Government shutdown curtails NMC operations
The U.S. Coast Guard reports that due to the partial government shutdown, the National Maritime Center (NMC) and all Regional Exam Centers (REC) have been closed until further notice. Furthermore, customer walk-in services have been suspended, examinations and other REC appointments have been cancelled, and REC appointment calendars are closed.
The following limited operations are still being maintained: The Customer Service Center may be reached at (888) 427-5662; the NMC website (IASKNMC@uscg.mil) is available for updates on NMC and REC operating status; and applications or mariner training provider documentation can be emailed or mailed and processed when the partial shutdown is over.
DOT opens new round of infrastructure grants
The Department of Transportation has announced the second round of the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) discretionary grant program through a notice of funding opportunity (NOFO).
The program is expected to make up to about $902 million available to projects that are in line with the administration's principles to help rebuild America's “crumbling” infrastructure, the DOT said. In addition to providing direct federal funding, the INFRA program aims to increase the total investment by state, local and private partners.
The INFRA funding is subject to the money that will be provided by fiscal year 2019 appropriations. In 2018, INFRA grants totaling nearly $1.5 billion were awarded to 26 projects. For a large project, an INFRA grant must be at least $25 million; a small project requires a grant of at least $5 million. The largest award of $50 million in 2018 went to a highway improvement project in California. DOT Secretary Elaine Chao said this year’s NOFO will remain open through March 4.
For more information, including a list of the 26 projects and their INFRA awards, visit www.transportation.gov/INFRA or call (202) 366-4570.
AAPA applauds delay of US tariff increases
The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) applauded the recent announcement that trade talks with China have resulted in an agreement for the U.S. to hold off further tariff increases on Chinese products for 90 days — through March — while the two nations work out a longer-term trade accord.
Kurt Nagle, president and CEO of the association, said that postponing the previously planned increase of tariffs from 10 percent to 25 percent “is encouraging news and evidence that progress is being made in trade negotiations.”
Nagle noted that high import tariffs not only raise the cost of products Americans need and want, but that reciprocal trade sanctions from U.S. trading partners also can increase the cost and reduce demand for U.S. exports.
Study finds narrow focus in Army Corps’ project funding
The National Waterways Foundation (NWF) has released results of a study on how the benefit-cost ratio affects Army Corps of Engineers’ projects.
The NWF said the study’s primary finding is that there are a number of externalities that are commonly used in benefit-cost analysis (BCA) for other federal agency infrastructure projects that are not included in the Corps’ guidance, which is narrowly focused on transportation cost savings.
Among other findings was the study’s conclusion that discount and interest rates have a “profound effect on the economic viability of navigation projects, but are not being used by the Corps in a realistic fashion.”
Click here to read the study in its entirety.
Ports question need for new border staff housing
Several ports are concerned about requests to significantly upgrade and, in some cases, build new facilities to house Customs and Border Protection (CBP) staff.
Kurt Nagle, president and CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities, raised a number of questions in a letter to CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan. Among them: “What are the CBP housing concerns with current facilities?” and “Why do they need to be addressed through new construction in order for CBP to meet its mission?”
Nagle told McAleenan that if CBP resources are not made equally available to ports, “competitive balance can be impacted. Ports are unified in wanting a fair playing field when it comes to CBP resources.”
Nagle added that the port industry wants a mutually beneficial working relationship with CBP, but that “it’s vital that our concerns be addressed, and addressed from a national perspective.”
O’Loughlin named president of Ingram Barge
David O’Loughlin, senior vice president for vessel operations and customer service at Ingram Barge Co., has been named the company's new president and chief operating officer.
Orrin Ingram II, chairman and CEO, said that O’Loughlin “is primed for this role. He has dedicated his life to the marine industry, beginning his career as a deck hand while he was in college.” In his more than 30 years at Ingram, the chairman said, O’Loughlin has “proven consistently that he is up to the task.”
NWC sets 2019 Legislative Summit for March 4-6
The National Waterways Conference has scheduled its 2019 Legislative Summit for March 4-6 at the Madison Hotel in Washington, D.C.
Among the speakers who will discuss congressional and executive branch policy and program expectations are R.D. James, assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works, and Maj. Gen. Scott Spellman, commanding general for civil and emergency operations of the Army Corps of Engineers.