Grants available for towboat, barge builders

BrownWater News

Grants available for towboat, barge builders
The Maritime Administration is in the process of reviewing applications for grants available under a new program to assist small shipyards, including yards building towboats and barges. The period for submitting grant applications stretched from Dec. 27, 2007, until Feb. 25, 2008. MarAd intends to award grants no later than April 24.

     Currently available for small-shipyard grants is $10 million for capital improvements and related infrastructure improvements that will facilitate the efficiency, cost-effectiveness and quality of domestic ship construction for commercial and government use. Such grants may not be used to construct buildings or other physical facilities or to acquire land unless such use is specifically approved by MarAd as being consistent with and supplemental to capital and related infrastructure improvements.

     A small shipyard is described as an enterprise that has fewer than 600 production employees in a single geographical location at or near a maritime community. For more information, contact Jean E. McKeever at 202-366-5737.

GAO says tank barge liability limits don’t cover oil cleanup costs
 The Government Accountability Office says in a new report that the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund has been able to cover costs from major oil spills that responsible parties have not paid, but risks remain. Specifically, GAO said its analysis shows that the new 2006 limits of liability for tank barges remain low relative to the average cost of such spills. Since 1990, the Oil Pollution Act required that liability limits be adjusted above the limits set forth in the statute for significant increases in inflation, but such changes have never been made.

“Not making such adjustments between 1990 and 2006 potentially shifted an estimated $39 million in costs from responsible parties to the Fund,” GAO said.

Tug, barge operators invited to sit on new oil spill committee
The Department of Homeland Security is in the process of establishing a Delaware River and Bay Oil Spill Advisory Committee. The 27-member committee will include two members representing organizations that operate tugs or barges that utilize the port facilities on the Delaware River or Delaware Bay. Persons interested in serving on the committee should contact Gerald Conrad, assistant to the designated federal officer of the committee, at 215-271-4824.

     It will be the responsibility of the committee to provide advice, recommendations and a ranking of priorities for measures to improve the prevention of, and response to, future oil spills in the river and bay to the commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard and to state and congressional authorities.

Energy bill boosts short-sea transportation

The so-called energy bill (Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007) signed by President Bush takes a major step in the promotion of a marine highways initiative, otherwise known as short-sea transportation.

     The new law requires, among other things, the Secretary of the Department of Transportation to establish a short-sea transportation program and to designate short-sea transportation projects to be conducted under the program to mitigate landside congestion. A project may be so designated, MarAd said, if it offers a waterborne alternative to available landside transportation services using vessels and provides transportation services for passengers and freight, or both.

     The goal of the program is to encourage the use of short-sea transportation through the development and expansion of documented vessels, shipper utilization, port and landside infrastructure, and marine transportation strategies by state and local governments.

     MarAd said that under the bill water transportation routes would be designated as extensions of the surface transportation system to promote the use of waterways to relieve landside congestion along coastal corridors.

MarAd video promotes marine highways initiative
MarAd has released a 17-minute video that provides an overview of the federal government’s new Marine Highways Initiative.

     The MHI utilizes America’s coasts and inland waterways to help reduce the number of trucks on the nation’s roads and freeways while moving large loads of cargo onto ships and barges.

     MarAd says the video makes a strong case for expanding the use of America’s waterways to expedite short-sea shipping and reduce landside traffic congestion from wheeled, over-the-road transport vehicles. Another benefit would be the reduction of carbon emissions in the environment due to fewer vehicles on the roads.

     The streaming video presentation is available on MarAd’s Web site at

Congress funds port security grants, civil works projects
Congress went three months into the current fiscal year before approving an omnibus fiscal year 2008 spending bill that appropriates $555 billion called for in 11 separate bills. The huge appropriations bill (H.R. 2764) included $400 million for the Port Security Grant program and $5.6 billion for the civil works program of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps budget includes $2.2 billion for operations and maintenance and $2.3 billion for construction.

     Also in the spending bill is $8.1 million to fund the biometric card reader pilot projects as part of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential program.

The federal government’s budget proposals for the next fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 were scheduled to be submitted to Congress February 4.

National Maritime Center moved to permanent home
The National Maritime Center has moved to its permanent location in Martinsburg, W.Va. The center, a new, specially designed credential-production facility, consolidates the functions of 17 independently operating Regional Exam Centers.

     The U.S. Coast Guard said that mariners will continue to use the existing RECs in various ports across the country for face-to-face customer service and to ensure their applications for credentials are ready for evaluation by the NMC. The NMC will send issued credentials directly to mariners.

     The Center’s new address is 100 Forbes Drive, Martinsburg, W.Va. 25404.

Foss, Crowley Maritime reimburse employees for TWIC cost
Two major operators of tug and barge fleets have agreed to cover the initial cost of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential for their employees. Merchant mariners and shoreside personnel who need unescorted access to secure port and vessel areas will need TWIC cards by next Sept. 25.

     The two companies volunteering to ease the initial financial burden on their employees are Foss Maritime Co., Seattle, and Crowley Maritime Corp., Jacksonville, Fla.

     Gary C. Faber, COO and president of Foss Maritime, said he wanted to make it “as easy and painless as possible for our employees to quickly comply with the new regulations to keep U.S. citizens safe.”

     Tom Crowley, chairman and president of Crowley Maritime, said he wanted to “make sure affected Crowley employees are in compliance early by removing the personal financial obligation associated with the application process.”

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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, before 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.
By Professional Mariner Staff