Mica likens TWIC to a 'library card'
Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, fired away at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) May 10 for producing, after spending nearly $500 million in 10 years, transport worker security cards "no more useful than library cards" and no approved biometric reader.
Testifying before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Mica, one of the authors of the legislation that created TSA, addressed a new report in which the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said it was able to obtain authentic Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) security cards using fraudulent identification documentation and gain access to ports using counterfeit TWICs.
"GAO also found that, among other things, TSA is unable to confirm that TWIC holders maintain their eligibility throughout the life of their TWIC," Mica said.
Despite significant costs — $420 million has gone into the TWIC program — the GAO reports that the TWIC program was "poorly tested and evaluated before deployment began."
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimated four years ago that the combined cost to the federal government and the private sector may reach $3.2 billion over a 10-year period, â€œnot taking into account the full cost of implementing and operating readers,â€ Mica added. â€œEven more troubling, GAO found that in some cases a TWIC can be fraudulently obtained, becoming a permanent biometric key that unlocks our nationâ€™s ports and facilities for any individual with the intent and desire to do us harm.â€
Furthermore, Mica continued, â€œDHS has not demonstrated that TWIC, as currently implemented and planned, is more effective than prior approaches used to limit access to ports and facilities, such as using facility-specific identity credentials.â€
Moreover, Mica said, TSA â€œstill does not conduct risk assessments and cost-benefit analyses of its security programs as required by law. TSAâ€™s Screening People by Observation Techniques (SPOT) program will require $1.2 billion over the next five years, but TSA has yet to validate the underlying methodology of the program or to conduct a cost-benefit analysis.â€
TSA Administrator John S. Pistole, who followed Mica at the witness table, along with Rear Adm. Kevin Cook, director of the Coast Guardâ€™s Prevention Policy, and Steve Lord, director of GAOâ€™s Homeland Security and Justice, assured the committee that implementation of TWIC â€œsignificantly enhances national maritime security."
Lord emphasized that TWIC's effectiveness at enhancing security "has not been assessed, and the Coast Guard lacks the ability to assess trends in TWIC compliance."
Lord added that internal control weaknesses governing use of the TWIC "potentially limit the program's ability to provide reasonable assurance that access to secure areas of MTSA-regulated facilities is restricted to qualified individuals."
LaHood unveils new Marine Highway report
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood opened the recent North American Marine Highways and Logistics Conference near Baltimore with the release of a new report that he said "will serve as a roadmap to the future in creating and strengthening the nation's marine highways."
Congress requested the report on Americaâ€™s Marine Highway, LaHood said, to show how water transportation can help move the nation to a more environmentally sustainable transportation system, reduce highway congestion and cut down on the maintenance and replacement costs of the nationâ€™s roads and bridges.
The report, required by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, directs the Transportation Secretary to establish a short sea transportation program and to designate short sea transportation projects under the program to mitigate landside congestion. The Maritime Administration (MarAd) implemented the program as America's Marine Highway Program.
The report spells out potential contributions of America's Marine Highway to a number of objectives, including the reduction of overland traffic congestion, the creation of additional freight and passenger transportation capacity, the development of an environmentally sustainable transportation system and the improvement of public safety and security.
MarAd has already taken a number of actions to implement the short sea shipping provisions of the Energy Act. Among them was the designation of 18 Marine Highway corridors and selection of eight Marine Highway projects to operate on those corridors. In addition to the corridors, the Department of Transportation (DOT) awarded $215.3 million from TIGER I and TIGER II (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) programs to jumpstart or expand Marine Highway projects.
DOT also commissioned a study of new ship designs to serve the Marine Highway markets and to be useful to the military if needed.
Other actions include the establishment of agreements with other U.S. agencies to use Marine Highway services, consultation with shippers on methods to promote the use of Marine Highway services and establishment of America's Marine Highway Advisory Board.
Still under consideration by the administration are a number of legislative and regulatory suggestions offered by stakeholders, such as waiver of the Harbor Maintenance Tax for some non-bulk freight, and equal Customs notification requirements for waterborne container shipments from Canada via the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System relative to land-based shipments of the same containers.
NWC recommends completion of ongoing river projects
Amy Larson, president of the National Waterways Conference, noting that the Department of the Army may be preparing a fiscal year 2011 work plan for the civil works program of the Army Corps of Engineers, recommended that all ongoing construction projects and studies that have an active and current local sponsor should be funded to completion as a first priority.
In a letter to Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, Larson also recommended that "sufficient maintenance funding to dredge our ports and harbors be made available in order to keep navigation channels fully operational through the end of the fiscal year and that available construction and planning dollars be allocated to port-deepening projects as a high priority."
Missouri River study dropped from FY 2011 budget
Before adjourning until May 2, the House passed a continuing resolution to fund the federal government through the end of the fiscal year. Missing from the legislation is any money for the $25 million, five-year Missouri River Authorized Purposes Study (MRAPS).
Funding for the civil works program of the Army Corps of Engineers includes $127 million for investigations; $1.8 billion for construction, plus $100 million rescinded from unobligated funds; $2.4 billion for operation and maintenance; $264 million for the Mississippi River and tributaries, and $22 million rescinded from unobligated funds for the Yazoo Basin Backwater Pump.
The Missouri River study, pushed vigorously by Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.), who favored greater emphasis on recreation along the river, was authorized by Congress. The authorizing legislation, part of the fiscal year 2009 budget bill, directed the Corps of Engineers to review and examine the eight original purposes of the river â€” flood control, hydropower, water supply, irrigation, navigation, recreation, water quality, and fish and wildlife.
Randy Asbury, executive director of the Coalition to Protect the Missouri River (CPMR), called the loss of funds for the Missouri River study â€œa tremendous victory for the nation and Lower Basin Missouri River economic stakeholders."
Describing the study as â€œduplicative and wasteful," Asbury said the study was authorized "on the heels of a comprehensive 17-year, $35 million study that made significant changes to the Missouri River Master Manual." Asbury said the Corps believed the Master Manual changes addressed the contemporary needs of the river basin. Furthermore, he said, â€œthe recent MRAPS public scoping process reaffirmed the importance of the current authorized purposes."
Tank barge oil spills hit record low in 2010
The American Waterways Operators (AWO) has announced that 2010 saw the lowest-ever recorded number of tank barge oil spills. AWO said the 2010 spill statistics newly released by the Coast Guard show that the American tugboat, towboat and barge industry had a record low of 75 spills and record-low volume of 919 gallons spilled.
Thomas Allegretti, president and CEO of the AWO, said his association is continuously developing new initiatives for improving industry safety, including a towing vessel inspection program. Also, Allegretti said, by 2015 all barges will be double-hulled to protect the environment.
Bostick nominated new head of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
President Obama has nominated Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick to succeed Lt. Gen. Robert L. Van Antwerp as the next chief of engineers and commanding general for the Army Corps of Engineers.
Bostick currently serves as deputy chief of staff, U.S. Army, a position he has held since Feb. 2, 2010. He has previously served in numerous capacities and is the recipient of multiple decorations and badges.
Senate confirms two FMC nominations
The Senate voted April 14 to confirm the nominations of Mario Cordero and Rebecca F. Dye to the Federal Maritime Commission.
The names of Cordero and Dye were resubmitted by President Obama after the two nominees failed to be confirmed by the Senate before the 111th Congress adjourned â€œsine dieâ€ the night of Dec. 22, 2010.
Cordero and Dye had been approved by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee following confirmation hearings in November.
Cordero, confirmed for the term expiring June 30, 2014, was an attorney in private practice and a member of the Long Beach (Calif.) Board of Harbor Commissioners. Dye, confirmed for the term expiring June 30, 2015, was originally confirmed as an FMC commissioner in 2002, and reconfirmed in 2005.
UBLâ€™s daily logs converted to electronic forms
Boatracs Inc., of San Diego, has announced completion of the installation of BT Forms, an electronic forms product, on 14 vessels for United Barge Line (UBL), of Metropolis, Ill., the inland transportation division of United Maritime Group.
The project entailed the conversion of UBLâ€™s master daily log into an electronic form that captains can complete with their onboard computers.
BT Forms is a software solution developed to help commercial maritime operators increase operational efficiencies by converting paper forms to electronic versions that reduce the resources required for internal reporting and recordkeeping for regulatory compliance.
Boatracs is a provider of integrated communications and software solutions for the commercial maritime industry.
Crowley launches tank barges for service in Alaska
The American Maritime Partnership reports that Crowley Maritime Corp. has launched two double-hulled combination deck cargo and petroleum tank barges for service in western Alaska.
Crowley christened the two new barges May 7 at Dakota Creek. The double-hulled, environmentally friendly petroleum tank vessels, the first of their kind to operate in western Alaska waters, will join a double-hulled barge with which Crowley has serviced Alaska since 2005.
â€œThe delivery and deployment of these barges gives Crowley the opportunity to better serve the Alaska market with the enhanced design features that are built into these vessels,â€ said Rocky Smith, Crowleyâ€™s senior vice president and general manager.
The barges, certified by the Coast Guard for the carriage of Grade A petroleum products, will be home-ported in Nome, Alaska, and will deliver fuel and cargo to the remote communities of western Alaska.
Small shipyards can apply for grants until June 14
The Maritime Administration has reminded interested parties that they have until June 14 to submit applications for a share of the $9.8 million in grants available for capital and related improvements for qualified small shipyard facilities.
The Maritime Administration intends to award grants no later than Aug. 15.
Applications should be submitted by express delivery service to Associate Administrator for Business and Finance Development, Room W21-318, Maritime Administration, 1200 New Jersey Ave., SE, Washington, DC 20590.
For more information, contact the Office of Shipyards and Marine Engineering, Maritime Administration, at (202) 366-5737.
Bill provides funds for harbor-deepening projects
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has introduced a bill to allow the Army Corps of Engineers to use certain amounts of money to carry out harbor deepening projects.
The bill (S. 793) specifies that the secretary of the Army, acting through the chief of engineers, â€œshall prioritize the use of amounts made available to the Secretary for general investigations to carry out harbor deepening projects, including harbor deepening projects that are prepared and ready to begin first-year feasibility study-related activities.â€