BrownWater News, September 2014

Mixed views of U.S. maritime industry

Mark Tabbutt, chairman of Saltchuk Resources, a major transportation and distribution company, told the House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee on Sept. 10 that the American maritime industry is “strong, vibrant and growing.”

“The American domestic maritime industry is doing its part to help address the transportation changes,” Tabbutt said. “There are 22 new large tankers and articulated tug-barges under contract, not including options for future construction.”

Testifying at a hearing on the status of the Merchant Marine, Tabbutt also said that, on average, inland shipyards are building and launching “almost a new barge every single day of the year. New tugs and towing vessels are also being built to handle the increased demand.”

Also testifying Sept. 10 was Niels M. Johnsen, chairman of Central Gulf Lines and the Waterman Steamship Corp., who spoke on behalf of USA Maritime, a coalition representing privately owned U.S.-flag oceangoing vessels operating in the U.S. foreign trade.

Expressing a darker view of the state of the Merchant Marine, Johnsen cautioned that the industry was in a “precarious” position.

He said that the industry is in “the midst of a ‘perfect storm’ — dwindling United States military cargoes, a precipitous drop in food aid cargoes, escalating costs and regulations from the U.S. Coast Guard and other federal agencies and intense low-cost foreign competition.” Johnsen urged the “immediate” development and implementation of a national maritime strategy that addresses those issues “in a comprehensive and thoughtful way.”

Don Marcus, president of the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots (MM&P), testified that despite “the indisputable need” for a strong U.S.-flag maritime industry, the state of the industry in the foreign trades is “in jeopardy.”

Marcus said that U.S.-flag ships and crews are subject to U.S. government “imposed rules, regulations and tax obligations that are not applicable to their foreign-flag competition. Many of the world’s maritime fleets, if not state-owned and controlled, operate in what is largely a tax-free environment, faced with little or no tax obligations from their flag nations.”

Marcus said it was time for “immediate, aggressive and innovative action” to develop a stronger, more competitive U.S.-flag fleet, to increase the share of U.S. trade carried by American ships, and to stop “the outsourcing of American maritime jobs.”


Final rule on vessel documentation renewal fees

The Coast Guard has adopted a final rule on vessel documentation renewal fees.

The rule amends regulations to separately list an annual fee for renewals of endorsements on the Certificate of Documentation. The Coast Guard is required to establish user fees for services related to documentation. The final rule, which will become effective Nov. 10, separately lists a fee of $26 to cover the current costs of the vessel documentation services provided by the Coast Guard. The rule will increase the annual fee collections “so that they more accurately reflect the actual costs to the Coast Guard of providing the documentation services,” the Coast Guard said.

The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990 requires the Coast Guard to charge a fee for services but limits charges to no more than the overall cost of the program.

For more information, contact Mary Jager at (202) 372-1331.


Port of Pittsburgh has new executive director

The Port of Pittsburgh Commission (PPC) has announced that Stephen Martinko, former deputy staff director of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has been named the commission’s new executive director.

Martinko succeeded Mary Ann Bucci, acting executive director, on Sept. 8.

Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the House committee, said Martinko “has been integral in many of my successes while in Congress. His combination of political, policy and communications know-how has been a tremendous asset.” Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., ranking member of the committee, added that Martinko is “a perfect example of how working across party aisles can produce jobs for Americans by improving our infrastructure. I wish him well.”


Stevens Institute leads maritime research center

The Department of Homeland Security has selected Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., as the lead institution for a new Center of Excellence for Maritime Research.

The selection will provide Stevens, involved with technological innovation for more than 140 years, with $2 million a year for five years.


EPA funds cleanup of more brownfield sites

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced the availability of $11 million in supplemental funding to help clean up contaminated brownfield properties. The EPA said that revolving loan funds (RLF) will help 31 grantees carry out cleanup and redevelopment projects.

The term "brownfield site" means real property, the expansion, redevelopment or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant.

Revolving loan funds specifically supply funding for grant recipients to provide loans and subgrants to carry out cleanup activities at brownfield sites. When the loans are repaid, the loan amount and any interest is then returned to the fund and subgranted or re-loaned to other borrowers. The supplemental grants range from about $200,000 to $500,000 with an average grant award of $350,000.

For more information, contact Rachel Deitz at (202) 564-1807.


Coast Guard to revise fishing vessel rules for flammables

The Coast Guard has proposed revisions to its regulations for commercial fishing vessels carrying flammable or combustible liquid cargoes in bulk.

The proposed revisions reflect a 1984 statutory change that eliminated fishery-specific and geographic limitations on an exemption that permits certain commercial fishing vessels to carry and dispense flammable and combustible material, including petroleum products.

Submit comments by Nov. 18. Details of the proposed revisions are in the Aug. 20 issue of the Federal Register. For more information, contact Jack Kemerer at (202) 372-1249.


NWC supports Corps’ 3x3x3 initiative

Amy Larson, president of the National Waterways Conference (NWC), responding to an Aug. 13 webinar hosted by the Army Corps of Engineers, assured the service that the NWC supports the Corps’ efforts “to expedite the planning and project delivery process through its 3x3x3 initiative.”

The 3x3x3 rule stipulates that feasibility studies will be completed at a cost of not more than $3 million, in three years or less, and with the continued involvement of the Corps’ three levels — districts, divisions and headquarters.

Larson also urged the Corps “not to use the same metrics when developing deauthorization recommendations that it uses in developing its year-to-year O&M (operation and maintenance) funding requests. Current funding metrics serve to pit one waterway against another, leasing to bias against smaller systems, ignoring the economic activity associated with the smaller systems.”

The webinar “listening session” was the first of four scheduled by the Corps to receive suggestions or recommendations in the implementation of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA). The fourth session is set for Sept. 24.

Continuing with project development and delivery, Larson suggested to the Corps that if it is determined that a study will not be completed within the established time frame, the Corps should consult with the non-federal sponsor during the preparation of an updated study schedule and cost estimate, rather than simply notifying the non-federal partner.

Furthermore, Larson said, in determining whether to extend a time line because a project is deemed “too complex,” the Corps should prioritize the preference of the non-federal sponsor.

Larson said it was "imperative” that the Corps establish a process by which stakeholders have an opportunity to provide meaningful input and feedback on WRRDA. In addition to the listening sessions and the opportunity to submit written comments, “a forum for candid conversation and an open and transparent exchange of ideas would provide for a more robust process,” she said.


Towing Safety Advisory Committee to meet Sept. 25

The Coast Guard has announced that the Towing Safety Advisory Committee (TSAC) will meet Sept. 25 and its subcommittees on Sept. 24 in the West Building of the Department of Transportation in Washington, D.C.

The subcommittees will take up a variety of issues, including the maintenance, repair and utilization of towing equipment, lines and couplings.

The full committee will be briefed on recommendations regarding automation equipment, testing, assessment and trial periods to be considered by officers in charge of marine inspections for a reduction in engine room personnel on towing vessels.

For more information, contact William J. Abernathy at (202) 372-1363.


New guide for Merchant Marine exams

The National Maritime Center has advised the industry that it has developed a new “Deck and Engineering Guide for the Administration of Merchant Marine Examinations.”

For information about the new guide, mariners and other providers should contact the Customer Service Center at (888) 427-5662.

By Professional Mariner Staff