National freight transport policy recommended
A special panel of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has released its final report on the state of freight transportation in the United States and its recommendations for improvements.
The Special Panel on 21st Century Freight Transportation, established in April and chaired by Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., R-Tenn., recommended that Congress should, among other things:
• Direct the secretary of transportation to establish a comprehensive national freight transportation policy and designate a national, multimodal freight network.
• Ensure robust public investment in all modes of transportation on which freight movement relies.
• Review the transportation secretary’s freight funding and revenue recommendations, and develop specific funding and revenue options for freight transportation projects prior to Congress’ consideration of the surface transportation reauthorization bill in 2014.
MarAd seeks ideas on how to revitalize U.S. cargo fleet
If you have any ideas how to revitalize the American ocean cargo fleet, the Maritime Administration (MarAd) will want to hear them at a public meeting planned for January in Washington, D.C.
In a notice published Oct. 28 in the Federal Register, MarAd invited the public and other Maritime Transportation System (MTS) stakeholders to submit comments and topics for the meeting, at which attendees will discuss and develop “a robust national maritime strategy.”
MarAd said the purpose of the meeting is to gather ideas for improving the nation’s cargo opportunities and sealift capacity while ensuring future sustainability. MarAd said that while MTS has proven to be “strong and resilient,” there is a need to improve and grow the industry.
The meeting has been scheduled for three days, Jan. 14-16, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. The deadline for submitting agenda topics, comments and ideas for discussion is Nov. 29. The meeting will be held at the Department of Transportation’s West Atrium, 1200 New Jersey Ave., S.E., Washington, D.C. For more information, contact Christine S. Gurland at (202) 366-5157.
Barge reporting rule suspended to Dec. 31
The commander of the Eighth Coast Guard District has extended to Dec. 31 the suspension of reporting requirements for barges loaded with certain dangerous cargoes (CDC) in the district’s inland rivers.
The commander said the extension is necessary because the Coast Guard is still analyzing future reporting needs and evaluating possible changes in CDC reporting requirements. The commander also said the extension “in no way relieves towing vessel operators and fleeting area managers responsible for CDC barges in the Regulated Navigation Area (RNA) from their dangerous cargo or vessel arrival and movement reporting obligations currently in effect under other regulations or placed into effect under appropriate Coast Guard authority.”
For more information, contact Lt. Jason Doherty at (504) 671-2266.
Panama Canal officials weigh new toll structure
Officials of the Panama Canal Authority met in Greece on Oct. 9 with tanker and dry cargo industry representatives to discuss the waterway’s toll structure once the expanded canal opens to commercial transits.
“It is important for us to get direct face-to-face feedback from the industry representatives to ensure that our tolls and services remain competitive and are properly structured to reflect the commercial value of our route,” said Administrator Jorge L. Quijano.
Fourteen percent of vessels transiting the canal are Greek-owned. Dry bulk carriers represent 23 percent of the total tonnage transiting the waterway, with bulk grains remaining the top commodity transported from the United States and South America to Asia.
The canal expansion program includes construction of a new lane of traffic along the waterway through a new set of locks that will allow the transit of vessels with greater tonnage capacity. The program is about 65 percent complete.
House bill targets transport security card program
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, has introduced a bill that would require the Homeland Security secretary to prepare a comprehensive assessment of the transportation security card program.
The proposed Essential Transportation Worker Identification Credential Assessment Act (HR 3202) calls for an assessment that would include an evaluation of the extent to which the program addresses known security risks in the maritime environment. The assessment also would include a cost-benefit analysis of the program and a consideration of alternate biometric technologies with the same or greater security effectiveness, including international technologies.
House applauded for WRRDA passage
Lawmakers and private sector representatives of the nation’s inland waterways and seaports wasted little time on the evening of Oct. 23 applauding House passage of the new Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013 (WRRDA). The act was approved early that day on a 417-3 vote.
Commending leaders of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (T&I) and the House Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee, Waterways Council Inc. (WCI) noted that the newly passed legislation, HR 3080, included several provisions of HR 1149, WAVE 4 (Waterways Are Vital for the Economy, Energy, Efficiency and the Environment). The provisions would reform the project delivery processes of the Army Corps of Engineers; prioritize authorized improvements; and adjust the Inland Waterways Trust Fund so that funds can be used for authorized projects by changing the cost-share formula for the Olmsted Lock and Dam project.
WCI said it “particularly appreciates” the bill’s recommendations to help the Corps’ process to deliver navigation projects on time and on budget, and applauds the recognition of the delay and cost escalation associated with the Olmsted project in Illinois and Kentucky. WCI said the bill reduces the trust fund’s portion of the remaining costs to complete the Olmsted project from 50 percent to 25 percent.
WRRDA’s focus on increasing spending from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for channel dredging and port modernization also was applauded by WCI.
Acknowledging the “strong leadership” of T&I and its Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee, Tom Allegretti, president and CEO of the American Waterways Operators, said their “dedication (and) their willingness to share their commitment to the nation’s water transportation infrastructure helped make this bill a reality. We are very grateful for their steadfast support.”
Barry Holliday, executive director of the Dredging Contractors of America, called it “an amazing effort by T&I; now on to conference with the Senate.” The Senate passed its water bill (S. 601) 83-14 in May.
Joining in the praises was Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, who said she was “so pleased that the House passed its water resources bill … so that we can move forward with the House-Senate conference as soon as possible.” Boxer said that passage of the House bill “is a critical step to getting this job-creating legislation to the president’s desk.”
Joining Boxer on the conference committee will be Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont.; Thomas Carper, D-Del.; Ben Cardin, D-Md.; Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.; David Vitter, R-La.; John Barrasso, R-Wy.; and James Inhofe, R-Okla. As of Nov. 13, the House transportation panel had not yet named its choices for the conference committee.
Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, reiterated that the measure is “the most policy- and reform-focused legislation of its kind in the last two decades. This bill contains no earmarks, cuts red tape for improvements that will strengthen our economic competitiveness, streamlines the infrastructure review process and deauthorizes $12 billion of outdated projects in order to more than fully offset new authorized Corps activities.”
Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-W.Va., ranking member of T&I, said the House-approved bill “stops the finger-in-the-dike solutions to our water infrastructure challenges and instead invests in these corridors of commerce, which create jobs and support increased economic opportunity.”
James R. McCarville, executive director of the Port of Pittsburgh Commission, said that while the bill may not be perfect, it is “a tremendous step forward in fixing our nation’s locks and dams.”
In a report submitted Oct. 21, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that implementing HR 3080 would cost about $3.5 billion from 2014-2018, assuming appropriation of the amounts necessary to cover initiatives called for in the legislation.
The CBO said that Title IV alone would cost about $3.1 billion over the five-year period. That title would authorize the Corps to construct 23 new projects. The six largest projects include the Sabine-Neches Waterway in southwest Texas and southeast Louisiana to improve navigation. The other five would restore wetlands and shoreline ecosystems to reduce the risk from floods, hurricanes and storms.
AWO launches new website
The American Waterways Operators has launched a new website (www.americanwaterways.com) that the AWO says is designed to increase public awareness and foster greater knowledge of the industry’s key contributions in the areas of safety, the environment, security and the economy.
Tom Allegretti, AWO president and CEO, said that the new website offers “a wonderful way to learn about the important work our members do to ensure safety, efficiency and reliability throughout our water transportation network.”
For more information, contact Ann McCulloch at (703) 373-2252.