Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown named Great Lakes Legislator of the Year

(WASHINGTON) — Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, has been named 2015 Great Lakes Legislator of the Year by the largest labor-management coalition representing workers and industries dependent on shipping on America’s fourth sea coast. The award is presented annually by the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force (GLMTF) to a legislator who has helped advance shipping on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway.

“Sherrod Brown’s keen understanding of lakes shipping has been invaluable to our industry,” said John D. Baker, president of GLMTF. “Whenever the Senate takes up issues that affect us, Sen. Brown is like a captain on the bridge carefully choosing the best course. The Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014 is a case in point. The years of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) amassing surpluses while harbors go un- or under-dredged are over because WRRDA requires the government to incrementally increase expenditures from the HMTF until they reach 100 percent of receipts by 2025.”

Baker, who is also president emeritus of the ILA’s Great Lakes District Council, noted waterborne commerce on the fourth sea coast is critically important to Ohio’s economy. “Lakes/seaway shipping supports more than 28,000 jobs in the Buckeye State. Imagine how many more jobs we can generate once the Great Lakes Navigation System is again properly maintained,” he said.

The past two winters have dramatically slowed shipping on the lakes and seaway during the ice season. “Sen. Brown’s support will be critical when the Senate takes up the House’s Coast Guard Authorization Act which authorizes the commandant to design and build another heavy icebreaker for the Great Lakes,” said Thomas Curelli, first vice president of GLMTF. “The delays and canceled cargoes during the past two ice seasons cost the economy nearly $1.1 billion in business revenue and 5,000 jobs.”

Curelli, who is also director of operations for Fraser Shipyards Inc. and a retired Coast Guard commander, praised Brown’s commitment to American manufacturing and his efforts to create a national manufacturing policy. “Great Lakes and seaway shipping would not exist if it weren’t for heavy manufacturing. It takes 2.2 tons of raw materials that move on the lakes to make a ton of steel. And now with more scheduled liner services through the seaway, Great Lakes basin manufactures are finding it easier to export.”

America’s ability to make steel and manufacture cars and the like in the future will hinge on construction of a second Poe-sized lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., and the project has the senator’s full support. “Every ton of iron ore that feeds the steel mills in Cleveland and West Chester moves through the Soo Locks,” said Brian D. Krus, second vice president of GLMTF. “If the Poe Lock was to be taken out of service for a lengthy period of time, steel production would all but cease throughout the Great Lakes basin. A flawed benefit-cost ratio is what’s stalling construction of second Poe-sized lock, but we expect that analysis to be corrected soon and know Sen. Brown will fight for getting project funded and underway.”

Krus, who is also senior national assistant vice president of the American Maritime Officers, stressed Brown’s support for lakes/seaway shipping is in keeping with his commitment to the environment. “Waterborne commerce is the greenest mode of transportation. Ships use less fuel and produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than trains or trucks," Krus said.

Brown’s entire political career has been dedicated to protecting American workers from unfair trade and practices, so his support for the Jones Act is unshakeable. “Sen. Brown understands that market-distorting practices have slashed the number of America vessels in the international trades, so he is adamant that our domestic trades must be governed by U.S. laws and regulations so that the playing field is level and the commerce creates jobs for Americans,” said James H.I. Weakley, third vice president of GLMTF. Weakley, who is also president of the Lake Carriers’ Association, emphasized that the lakes' Jones Act fleet pioneered such innovations as the self-unloading vessel and remains the world’s largest fleet of self-discharged ships and barges.

With his selection as Great Lakes Legislator of the Year, Brown becomes the 10th Ohio legislator to receive the award since its inception in 1998. Previous recipients are Sens. John D. Glenn, Mike DeWine and George V. Voinovich, and Reps. Lou Stokes, Steve LaTourette, Marcy Kaptur, Stephanie Tubbs Jones, Betty Sutton and Bob Gibbs.

Founded in 1992, Great Lakes Maritime Task Force promotes domestic and international shipping on the Great Lakes. With 85 members, 25 of which are based in Ohio, it is the largest coalition to ever speak for the Great Lakes shipping community and draws its membership from both labor and management representing U.S.-flag vessel operators, shipboard and longshore unions, port authorities, cargo shippers, terminal operators, shipyards and other Great Lakes interests. 

GLMT’s goals include ensuring lakes dredging is adequately funded; construction of a second Poe-sized lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.; construction of another heavy icebreaker for the lakes; upholding the Jones Act and other U.S. maritime cabotage laws and regulations; maximizing the lakes overseas trade via the St. Lawrence Seaway; opposing exports and/or increased diversions of Great Lakes water; and expanding short-sea shipping on the lakes.

By Professional Mariner Staff