."   

Mike Ellis new CEO at American Commercial Barge Line

American Commercial Barge Line has named Mike Ellis as the company’s new chief executive officer and a member of its board of directors, effective Aug. 17.

“Following a thorough search, we are delighted to welcome Mike Ellis as ACBL’s new CEO, beginning a new chapter in the company’s 100-plus-year storied history,” said John Giles, chairman of the board. “Mike comes to ACBL with a long history in the industry and brings a wealth of knowledge and leadership that will guide us forward.”

Prior to joining the company, Ellis was executive vice president and marine group leader for Savage Services Corp., where he helped grow and diversify its inland and offshore marine businesses. 

NWF measures economic impact of waterways in 17 states

The National Waterways Foundation (NWF) has put together waterways profiles for 17 states that detail the economic impacts of each inland system. The states included are Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

NWF worked with Cambridge Systematics Inc. (CSI) on the profiles. Each analysis included an evaluation of current economic and commodity flow information, top commodities, and the industries that most benefit from the inland waterways in each state. CSI used reports and research published by the Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Department of Agriculture, NWF, state agencies, the Federal Highway Administration and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

“These new waterways profiles will offer an even deeper dive into the critical value of the inland waterways to states. This will be a great additional resource of information and the National Waterways Foundation is proud to have commissioned this important project,” said NWF Chairman Rick Calhoun.

Marine Highway Projects module coming soon to AAPA site

The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) will soon add a Marine Highway Projects module to its Port Planning and Investment Toolkit, which helps ports define problems, engage partners, access funding and more.

Earlier this year, the AAPA and the U.S. Department of Transportation — through the Maritime Administration (MarAd) — organized a team of U.S. port industry experts to assist in the development of the module, which provides an overview of America's Marine Highway (AMH) program and informs readers on how marine highway services can become designated projects by USDOT. It explains how to plan a new marine highway service, determine its feasibility and identify possible funding mechanisms.

The module has been developed to highlight existing marine highway services that illustrate, in a practical way, the promise and capacity of the American domestic waterborne system and to integrate the marine highway into the national, state and local transportation planning process, said Aaron Ellis, AAPA’s public affairs director.

A webinar showcasing the module can be viewed here.

By Professional Mariner Staff