New U.S. Coast Guard bill speeds towing vessel inspections, expands logbook rule
President Obama has signed into law a bill authorizing Congress to appropriate nearly $7 billion for the operation and maintenance of the U.S. Coast Guard in the current fiscal year that began Oct. 1. The bill was cleared for the presidentâ€™s signature on Sept. 30.
The bill, H.R. 3619, also authorizes the appropriation of $1.6 billion for the acquisition, construction, rebuilding and improvement of aids to navigation, shore and offshore facilities, vessels and aircraft. The appropriation includes $1.2 billion for the Integrated Deepwater System Program.
Among other things, the bill prohibits the use of a â€œlead systems integratorâ€ â€” the mechanism by which private contractors working on the Coast Guardâ€™s Deepwater program were essentially allowed to manage themselves and approve their own work.
The American Waterways Operators (AWO) applauded enactment of the new Coast Guard authorization act, noting that it speeds implementation of towing vessel inspection regulation and expands the logbook requirement to towing vessels.
The new law signed on Oct. 15 by President Obama calls for the Department of Homeland Security to begin work on inspection requirements for towing vessels no more than 90 days from the date of enactment. The law requires that a final rule be issued no more than one year after the enactment date.
Among other things, the proposed rule is expected to require all towing companies to implement safety management systems (SMS), one of the National Transportation Safety Boardâ€™s most wanted transportation safety improvements.
The AWO said that the logbook requirement will be moot when towing vessel inspection regulations (which will address logbooks) are published by the Coast Guard. The AWO also said the bill renewed the charter of the Towing Safety Advisory Committee, which expired Sept. 30.
Matsuda gives Chinese advice on increasing use of Yangtze River
Maritime Administrator David T. Matsuda, noting that â€œvery fewâ€ shipping containers use the 3,900-mile Yangtze River to travel inland from Chinaâ€™s main coastal ports, offered his hosts â€œsome adviceâ€ on how to get more foreign investors to extend their supply chains farther inland and to the west.
â€œAt a minimum, three factors need to be addressed: (1) infrastructure investment; (2) expertise in logistics and operations; and (3) strong government leadership,â€ Matsuda said in a keynote address Oct. 18 at the Yangtze-Mississippi Strategic Cooperation Forum in Chongqing, China.
In the first instance, he said, international investment in ports can help expand the movement of containerized cargo on the Yangtze River system. â€œThis includes developing modern middle and upstream terminals and advanced information technology systems,â€ he said. â€œParticularly during periods of economic stress, we must cooperate to further develop a relationship where global trade and investment are welcomed.â€
He said that U.S. companies are ready to participate in the development of the Yangtze and that one of the cooperative ventures, CMAL â€“ one of the largest logistics providers in central China â€“ includes APL Logistics.
Elaborating on the second two factors, the administrator said it was â€œessential to have the knowledge and expertise needed to manage intermodal cargoâ€ in order to lower logistics costs and increase buying power for Chinese consumers.
Finally, Matsuda said that development of waterways requires â€œcommitment from the government.â€ He noted that in August, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood launched â€œthe biggest phase of the new Americaâ€™s Marine Highway Program so far,â€ designating 18 Marine Highway Corridors â€œthat stand to benefit from increased use of our waterways.â€
Several of those corridors â€œrepresent the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and inland waters similar to the Yangtze River,â€ he added.
The American Society of Transportation and Logistics, one of the organizers of the Yangtze Mississippi Forum, said the event was the first high-level platform for dialogue between the United States and China on issues concerning inland waterways transportation and economic development.
â€œWe also want to build a platform for communication and cooperation between the administrators of the two rivers, a high-level communication platform for the shipping and logistics industries on the two rivers, and economic cooperation between the two regions.â€
WRDA tops Micaâ€™s agenda in new Congress
Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.), ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said on Nov. 3 that if he becomes chairman of the committee, one of his top interests will be to pass a new Water Resources Development Act (WRDA).
In a statement the day after the elections in which Republicans won a majority in the House, Mica said that among his top legislative priorities will be â€œpassing a long-term federal highways and transit reauthorization, a long-overdue Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization, a new water resources measure, and a long-term Coast Guard reauthorization.â€
Mica said he also hopes to speed up the process â€œby which infrastructure projects are approved, and to free up any infrastructure funding thatâ€™s been sitting idle.â€
TIGER II funds would aid two barge operations
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced Oct. 20 that 42 capital construction projects and 33 planning projects in 40 states will share nearly $600 million from the Department of Transportationâ€™s TIGER II program for major infrastructure projects ranging from highways and bridges to transit, rail and ports.
About 29 percent of Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) II money will be for road projects, 26 percent for transit, 20 percent for rail projects, 16 percent for ports, 4 percent for bicycle and pedestrian projects and 5 percent for planning projects.
The port projects include the construction of a 32-acre container terminal adjacent to the existing 1,000-foot berth at Port Manatee in Florida. The terminal, which will receive a TIGER II grant of $9 million, will expand the portâ€™s cargo storage capacity for its Marine Highway operation and for other tenants.
Other port projects include the Port at Cates Landing (Tenn.), $13 million for a port and harbor facility on the Mississippi River to create a connection between barge traffic at the port and truck freight movement.
Coast Guard establishes VTS on Lower Mississippi River
The U.S. Coast Guard is establishing a Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) on the Lower Mississippi River and is transferring certain vessel traffic management provisions of the Mississippi River, Louisiana Regulated Navigation Area to the VTS.
In a final rule that will become effective Dec. 27, the Coast Guard established mandatory participation in the VTS by implementing current voluntary practices and operating procedures.
Details of the VTS, including the role of the approximately 80-year-old Algiers Point Control Lights in New Orleans Harbor, are spelled out in the Oct. 28 issue of the Federal Register. The Coast Guard said that while the Algiers Point Control Lights are not formally recognized as a VTS, that segment of the waterway â€œwarrants great vigilance.â€
â€œThe nature of vessel traffic within this area and the anticipated increase in traffic requires that certain vessel traffic measures are active at all times or at least available at a momentâ€™s notice,â€ the Coast Guard said. â€œThe availability of these measures can best be assured by operating a Vessel Traffic Center (VTC) for Algiers Point within the framework of a VTS.â€
A VTC is a shoreside facility from which the VTS operates and has the communications capability to interact with marine traffic and respond to developing situations.
Coast Guard revises rules for vapor control systems
The Coast Guard plans to revise safety regulations for facility and vessel vapor control systems (VCS).
Among other things, the proposed changes would codify the standards for the design and operation of a VCS at tank barge cleaning facilities.
The Coast Guard said the changes would increase the safety of operations by regulating the design, installation and use of VCSs, but would not require anyone to install or use VCSs.
Details of the proposed changes are spelled out in a notice of proposed rulemaking published in the Oct. 21 Federal Register.
NWC members elect new officers, propose new by-laws
Members attending the 50th annual meeting of the National Waterways Conference (NWC) in Boston have elected Fred Caver, of Caver and Associates, chairman. Elected vice chairmen were Sykes Sturdivant, of the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta Levee Board; Scott McGeorge, of Pine Bluff Sand and Gravel; Darwin Nelson, of CDM; John Janoush, of Jantran; and Jim Oliver, of Tarrant Regional Water District.
The election of new directors and members of the executive committee is awaiting action on a proposal that would provide for three NWC membership categories, a reduction in the number of directors from 75 to 45 and a reduction in the number of executive committee members from 15 to nine.
NWC expects to call a special telephone meeting of the general membership in January 2011 to ask for approval of new by-laws, after which the membership will be called upon to elect new directors. If all goes as planned, the new board will hold a special meeting to elect new executive committee members.
Two towing vessel officer endorsements set by Coast Guard
Two towing vessel officer endorsements limited to operations on Western Rivers in which the transiting of locks is not applicable have been established by the Coast Guard.
The new officer endorsements are Mate (Pilot) of Towing Vessels upon Western Rivers â€” Restricted from Transiting Locks, and Master of Towing Vessels upon Western Rivers â€” Restricted from Transiting Locks.
The new endorsements are intended to allow mariners who have never navigated any of the Western Rivers requiring the transiting of locks, and mariners in training on towing vessels operated by companies that do not transit locks to continue advancement of maritime careers.
The professional requirements to advance from Apprentice Mate (Steersman) upon Western Rivers, to Mate (Pilot) and eventually to Master of Towing with regard to sea service, physical examination, drug testing and examination have not changed. All applicants must submit an application with a completed Towing Officer Assessment Record for Western Rivers signed by a National Maritime Center-approved Designated Examiner.
Questions about the endorsements may be addressed to the National Maritime Center at (888) 427-5662.
Coast Guard navigation, vessel inspection circular now available
The U.S. Coast Guard is making available its navigation and vessel inspection circular (NVIC 2-10). The circular â€œGuidance for Implementation and Enforcement of the Salvage and Marine Firefighting Regulations for Vessel Response Plansâ€ provides details regarding the application and enforcement of the final rule â€œSalvage and Marine Firefighting Requirements; Vessel Response Plans for Oil.â€
An electronic copy of NVIC 2-10 may be obtained by searching the docket number (USCG-2009-0168) at http://www.regulations.gov.
For more details, contact Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Allain at (202) 372-1226.
Pipeline, marine fatalities increase in 2009
The National Transportation Safety Board reports that while highway, rail and aviation fatalities declined last year, pipeline and marine fatalities showed an increase.
Marine deaths increased from 783 in 2008 to 817 last year, with the vast majority, 736, occurring in recreational boating. Other marine categories, including cargo transport and commercial fishing, showed increases as well, although commercial passenger vessels showed a slight decrease.
In the pipeline mode, fatalities increased from eight to 14, with an increase in both categories â€” gas pipelines and liquid pipeline operations.
About the Author:
Carlo Salzano has been in journalism since graduating from La Salle University in 1948 as a chemistry major. That’s right, chemistry. He began his career as a copy boy at the Philadelphia Inquirer, before moving on to United Press International in Philadelphia, Charleston, West Virgina, Baltimore and Washington. After 14 years, Carlo joined Traffic World magazine and stayed on for 23 years, retiring as editor in 1990. A majority of Carlo’s time at Traffic World was spent covering the maritime community and he continued on in the maritime field while freelancing throughout his “retirement.” He is married and has three children and eight grandchildren.