Brownwater News, June 2020

AWO: Towing industry key to nation’s COVID response

The head of the American Waterways Operators (AWO) told federal legislators in late May that the tugboat, towboat and barge industry has been instrumental in keeping the nation's economy going during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Testifying before the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, AWO President and CEO Jennifer Carpenter called the U.S. maritime supply chain “resilient.” She credited the towing industry’s established safety and contingency protocols, and its ability to continue transporting vital commodities and guiding ships safely into port.

"While cargo volumes in many sectors have declined due to depressed demand, mariners have continued to report to work, vessels have continued to operate, and the industry has adapted to maintain operational continuity and readiness," Carpenter said, noting that the priority during this work has been crewmember health and safety.

The industry “is well equipped to continue to serve our nation as we begin the long road to recovery from the economic disruption caused by this global public health crisis," she told committee members in a livestreamed webcast.

Carpenter said legislators must ensure the stability of “public policy pillars that create the foundation for the supply chain’s resilience and the nation’s recovery.”

AAPA supports $494 billion INVEST in America Act

The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) is praising a proposed federal bill to address climate change and spend $494 billion over five years for infrastructure improvements around the country.

The Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America Act (INVEST in America Act) would use $319 million to improve highways and $175 billion for marine transit, vehicle safety and rail upgrades.

The proposal was released June 3 by the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

The act “represents a significant step toward enhancing our nation’s aging multimodal freight network and port-related infrastructure,” said Evan Chapman, government relations director for the AAPA, which represents public port authorities in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America. “Investments in this critical transportation system are crucial to ensuring American farmers, manufacturers, retailers and consumers access to the world marketplace, and for the cost-efficient export of American-made goods that are essential to our economic stability and growth.”

As of early June, the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) — which authorizes Corps of Engineers work on locks and dams, dredging and other critical water resources projects around the country — was not tied to the INVEST Act. A draft WRDA bill, originally expected to be released in May, is now expected to be released in July. It has been eagerly awaited by the Waterways Council Inc., which advocates for a modern and well-maintained national system of ports and inland waterways.

Teamwork leads to 2.4 million face masks for maritime workers

Industry partners teamed up in June to push for and obtain 2.4 million reusable face coverings for about 400 maritime transportation operations around the United States.

The partnership included the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), its member ports and other industry entities, including the U.S. Maritime Administration (MarAd).

The face masks from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are being used by those working at seaports, inland ports, marine terminals, tug and barge lines, vessel pilot groups, dredging operations, supply chain logistics companies and others to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The AAPA also is among the signers backing legislation to ensure the U.S. Department of Transportation gets the next allocation of personal protective equipment (PPE) for essential transportation workers after priority is given to medical, health care, police and fire workers.

The maritime sector will be included as a PPE priority group if the Critical Infrastructure Employee Protection Act of 2020 passes.

US denies AWO’s TWIC request but allows discretion

Federal officials have denied a request by the American Waterways Operators that new hires who need to access secure areas of maritime facilities and vessels be allowed to qualify for a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) without visiting an enrollment center.

The Coast Guard and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said requirements won’t be modified. But in a joint statement in May, the two entities also said that in situations where a new hire can’t complete enrollment, vessel or facility operators can work with the local captain of the port to request permission to temporarily deviate from vessel or facility security plan requirements.

AWO elects new chairman, new board members

Arthur Mead, vice president and chief counsel at Crowley Maritime Corp., was elected chairman of the AWO board of directors in a virtual annual meeting in May. He takes over for Scott Merritt, former chief operator officer for Foss Maritime Co. LLC.

Mead called the response to the pandemic by AWO member companies, staff and mariners “nothing short of extraordinary.” He praised their resilience and adaptability while “delivering millions of tons of needed raw materials, consumer goods and energy.”

Other new board members include Del Wilkins, president of Illinois Marine Towing Inc., vice chairman; and Clark Todd, president and chief operating officer for Blessey Marine Services Inc., treasurer.

By Professional Mariner Staff