Mica to include maritime reform in new â€˜highwayâ€™ bill
Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said in a recent op-ed for Politico that a new direction is needed to address â€œour growing transportation challenges.â€� Mica said that the long-term transportation bill he is developing â€œwill differ from previous reauthorizations in its broad scope.
â€œOver the years, the six-year surface transportation bills have been commonly referred to as the highway bill. This year, the Transportation Committee intends to produce comprehensive legislation to not only reauthorize the federal highways, transit and highway safety programs but also make significant reforms in our rail and maritime transportation policies.â€�
Mica also indicated that he would re-examine the basic purpose of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.
â€œThis transportation fund, supported by cargo fees, is critical for dredging and harbor channel improvements,â€� Mica said. â€œBut despite growing maritime infrastructure needs, these funds are not being used for their intended purpose of maintaining our ports. This important fund must not remain caught up in the budgetary gimmicks of Washington.â€�
Kurt Nagle, president and CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities, who has urged the committee to include a maritime title in the transportation bill to address the Harbor Maintenance Tax, has applauded Micaâ€™s â€œvision for comprehensive transportation policy and legislation.â€�
Calhoun, Boustany see urgent need for waterway dredging
Rick Calhoun, president of Cargo Carriers (Cargill) and chairman of Waterways Council Inc., called on the federal government June 7 to â€œtake all necessary stepsâ€� to provide funding for the inland navigation system and to allow the Lower Mississippi River to remain fully open for commerce.
Calling attention to the millions of tons of silt and debris carried to the mouth of the Mississippi River by this yearâ€™s high water, Calhoun said the silting and shoaling â€œimminently threatens the ability of vessels to enter and exit the river.â€�
Calhoun said that without a viable Mississippi River, there will be â€œno possible wayâ€� to reach President Obamaâ€™s goal of doubling exports in the next five years.
â€œDredging of this critical artery must happen now, but there is a shortfall of funds to do so,â€� Calhoun said. â€œWe urge the White House to immediately submit an emergency request for supplemental funds to Congress, and we ask that Congress expeditiously process that requestâ€¦Dredging this critical artery should be viewed as an investment, not a cost, in the future of our vital inland waterways transportation system.â€�
Also calling attention to the need for dredging the inland waterways was Rep. Charles Boustany Jr. (R-La.). Writing recently in the Post & Courier, Charleston, S.C., Boustany said that if the nation is to reach the administrationâ€™s export goals, â€œthere is no question that dredging domestic waterways to their operational potential is a requirement.â€�
Boustany said that Congress created the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) to pay for dredging, â€œbut the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has access to only about half of the incoming revenue each year and this funding has been tied up in earmarks.â€�
To make full use of the HMTF, Boustany urged enactment of his Realize Americaâ€™s Maritime Promise Act, H.R. 104. The congressman said that the Congressional Budget Office has confirmed that the legislation adds nothing to the deficit and â€œmerely allows use of this revenue as Congress originally intended.â€�
According to the Corps, the incoming revenue (up to $1.6 billion a year) is sufficient to meet these needs and critical funds would not have to be shifted to deal with any emergency dredging.
House panel OKs $4.8 billion for Corps projects in FY 2012
A spending bill that included $4.8 billion for the civil works program of the Army Corps of Engineers in fiscal year 2012 was approved without amendment June 2 by the House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee. The sum approved by the subcommittee was $195 million above the presidentâ€™s request and $89 million below this fiscal year.
The legislation included $2.4 billion for the Corpsâ€™ operations and maintenance, $1.6 billion for construction, $210 million for the Mississippi River and tributaries, and $104 million for investigations.
In opening remarks at the subcommittee markup, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), chairman, said the legislation makes funds available above the presidentâ€™s request for navigation and flood control, and gives the Corps 45 days to deliver and justify its spending plan.
â€œThis will give each project, whether in the presidentâ€™s budget or not, the opportunity to compete for these funds, and ensure that we understand how the Corps really develops its request,â€� Frelinghuysen said.
The chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), noted that the bill contained no congressional earmarks, â€œbut this bill has made available some $380 million to provide the Corps with additional flexibility.â€� As mentioned by Frelinghuysen, Rogers said the Corps will have 45 days â€œto show us how they would spend this funding on additional flood control and navigation projects in congressional districts around the country.â€�
Rep. Ed Pastor (D-Ariz.), a member of the subcommittee, commented that even though the bill contains additional funds that ensure continuation of some ongoing Corps projects, â€œit is not enough to meet the nationâ€™s need.â€� Pastor said that even with additional funds for flood and storm damage reduction projects, â€œwe continue down a shortsighted path that is penny wise, pound foolish.â€�
Towboat industry sharpens waterways safety
The American Waterways Operators (AWO) announced May 27 that the tugboat, towboat and barge industry is establishing new voluntary precautions for safe transit on the inland waterways during the unprecedented flooding event now being experienced.
Working closely with the Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers, AWO said the barge industry has both suggested safety enhancements and agreed to heightened safety practices. The industry has agreed to such heightened safety practices as using assist tugboats to navigate through especially challenging areas, reducing the number of barges in each tow to no more than 20, following newly designated channels in certain areas of the Mississippi River, and working with local officials to keep towboats and barges away from vulnerable levees.
Martin weighs next move
Cornel Martin, president and chief executive officer of Waterways Council Inc. (WCI), said May 17 he still planned to leave the organization at the end of June, but that he wasnâ€™t sure what career path he would follow upon his departure.
Martin said he was considering several options, including a return to Louisiana and his family business, an enterprise that focuses on providing labor and other needs to the shipbuilding industry.
Martin, who announced on May 4 that he would be leaving WCI at the end of June, said he would stay on until a successor is in place.
U.S. Barge delivers deck and tank barge
U.S. Barge LLC has delivered a 162-foot deck and tank barge to NorthStar Gas LLC, an Alaskan petroleum distributor. The barge will be making deliveries to the Yukon, Kuskokwim and Western Alaska coastal regions.
The shallow-draft barge, a non-self-propelled, single-hulled, combination deck and tank vessel, is designed to navigate in waters as low as three feet. It can carry up to 200,000 gallons of Grade B petroleum products and seven 20-foot containers on its 3,000-square-foot main deck.
OSHA revises shipyard working conditions
The U.S. Department of Laborâ€™s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has adopted a final rule that revises its standards on general working conditions in shipyard employment.
The final rule, which updates shipyard employment standards that have gone largely unchanged since OSHA adopted them in 1972, addresses 14 workplace safety and health categories. OSHA also added new provisions for the control of hazardous energy and motor vehicle safety.
The updates include establishing minimum lighting for certain work sites, accounting for employees at the end of job tasks or work shifts when working alone, and adding uniform criteria to ensure shipyards have an adequate number of appropriately trained first-aid providers.
The final rule will become effective Aug. 1.
For more information, contact Joseph V. Daddura at (202) 693-2222.
Bollinger to build double-hulled tugs for Crowley
Bollinger Shipyards, of Lockport, La., has signed a contract to build four double-hulled Ocean-class tugs for Crowley Maritime Corp. The first of the 146-foot tugs is scheduled for delivery in the fourth quarter of this year.
Missouri Barge Line adds to fleet
Missouri Barge Line Co. Inc. recently purchased two towboats from Mays Towing Co. Inc. and its affiliated companies, a 31-year-old operation planning to leave the marine business.
Missouri Barge Line of Cape Girardeau, Mo., previously had bought the 1,800-hp Connie Mays and Carrie Mays, both built in 1951. The boats are both working on the Upper Mississippi River.
With the addition of the Mays Towing boats, Missouri Barge Line now operates eight line-haul vessels and one harbor boat.
Mays earlier sold the 900-hp Capt. Zac to Aquarius Marine Inc. Mays Towing still has two boats listed for sale, Edward C. Mays and Justin Edward.
C. Thomas Burke, veteran maritime executive, dies
C. Thomas Burke, executive director and chief executive officer of several ports during his career, died May 24 in Tampa, Fla.
Among the ports he directed were Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, the Cleveland Port Authority and the Seaway Port Authority of Duluth.
For 10 years, Burke was senior advisor to the president and CEO of â€œKâ€� Line America in Washington, D.C., and more recently served as president of the first Middle East chapter of the International Propeller Club of Dubai. Burke also held several government posts, including that of commissioner of the Panama Canal Study Commission.
Houston/Galveston safety committee to meet June 21
The Houston/Galveston Navigation Safety Advisory Committee has scheduled a meeting for June 21 at the Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit building in Texas City, Texas.
The meeting had been scheduled last Feb. 3, but it was postponed due to inclement weather. For more information, contact Lt. j.g. Margaret Brown at (713) 678-9001.
American Salvage Association relocates Virginia offices
The American Salvage Association (ASA), whose mission it is to improve marine casualty response in North American coastal and inland waters, has relocated its Virginia offices from Arlington to Alexandria.
ASAâ€™s new address is 103 Oronoco St., Suite 200, Alexandria, Va. 22314. The telephone and fax numbers remain the same, Tel: (1-703) 373-2267; Fax: (1-703) 373-2036, as does the website, www.americnsalvage.org.
Previously at offices shared with the American Waterways Operators, ASA now resides in office facilities maintained by the Passenger Vessel Association.