Brownwater News, May 2018

Senate vote against VIDA disappoints AWO

Expressing support for the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA), American Waterways Operators (AWO) President Thomas Allegretti said the Senate vote against the measure on April 18 was a “great disappointment to the men and women of the American tugboat, towboat and barge industry.”

Describing VIDA as “critically important and thoughtfully balanced legislation,” Allegretti said that airplanes, trains and trucks are not required to meet different environmental standards whenever they cross state lines.

Currently, commercial vessels navigating American waters are subject to “a patchwork of conflicting vessel discharge regulations issued by two federal agencies and 25 states,” Allegretti said. “It defies common sense and threatens the viability of maritime commerce” to have such varying regulations.

The measure failed by three votes to reach the 60 votes necessary to end debate and move to a vote on final passage.

“We remain committed to working on a bipartisan basis to see VIDA enacted into law, and we call on the Senate to resolve any outstanding issues before adjourning for the Memorial Day recess,” Allegretti said.

American ports worried about trade sanctions

The U.S. port industry has expressed concern about trade sanctions proposed by President Trump that it believes could result in “significant losses of good-paying U.S. trade-related jobs, including those in the seaport industry.”

Kurt Nagle, president and CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities, recently wrote to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to urge him to “carefully consider the negative impacts these actions would have on port and other trade-related American jobs nationwide.”

Considering that 15,000 jobs are created for every $1 billion in exports shipped through U.S. seaports, “we support and encourage steps focused on expanding exports rather than creating new import restrictions,” Nagle said.

He urged Lighthizer to take “a comprehensive view of the millions of U.S. jobs related to trade and ensure U.S. seaport and other employment is not negatively impacted by trade actions.”

TIGER grant program now called BUILD

The federal government's Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program, commonly known as TIGER, has been renamed the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grants program, which is preparing to distribute $1.5 billion for surface transportation infrastructure projects.

Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Elaine Chao said the BUILD grants will help communities revitalize their surface transport systems “while also increasing support for rural areas to ensure that every region of our country benefits.”

Chao said that as the Trump administration looks to enhance America’s infrastructure, BUILD grants will be awarded on a competitive basis "for projects that will have a significant local or regional impact.” BUILD funding will support many forms of transportation, including ports and intermodal operations, she added.

Applications for funding are due on July 19, Chao said. For the new round of BUILD grants, the maximum award will be $25 million, with no more than $150 million going to a single state. To provide assistance to a broad array of stakeholders, the DOT has scheduled a series of webinars on May 24, May 29 and May 31, with more expected in June.

Kirby to acquire 16 Targa tank barges for $69 million

Kirby Corp. has signed an agreement to acquire Targa Resources Corp.’s inland tank barge business for $69.3 million in cash.

Targa’s fleet consists of 16 pressure barges with a total capacity of about 258,000 barrels, with many of the vessels under long-term multiyear contracts. The closing of the acquisition is expected to occur near the end of the second quarter.

David Grzebinski, Kirby’s president and CEO, said that Targa’s barges are “an excellent addition to Kirby’s fleet. With the ongoing petrochemical build-out progressing along the U.S. Gulf Coast, these incremental barges will give Kirby additional capacity to meet our customers’ growing needs for the movement of pressurized cargoes such as liquefied petroleum gas and certain ethylene plant co-products.”

Inland Waterways Users Board to meet May 25

The Inland Waterways Users Board has announced that its 87th meeting will take place May 25 at the Sheraton Hotel on Station Square in Pittsburgh, Pa.

On the preceding day, the board will host a tour of the Lower Monongahela River Lock and Dam No. 4 project site in Charleroi, Pa., and the Lock and Dam No. 3 project site at Elizabeth, Pa.

Tour attendees should meet in the hotel lobby at 1 p.m. on May 24 to board a bus at 1:15 p.m. for the trip to the two locks. The bus will return to the hotel at about 5 p.m.

Savannah State agreement to aid Coast Guard recruitment

The U.S. Coast Guard has signed a memorandum of agreement (MOU) to expand support for Savannah (Ga.) State University as part of the Coast Guard’s Minority-Serving Institutions Partnership Program. The memorandum is designed to optimize Coast Guard civilian and military officer recruitment efforts.

Savannah State, one of more than 100 historically black colleges and universities in the U.S., offers 36 baccalaureate and master's degree programs.

By Professional Mariner Staff