House proposes funding increase for Civil Works
The first appropriations bills of the year, including the Energy and Water Development Bill, are expected to be taken up by the House before the July 4 recess. There had been no Senate action on the bills as of mid-June.
The House measure would fund the Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works program at $7.36 billion, increasing the current year’s funding by more than $350 million and rejecting the Trump administration’s proposed 30 percent cut.
Construction would be funded at $2.34 billion, including six new project starts. Operation and maintenance would receive $3.92 billion while the Mississippi River and Tributaries account would receive $350 million. Spending from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund would be $1.7 billion, $100 million more than the target set in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014. The House bill also directs full utilization of the Inland Waterways Trust Fund.
In early June, Department of Homeland Security funding legislation approved by the House Appropriations Committee’s Homeland Security Subcommittee was heralded as a “win” for ports by the AAPA. Nagle noted an additional $10 million for the Port Security Grant Program, bringing it to $110 million.
AAPA: Port funding fared well in House committee
Kurt Nagle, president and CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), reports that funding for port infrastructure programs advocated by AAPA fared well in the May 22 mark-up by the House Appropriations Committee.
Nagle noted that second-year funding for port infrastructure through the Department of Transportation came in at $225 million in the fiscal year 2020 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) appropriations bill. The bill also contains $15 million for marine highway projects, which are top AAPA priorities.
The money dedicated specifically for port infrastructure “is an important step in building out our multimodal freight network,” Nagle said. The $15 million, a first for a House T-HUD appropriations bill, ensures the integration of goods movement with highways, railways and ports.
Buzby: Maritime industry essential to national security
Maritime Administrator Mark Buzby said on Memorial Day that the remembrance means “recommitting ourselves to a strong maritime industry because it is essential to our national security.”
“While the Maritime Administration works with (the) Navy to address shortcomings in the government-owned fleet, we must also take steps to strengthen and grow U.S. commercial shipping, as those vessels and the mariner jobs they support are at the core of sustained sealift,” Buzby said.
“We must also focus on maritime education to help attract a new generation,” he said. The state merchant marine academies provide “three-quarters of all new merchant mariner officers, which is why funding for two new training ships, and the replacement of all of the aging state academy ships, is a high priority.”
All mooring on Seaway now hands-free
The Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. announced June 6 that hands-free mooring (HFM) technology is fully deployed throughout the Seaway system.
“This new technology is a significant modernization of the St. Lawrence Seaway’s infrastructure, and will enhance workplace safety, lower operating costs for carriers and decrease vessel transit times through the locks,” said Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. She said the U.S. Seaway corporation invested $23 million to install HFM technology in the U.S. Snell Lock and the U.S. Eisenhower Lock.
The HFM project is the first use of this technology for an inland waterway, and the corporation has prepared its workforce with the skills necessary to implement the new system.
The HFM system uses vacuum pads mounted on vertical rails inside the lock chamber wall to secure the ship during the lockage process as it is raised or lowered, while keeping it a fixed distance from the lock wall. The last step in the lockage operation consists of releasing the vacuum and retracting the pads so that the vessel can sail safely out of the lock.
The Seaway also announced the availability of a tugboat for assistance with the approach at Iroquois Lock beginning June 13. Downbound vessels needing assistance must make the request at Crossover Island and confirm it at Maitland; upbound vessels must first make the request at Snell Lock and confirm it at Richards Point. The services are being provided by the tug operator under the Eastern Canadian Tug Owners’ Association standard terms and conditions.
Coast Guard’s long-term vision: Boost maritime commerce
The Coast Guard made clear to the maritime industry in a recent statement that the service’s long-term vision is to “support and grow maritime commerce in the U.S.”
Explaining further the Coast Guard’s Maritime Commerce Strategic Outlook, Vice Adm. Daniel Abel, deputy commandant for operations, said the strategy “emphasizes the critical need for a ready, relevant and responsive Coast Guard that maximizes America’s economic prosperity through the maritime domain.”
Abel said the Coast Guard is responsible for the safety of the Marine Transportation System. He said that duty is becoming “more challenging because the complexity of the maritime environment is rising due to emerging technologies, automation, interconnectivity, robotics and networked systems.” Those factors produce a system that is “highly efficient and interdependent yet susceptible to disruption,” he added.
To support the Coast Guard’s long-term vision, Abel said, the service will accelerate “integration of modern navigation systems into an existing network of buoys and beacons.” Furthermore, he said, the Coast Guard will improve and enhance relationships with the maritime community, and improve integration of international standards and guidelines.
Study targets Army Corps’ project delivery effectiveness
The Army Science Board (ASB) is conducting a study of the Army Corps of Engineers’ effectiveness in delivering the nation’s Civil Works program. The study will identify methods for completing Civil Works projects on time and within budget, and identify ways to further streamline permitting of non-Corps projects.
A briefing with findings and recommendations will be provided by Sept. 30 to the secretary of the Army and the Army chief of staff.
In a memorandum to assist the ASB in its study, the Army secretary’s office said that in recent years, the Corps has experienced increasing schedule delays and cost overruns in delivering Civil Works projects, resulting in a significant backlog. In addition, regulatory permitting processes have been criticized for the length of time it takes to obtain an Army permit for non-Army projects, “unnecessarily delaying the delivery of important infrastructure projects.”
The Army secretary’s office also suggested that the study team review previous studies by federal agencies on Corps effectiveness and determine if any progress has been made as a result of implementing recommendations.
AAPA to co-host Workforce Development Summit
To help maritime and supply-chain logistics industries better compete for job applicants, the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) will co-host its first Workforce Development Summit.
Joining AAPA to host the summit June 25-27 in Long Beach, Calif., will be the Port of Long Beach, Long Beach City College and TransPORTS, the official industry intermediary chosen by the Department of Labor to expand registered apprenticeship in ports and the U.S. modal transportation industry.
“Our industry faces increasing challenges in filling port-related jobs that require highly skilled or specialized technical training,” said Mary Beth Long, AAPA’s vice president of external affairs. “Finding creative ways to develop the workforce is requiring ports to ramp up their efforts. From development of elementary education initiatives and internships, to apprenticeship programs and college-level curriculum, ports are playing an ever-increasing role in preparing job candidates for new opportunities in the maritime arena.”
The AAPA said that because of the large-scale skills scarcity among the unemployed, ports will have to provide or support programs that train, up-skill and re-skill new and existing personnel rather than relying entirely on experienced candidates.