Brownwater News, September 2019

Congress back in session; waterways bills await

The National Waterways Conference (NWC) advises the transportation industry that Congress is back in Washington after its summer recess with little time left this year to go to work on a full agenda.

At the top of its must-do list are appropriations bills to start the new fiscal year on Oct. 1. The NWC noted at the opening of its annual meeting on Sept. 17 in Memphis, Tenn., that while the House had advanced 10 of 12 funding bills before the August break, the Senate Appropriations Committee had not moved any. To move funding bills along, the Senate was expected to act rapidly on energy and water measures without prior subcommittee consideration.

Earlier this year, the House approved funding for the Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works program at $7.9 billion as part of a minibus appropriations package, the NWC said. That total would include $2.3 billion for construction with six new project starts.

Operations and maintenance would receive $3.9 billion, and the Mississippi River and Tributaries $350 million, the NWC said. Spending from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund would be $1.7 billion, $147 million more than current levels.

USDA study cites benefits of improved locks and dams

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released a new study that details the cost savings and competitive advantages that would accrue from investing in long-delayed improvements to inland locks and dams on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois River system.

The Waterways Council Inc. (WCI) and the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) commended the USDA for releasing the study, titled “Importance of Inland Waterways to U.S. Agriculture.” Among the study’s highlights was a finding that the waterways’ efficiencies and lower expenditures save between $7 billion to $9 billion a year over the cost of shipping by other modes.

The study, unveiled at a meeting at Melvin Price Locks and Dam in St. Louis, Mo., showed that every dollar of waterways activity results in $1.89 in additional U.S. economic activity directly related to the waterways.

The study also found that increasing investment in the inland waterways system by $6.3 billion through 2029 and $400 million annually thereafter through 2045 would grow the waterways’ contribution to U.S. gross domestic product by 20 percent (to $64 billion) and increase waterways-related employment by 19 percent to 472,000 jobs.

Mike Toohey, president and CEO of the WCI, said the study “makes the case to expedite the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP) that would modernize five locks on the Upper Mississippi River and two on the Illinois Waterway to be ready to capitalize on predicted grain shipments.” Toohey added that the NESP is awaiting engineering and design funds “to be shovel-ready for these vital locks.”

Randy Gordon, president and CEO of the NGFA, said the study “quantifies the significant cost of further delays in rebuilding America’s inland waterway infrastructure, and it’s not a pretty picture.” The study indicated that infrastructure improvement delays can cost operators and shippers more than $44 million annually.

Lakes iron ore, limestone trades up from 2018

The Lake Carriers’ Association reports that shipments of iron ore on the Great Lakes totaled 6.5 million tons in July, an increase of 1.5 percent over a year ago. Year to date, the iron ore trade stands at 26.8 million tons, an increase of 0.5 percent over the same point in 2018.

The association also reported that shipments of limestone on the Lakes totaled 4.3 million tons in August, an increase of 9.2 percent from 2018. Limestone leadings from U.S. quarries totaled 3.5 million tons, up 7.3 percent from a year ago.

Panama swears in new canal administrator

Ricaurte Vasquez Morales, an economist with more than 30 years of experience in the public and private sectors, was sworn in Sept. 5 as the fourth Panamanian administrator of the Panama Canal.

Vasquez began his new seven-year term three months before the canal celebrates its 20th year under Panamanian administration.

The new administrator succeeds Jorge Quijano, who completed his seven-year term Sept. 4.

Seaway high-flow conditions affect ship speeds

The Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. suggests that mariners call (315) 764-3200 (Massena, N.Y.) throughout September to determine if transit requirements are still in effect on the waterway.

In late August, the Seaway issued Notice No. 15-2019, advising mariners that tall ships and barge tows transiting the Montreal-to-Lake Ontario section under high-flow conditions were to be capable of making a minimum of 8 knots.

US, Canada to observe Seaway’s 60th anniversary

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and other American and Canadian government and transportation officials will mark the 60th anniversary of the St. Lawrence Seaway on Sept. 24 at a ceremony at the Eisenhower Lock in Massena, N.Y.

The bi-national waterway was officially opened in 1959 by Queen Elizabeth II and President Dwight Eisenhower.

Since its inception, nearly 3 billion tons of cargo, valued at more than $450 billion, has been transported via the Seaway. According to U.S. Department of Transportation records, maritime commerce on the Great Lakes-Seaway system generates $35 billion in economic activity annually.

AAPA highlights impacts of severe weather

The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) reports that key topics to be addressed at its 108th annual convention in Norfolk, Va., on Oct. 13-16 will include a focus on the ability of ports and coastal communities to bounce back from the impacts of severe weather events.

Among the leading speakers will be Lynette Cardoch, director of resilience and adaptation for Moffatt & Nichol, and Navy Rear Adm. Ann Phillips, special assistant to the governor for coastal adaptation and protection in Virginia.

For more information, contact Aaron Ellis, AAPA public affairs director, at (703) 706-4714.

MarAd offers courses on cargo preference laws

The Maritime Administration (MarAd) has launched newly accredited, web-based training courses on cargo preference laws and regulations.

The courses were developed in collaboration with Defense Acquisition University (DAU). They are intended to enhance comprehension of and compliance with cargo preference laws by other federal agencies.

“Cargo is king in the shipping business and cargo preference laws help U.S.-flag operators remain competitive and put American workers first,” said Maritime Administrator Mark Buzby.

The MarAd/DAU curriculum begins with an introduction to maintaining a U.S.-flag merchant fleet, Buzby said. Additional courses provide further information regarding U.S.-flag vessel requirements pertaining to government cargo.

For more information, contact Brije Smith at (202) 366-5807.

By Professional Mariner Staff