Brownwater News, March 2020

AAPA: Ports first line of defense against coronavirus

The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) has assured the maritime industry that it recognizes the threat to both human health and world economic stability related to the coronavirus outbreak, and it is taking the appropriate steps in response.

“While the global economic impacts to the port and maritime industry from the coronavirus outbreak are significant and growing, the human impacts are our greatest concern,” the AAPA said in a prepared statement on March 2. “Since ports are a nation’s first line of defense against threats ranging from terrorism to pathogens, they take their role seriously about protecting the safety and well-being of their communities.

“In the U.S., ports are closely following instructions and protocols from appropriate federal agencies to quickly respond to the coronavirus threat. Like AAPA, they believe the most important are to ensure that as few people as possible become infected, that those who have been infected are well treated and receive quality care, and that we mourn for those whose lives have been tragically cut short by this pathogen crisis.” 

On March 11, AAPA announced that it had canceled its Spring Conference on March 17-19 in Washington, D.C.

Aaron Ellis, public affairs director, said AAPA reached that decision “due to an abundance of caution and in the best interests for the safety, health and well-being of its many members and supporters in light of the coronavirus pandemic.”

MarAd has $9.5 million for Marine Highway Program 

The Maritime Administration (MarAd) has announced the availability of $9.5 million in grant funding for the America’s Marine Highway Program, which supports the increased use of the nation’s navigable waterways to relieve landside congestion.

Maritime Administrator Mark Buzby said eligible recipients are marine highway projects previously designated by the secretary of transportation.

Applications for the grants are due April 10. For additional information, contact Fred Jones, Office of Ports and Waterways Planning, at (202) 366-1123.

Seaway season to open March 24 at Welland Canal

The Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. has announced that the international waterway’s 2020 navigation season will open March 24 at the Welland Canal and April 1 on the Montreal/Lake Ontario Section. 

The opening of the Sault Ste. Marie Locks (U.S.) is scheduled for March 25. For additional information, contact the development corporation at (315) 764-3200.

WCI names Calhoun interim president and CEO

Debra Calhoun, senior vice president of the Waterways Council Inc. (WCI), has been named interim president and chief executive officer.

Calhoun succeeds retiring President and CEO Michael Toohey, who said that to begin the process of selecting a permanent president and CEO, WCI has retained the executive search firm Korn Ferry.

Calhoun has been with WCI since 2003 and has served the industry for more than 25 years. She was president and CEO of a maritime consultancy practice, director of public affairs at the American Waterways Operators, and recently received the 2019 National Rivers Hall of Fame Achievement Award.

Tracy Zea, WCI vice president of government relations, will manage the group’s legislative affairs program and relationship with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Inland Waterways Users Board.

Army Corps on track for Illinois Waterway work

The Army Corps of Engineers remains on track for the planned closure of the Illinois Waterway in July for maintenance and upgrades following the impact of last season’s flooding.

The Corps has contractors on board for sill and anchorage work at the Starved Rock and Marseilles locks, and the bulkhead recess installation work at Dresden Island, according to Thomas Heinold, project manager for the Corps’ Rock Island District.

Originally, six extended lock closures were planned on the waterway for the summer of 2020. Due to significant workload, the contractors involved are unable to undertake the maintenance work at Brandon Road Lock and Dam, the Corps said. Consequently, only five locks will now be closed: Starved Rock, Marseilles, Dresden Island, Peoria and LaGrange.

Seaway sets new toll rates for 2020 navigation season

The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System has announced an increase in toll rates for the 2020 navigation season.

The new higher rates for cargoes moving through the Montreal/Lake Ontario Section include $1.17 per metric ton of bulk cargo, 72 cents per metric ton of grain or coal, $2.82 per metric ton of general cargo, and $2.55 per metric ton of steel slab. The new rate for containerized cargo will be $1.17 per metric ton. 

Schultz: Coast Guard needs $2 billion for facility repairs

Adm. Karl Schultz, commandant of the Coast Guard, said in his annual State of the Service address last month that the Coast Guard needs an additional $2 billion for facility repairs.

“Unfortunately, due to years of flat-line budgets forcing trade-offs, the facilities that our men and women deploy from and return to are crumbling around them,” Schultz said. “Forty percent of Coast Guard buildings are over 50 years old. Mold, leaky roofs, flooding and outdated building standards have all culminated in a $2 billion backlog of facility repairs.”

Schultz said the Coast Guard also faces digital challenges.

“Years of investment trade-offs have brought our information technology (IT) to the brink of catastrophic failure,” he said. “Just this past summer, over 95 vital systems went offline for several days due to a single server malfunction, impacting our ability to save U.S. citizens, thwart criminals, defend our nation, and yes, even to simply check our email. Our people will never fail our country, but our technology is failing our people.”

The commandant said the Coast Guard faces an IT budget shortfall of $300 million per year.

“While we've developed a new road map to a more technologically advanced and effective Coast Guard, we need an injection of funding now,” he said.

Army Corps seeks comment on levee safety guidance

The Army Corps of Engineers has released an engineering circular (EC) that provides draft guidance on its Levee Safety Program.

The EC was originally scheduled to be open for public comment until April 27. Due to ongoing concerns about the coronavirus outbreak, the Corps has extended the deadline and has postponed stakeholder sessions.

“These sessions will provide … vital input and remain important. (The Corps) will extend the open comment period to accommodate the schedule changes and reschedule the planned stakeholder sessions as soon as possible. More information on when the comment period will close will be available soon,” the Corps said on its website.

The review the draft guidance in the Federal Register or to comment, click here.

By Professional Mariner Staff