Brownwater News, January 2015

Waterways industry looks to build on 2014 success

The nation’s waterways industry appears to be looking forward to a new year with lots to be thankful for.

Debra Colbert, senior vice president of Waterways Council Inc., greeted 2015 with the declaration that the new year would “build upon the successes the inland waterways industry had in 2014.” Colbert called attention to the new Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA 2014) with its “strong policy changes that included a cost-share change at Olmsted Locks and Dam (85 percent federal, 15 percent Inland Waterways Trust Fund, or IWTF); improvements to the project delivery process of the Army Corps of Engineers; a new way to define major rehabilitation projects; increased spending from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, with set-asides for inland maintenance, dredging and work at smaller ports; and duty enhancements to the Inland Waterways Users Board.”

Colbert also pointed out that the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015, the “Cromnibus” (H.R. 83), provided “strong civil works program funding at $5.5 billion,” up $921.5 million above the administration’s request, and civil works construction funding at $1.6 billion, up $514.5 million over the administration’s proposal. Operations and maintenance was funded at $2.9 billion, $308.5 million above the administration’s request.

Colbert added that no less than $1.1 billion was provided from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, a $100 million increase over fiscal year 2014 and $185 million higher than the administration proposal. The National Waterways Conference (NWC) notes that the Army Corps of Engineers, whose civil works program is now funded at $5.5 billion, has until mid-February to submit work plans. The NWC said the Corps must provide a detailed description of the ratings used to evaluate projects in each account, how the funds were allocated, a summary for each allocation, and a list of projects considered and the reasons they did not receive funds.

Also passed in the same lame-duck session of Congress was legislation that included a 9-cent increase in the inland waterways diesel user fee. The increase will be effective April 1. The funds, around $40 million from industry levies, will be deposited into the IWTF for the benefit of priority navigation project construction and major rehabilitation.

Harry Cook of Arlington, Va., whose longtime leadership in the U.S. waterways industry is known around the world, looked ahead to an American inland navigation infrastructure that is “expensive and aging, requiring more and more funding as the years go by.” Cook said the government is “hard pressed” to keep the waterways in good working condition.

“Realistically, there are not enough federal funds available to meet all of our navigation challenges,” Cook said. “The years ahead will require the determined support of all inland waterways advocates, including the Army Corps of Engineers’ expertise and ingenuity.”

The Olmsted Locks and Dam project is funded at $160 million. The Lower Mon project near Pittsburgh is funded at around $9 million. The Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 provides no less than $1.1 billion for ports and channels. No funding is provided for hydrologic separation measures related to Asian carp.

The NWC said the bill directs the Corps to undertake an economic analysis of whether reduced lock and dam service is in the best interests of the nation. In an explanatory statement accompanying the bill, appropriators stressed that the administration should pay more attention to its civil works program rather than addressing "multiple conflicting agendas."

Congress authorizes $8.7 billion for Coast Guard in FY 2015

The House voted 413-3 on Dec. 3 in favor of a bill authorizing $8.7 billion for the Coast Guard this fiscal year.

The final House bill, the Howard Coble Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2014, includes provisions that require development of a national maritime strategy, reduce regulatory burdens to create jobs and encourage economic growth, work to reduce the Coast Guard’s excess property inventory, improve Coast Guard acquisition activities, and help replace and modernize aging Coast Guard assets “in a cost-effective manner.”

Coast Guard readies safety rules for towboat inspections

Lt. Cmdr. William Nabach, project manager of the Coast Guard’s Office of Design and Engineering Standards, said Dec. 2 that the Coast Guard is moving ahead with a rulemaking proposed in 2011 to establish safety regulations governing the inspection, standards and safety management systems of towing vessels.

The proposal includes provisions covering specific electrical and machinery requirements for new and existing towing vessels, the use and approval of third-party auditors and surveyors, and procedures for obtaining certificates of inspection.

The Coast Guard said in its notice of proposed rulemaking that the intent is to promote safer work practices and reduce casualties on towing vessels by requiring that the vessels adhere to prescribed safety standards and safety management systems or to an alternative annual Coast Guard inspection regime.

The comment period ended Dec. 9, 2011. The final rule is expected to be ready for publication in August 2015. For more information, contact Nabach at (202) 372-1386 or Michael Harmon at (202) 372-1427.

Coast Guard again delays hazmat list

The Coast Guard has announced another two-year delay of the effective date of a 2013 interim rule that updates and revises tables that list liquid hazardous materials, liquefied gases and compressed gases approved by the Coast Guard and the International Maritime Organization for maritime transportation in bulk.

The Coast Guard said the additional delay, to Jan. 16, 2017, will allow it to complete its work to correct technical errors in the revised tables and solicit additional comments in a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking prior to finalizing the rule.

For more information, contact Patrick Keffler at (202) 372-1424.

MarAd developing national maritime strategy

Maritime Administrator Paul Jaenichen has advised the inland waterways industry that his office is “continuing to work tirelessly” on a national maritime strategy.

Speaking at International Workboat Show late last year in New Orleans, Jaenichen said the strategy will be “a comprehensive plan to strengthen the U.S. shipbuilding and repair industry, the marine transportation system, and the U.S. merchant marine.”

Jaenichen said the Marine Transportation System National Advisory Council is busy evaluating, prioritizing and rationalizing “a vast input.” When the deliberations are completed, they “will put pen to paper” and draft a product that can serve as a “blueprint to inform and guide the writing of legislation that will support a robust future as a maritime nation, not just as a maritime-dependent nation.”

The administrator stressed to his audience, “We are taking great pains to ensure that the inland waterways and the offshore industries are included in our final product.”

Ship, facility operators to address cyber-related vulnerabilities

The Coast Guard is developing policies to help vessel and facility operators identify and address cyber-related vulnerabilities that could contribute to a transportation security incident (TSI). As part of that work, the Coast Guard is seeking input from the maritime industry and other interested parties on how to identify and mitigate potential vulnerabilities to cyber-dependent systems.

The Coast Guard scheduled a public meeting for Jan. 15 at the Department of Transportation headquarters in Washington, D.C., to receive comments on the development of cyber-security assessment methods for vessels and facilities regulated by the Coast Guard. All written comments must reach the Coast Guard by Jan. 29.

The Coast Guard is looking for public input on a series of concerns, including the procedures or standards that vessel and facility operators use now to identify potential cyber-security vulnerabilities to their operations, and what cyber-dependent systems used in the maritime industry could lead or contribute to a TSI if they failed.

For more information, contact Lt. Josephine Long at (202) 372-1109.

Corps allows more GLMRIS comments

The Army Corps of Engineers has extended the comment period on its intention to prepare a draft environmental impact statement for the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study (GLMRIS) — Evaluation of Aquatic Nuisance Species Controls near Brandon Road Lock and Dam.

The Corps planned to accept public comments related to GLMRIS until Jan. 30. Public meetings were held Dec. 6 in Argonne, Ill., Dec. 9 in Chicago, and Jan. 8 in New Orleans.

The GLMRIS-Brandon Road effort is designed to evaluate the range of options or technologies available to prevent the transfer of Mississippi River aquatic nuisance species through the Chicago Area Waterway System.

For more information, contact David Wethington, Corps Chicago District project manager, 231 S. LaSalle St., Suite 1500, Chicago, Ill., 60604.

Panama Canal planning new toll structure

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has announced a proposal for a new toll structure, following more than a year of informal consultations with representatives from various industry segments.

The proposal, approved by ACP directors on Dec. 24, was opened to formal comments Jan. 5 with a deadline of Feb. 9. A public hearing is scheduled for Feb. 27.

The proposed restructuring calls for each segment to be priced based on different units of measurement, while aligning with customers’ needs and requests and modifying pricing for all canal segments. For instance, containers will be measured and priced on TEUs, dry bulkers will be based on deadweight tonnage capacity and metric tons of cargo, passenger vessels will be based on berths, LNG will be based on cubic meters, and tankers will be measured and priced on Panama Canal tons and metric tons.

ACP Administrator/CEO Jorge Luis Quijano said the new structure will apply to the existing canal as well as a new lane of traffic when an expansion project is completed in 2016.

The last toll modification was put into effect in 2012-2013 for dry bulk vessels, tankers, chemical carriers, gas carriers, vehicle carriers/ro-ro, general cargo and other types of vessels. Container, reefer and passenger tolls have remained unchanged since 2011. 

By Professional Mariner Staff