House eyes maritime role in U.S. food aid programs
Two House subcommittees responsible for legislation dealing with the transportation of farm products held a joint hearing Nov. 17 to learn more about maritime transportation’s role in America’s international food aid programs.
Participating in the joint hearing, led by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., and Rep. David Rouzer, R-N.C., were members of the Agriculture Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee and members of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee.
Rouzer said in an opening statement that he remained “perplexed” by the “continued push by the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) to move away from in-kind donations in exchange for more cash-based assistance. I’m particularly concerned by the fact that they attempted to achieve this by driving a wedge between the agriculture and maritime communities, while using scarce food aid funding to do it.”
Rouzer added that given the connection between the nation’s maritime security and food aid programs, “undermining one ultimately jeopardizes both.”
In his opening statement, Hunter noted that the U.S. agriculture community and maritime industry are “critical components of U.S. international food aid. For 60 years, these entities have supplied and delivered food to hungry people around the world." Hunter called for “further discussion” on AID’s proposal to reform cargo preference by adjusting how the 50 percent standard is met using a combination of U.S.-flag commercial vessels and foreign vessels.
Maritime Administrator Paul Jaenichen testified that current attrition rates are projected to overtake the advancement rate of new management-level bluewater mariners within the next five years.
“I am working closely with the U.S. Transportation Command, the U.S. Navy and the commercial maritime industry to develop proposals to maintain an adequate number of trained mariners,” Jaenichen said. “We are currently developing a National Maritime Strategy that will consider a comprehensive range of actions to preserve and grow all aspects of the U.S. merchant marine.”
Adding the Department of Defense’s support for the proposed reforming of cargo preference was David Berteau, assistant secretary of defense for logistics and materiel readiness, who said a reformed P.L. 480 Title II food aid program will not impact the department's ability to "crew the surge fleet and deploy forces and sustainment cargoes.” Berteau said that the Department of Defense looks to the merchant marine to provide the ships and mariners that it needs to execute all of its national security missions.
Testifying in opposition to the cargo preference proposal was Brian Schoeneman, legislative director of the Seafarers International Union, who said that the reform proposal “could destroy the entire (food aid) program.”
“I would call upon all to soften the bitterly divisive rhetoric being used against the maritime and agriculture industries,” Schoeneman said. “Accusing us of wanting to starve children in order to line the pockets of greedy foreign businessmen is not only a ridiculous falsehood, it undermines the credibility of those making that argument.”
Another witness, Capt. John W. Murray, president and CEO of Hapag-Lloyd, said that he has fought “many battles over the years in support of our U.S.-flag industry."
“I fear that we are not just losing the battle, but now the war itself if we fail to stabilize the existing U.S.-flag fleet through the programs that exist today," he said. "The unfortunate reality of today’s business world is that if a service or business unit does not perform, it is eliminated. The U.S.-flag fleet is getting dangerously close to this reality.”
James Caponiti, president of the American Maritime Congress, testified on behalf of USA Maritime, a coalition of ship-owning companies, maritime labor organizations and maritime trade associations.
Caponiti said that USA Maritime “strongly supports” the security program and existing cargo preference laws. Testifying on the importance of the Maritime Security Program (MSP) and food aid cargo preference to the international trading U.S.-flag fleet, Caponiti said that absent cargo preference, “it is no exaggeration to say that the U.S.-flag international trade fleet would continue to diminish to a level approaching MSP enrollment, currently at 60 vessels.”
Seaway Mo-Lo section to end 2015 season Dec. 30
United States and Canada administrators of the St. Lawrence Seaway have announced that the Montreal-Lake Ontario section of the waterway’s 2015 navigation season will close at midnight Dec. 30. The administrators also have decided to waive the operational surcharges on Dec. 21, 22, 23 and 24.
The Welland Canal will remain open until midnight Dec. 26. Vessels will be allowed to transit until midnight Dec. 30. Closing of the U.S. Sault Ste. Marie Locks is currently scheduled for Jan. 15.
The U.S. Montreal-Lake Ontario section and Welland Canal announced that closures are subject to weather and other conditions.
Vessel owners and operators were advised that there are a number of ports east of the seaway (St. Lambert Lock) on the St. Lawrence River that remain open to navigation during the winter months.
For more information on the Seaway’s closing dates and procedures, contact the U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. at (315) 764-3200 or the Canadian St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. at (613) 932-5170.
DOT’s ‘Smart City Challenge’ is worth $40 million
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation will award up to $40 million to one midsized city that can demonstrate how advanced data and intelligent transportation systems technologies and applications can be used to reduce congestion, keep travelers safe, protect the environment, respond to climate change, connect underserved communities and support economic vitality.
Foxx said that finalists of the “Smart City Challenge” will be invited to apply for funding to support implementation of their proposed demonstration.
Cities of populations between 200,000 and 850,000 are invited to qualify for the award by Feb. 4.
Interested parties can submit questions about the challenge to firstname.lastname@example.org.
AWO: VIDA enactment is top legislative priority
The American Waterways Operators has assured its members that securing enactment of the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA) is the group’s “top legislative priority" for the 114th Congress.
The AWO told its members that in the past two months it had generated “high-level constituent letters” to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and four Democratic colleagues emphasizing “the importance of VIDA enactment to businesses in their states.”
Medical advisory committee seeks new members
The Merchant Mariner Medical Advisory Committee has invited interested parties to apply for membership by Jan. 25. Applicants selected for service on the committee via this solicitation will not begin their term until Aug. 8.
The Coast Guard will consider applications for seven positions that expire Aug. 8. Members appointed will serve a five-year term. For more information, contact Coast Guard Lt. Ashley Holm at (202) 372-1128.
Coast Guard to increase oil tankers’ limits of liability
The Coast Guard has issued a final rule to increase the limits of liability for vessels, deepwater ports and onshore facilities under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 to reflect significant increases in the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
The final rule, which will become effective Dec. 21, also establishes a simplified regulatory procedure for the Coast Guard to make future required periodic CPI increases, which are necessary to preserve the deterrent effect and “polluter pays” principle embodied in OPA 90.
In addition, the final rule clarifies applicability of the limits of liability to edible-oil cargo tank vessels and tank vessels designated as oil spill response vessels. The clarification to the prior regulatory text is needed for consistency with OPA 90.
The rule, which makes several non-substantive clarifying and editorial revisions to the regulatory text, promotes the Coast Guard’s missions of maritime safety and maritime stewardship.
For more information, contact Benjamin White at (202) 309-1937.