Maritime Administration to designate Marine Highway Corridors

Maritime Administration to designate Marine Highway Corridors

Interested parties have until Feb. 9, 2009, to recommend short sea transportation routes that could be designated as Marine Highway Corridors, and to participate in a short sea transportation project as required by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

The Maritime Administration (MarAd) envisions the designation of waterways along some interstate highways and rail routes as Marine Highway Corridors to reduce congestion, pollution and energy usage, and increase freight system reliability.

Navigable waterways that parallel six interstate highway routes already designated as “Corridors of the Future‚¬VbCrLf under the Department of Transportation’s National Strategy to Reduce Congestion will be fast-tracked for designation as Marine Highway Corridors.

The interstate highway routes are I-95 from Florida to Canada; I-70 in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio; I-15 in Arizona, Utah, Nevada and California; I-5 in California, Oregon and Washington; I-10 from California to Florida, and I-69 from Michigan to Texas.

It is estimated that landside traffic congestion costs the U.S. as much as $200 billion a year and that cargo moving through U.S. ports over the next 15 years will nearly double. In view of those estimates, America’s Marine Highway is seen as a viable alternative transportation mode. Offered by MarAd as an example of a marine highway is the East Coast container-on-barge operation that currently runs between Baltimore and Norfolk, Va., relieving interstate highways of almost 2,000 trucks every week.

The law states that the Secretary of Transportation may designate a project to be a short sea transportation project if the Secretary determines that the project may offer a waterborne alternative to available landside transportation services using documented vessels, and that the project would provide waterborne transportation for passengers or freight (or both) that may reduce congestion on landside infrastructure.

The new law defines short sea transportation as the carriage of containerized intermodal cargo transported by vessel between United States ports or between U.S. ports and ports in Canada in the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System.

Comments and recommendations may be mailed to Docket Management Facility, U.S. Department of Transportation, 400 Seventh Street, SW, Nassif Building, Room PL-401, Washington, DC 20590-0001.

Coast Guard urged to implement towing vessel inspection mandate

Thomas A. Allegretti, president and chief executive of the American Waterways Operators (AWO), has recommended that the U.S. Coast Guard take steps before the end of the year to implement Congress’s towing vessel inspection mandate, based on the recommendations of the Towing Safety Advisory Committee (TSAC).

The recommendation was among several offered by Allegretti in recent testimony before the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), chairman of the subcommittee, called the hearing to examine circumstances surrounding the collision of a tanker and a barge near New Orleans on July 23 that resulted in a spill of nearly 300,000 gallons of oil into the Mississippi River. The barge, which sank as a result of the collision, was being pushed by the towboat Mel Oliver operated by DRD Towing.

Allegretti also recommended that the Coast Guard institute an enforcement program that focuses on towing companies known to have marginal operating practices and safety records. It was noted in Allegretti’s testimony that DRD Towing failed an AWO Responsible Carrier Program recertification audit in May and failed to complete the process of requesting probationary status from AWO. DRD’s membership in AWO was subsequently terminated August 5.

The Coast Guard testified at the hearing that the captain of the towboat was not aboard at the time of the collision. The towboat was being operated by a steersman apprentice whose license did not authorize him to operate the vessel without the captain’s presence in the wheelhouse.

Allegretti also testified that AWO will develop a procedure to provide its member companies with real-time information when a company fails a Responsible Carrier Program audit.

Bush signs bills funding MarAd programs, Corps civil works projects

President Bush has signed the Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009 and a resolution extending spending until March 2009. The measures included several provisions benefiting MarAd.

The bills grant additional cargo preference authority to MarAd and enhance the agency’s role in administrative waivers of coastwise laws. Furthermore, the new laws modify and re-authorize current programs such as the Small Shipyard Assistance program, the Maritime Security Fleet Maintenance and Repair Pilot Project, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and state maritime academy programs.

The Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2007 was passed by the House, but failed to get final approval in the Senate before adjournment.

The so-called continuing resolution (H.R. 2638) that extended spending through the first six months of the fiscal year that began October 1 included the civil works program of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The resolution continues funding for most programs at fiscal year 2008 spending levels until March 6, about a month after the new president will submit his proposed budget for fiscal year 2010.

The resolution includes $740 million to dredge channels and $415.6 million to repair eligible projects nationwide.

The continuing resolution was needed to keep federal departments and agencies operating since lawmakers failed to pass any of the 12 appropriations bills. Waterways Council, Inc. notes that in continuing funding at fiscal year 2008 levels, the measure benefits the civil works program. The program received $5.6 billion this year, $255 million more than the House Appropriations Committee approved for this fiscal year and $287 million more than the Senate panel allotted.

New information system, MarView, developed by MarAd

MarAd reports that information on the condition and performance of the Marine Transportation System – including U.S. ports, vessels, waterways and intermodal connections – is now available on a Web-based, data-driven set of tools developed by MarAd.

The information system, called MarView (, provides access to more than 2,500 links to transportation data sources, giving statistics on intermodal freight transportation and on trained and licensed mariners. It provides real-time tracking of vessels, plus physical attribute information on national and international ports, vessels and related facilities. MarView provides real-time information on waterways and facilities, as well as background facts about domestic and foreign shipbuilding and repair yards.

“Through MarView, we know instantly how much traffic is going through a port on any given day, plus how much goes through in a year and what kind of facilities a port has,‚¬VbCrLf said Maritime Administrator Sean T. Connaughton. “When Hurricane Ike approached the Texas coast, MarView enabled us to keep an eye on a ship that was in trouble. We knew where it was, its physical capacity, and who owned it – instantly. Without MarView, such information might have taken several days to get.‚¬VbCrLf

Maritime administrator nominated to Federal Maritime Commission

President Bush has nominated Maritime Administrator Sean T. Connaughton to the five-member Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) for the remainder of a five-year term expiring June 30, 2012. Bush also designated Connaughton as chairman of the commission upon his appointment.

Also received by the Senate was the nomination of Robert B. Eley, county engineer for Bolivar County, Miss., since 1984, as member of the Mississippi River Commission.

Connaughton was nominated maritime administrator June 28, 2006, confirmed two months later and sworn in Sept. 6, 2006.

Connaughton, who served on active duty in the U.S. Coast Guard from 1983 until 1986, would fill the unexpired term of Paul Anderson, who left the five-member independent regulatory agency May 30, after serving as commission member since August 2003. Anderson’s departure left the FMC with only three members.

Foss seeks “Green Passport‚” certification for Hybrid Tug

Foss Maritime Co. has contracted with Lloyd’s Register North America, Inc. to obtain a Green Passport certification for its low emission Hybrid Tug as part of its ongoing commitment to safeguarding the environment.

The vessel, which will be the first tug in North America with a Green Passport certification, is being built at a Foss shipyard in Rainier, Ore., and is scheduled to begin operation in Southern California this fall.

The Green Passport is a document that contains an inventory of all the materials onboard a ship that may be hazardous to people’s health or the environment, and that require careful handling or special awareness. The record accompanies the ship throughout its operational life, and it is reviewed and recertified every five years.

OSHA targets shipyard work practices

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) plans to revise standards on general working conditions in shipyard employment.

OSHA wants to revise and update the standards to reflect advances in technology and industry practice and to add requirements that would provide employees with protection from hazardous working conditions not currently addressed by the existing OSHA standards.

For more information, contact Veneta Chatmon through OSHA’s Office of Communications at (202) 693-1999.

By Professional Mariner Staff