Home | Contact ST  

Capital Report


October 2013 Issue

Hearing Addresses Rules for Maritime Transportation
The U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation held a hearing to discuss federal regulations for the maritime industry. The first of a two-part series, the hearing consisted of two panels of witnesses representing organizations including the Federal Maritime Commission, the United States Coast Guard and the American Waterways Operators. The hearing debated the effects of regulations on the industry.

R.Adm. Joseph Servidio, assistant commandant for prevention policy, U.S. Coast Guard, who testified with the first panel, said that the Coast Guard prefers not to issue domestic rules. The rules implemented address safety issues, requirements of an authorization act or international requirements.

A member of the committee, Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.) stated that an excess of rules has essentially “choked off” an industry and that there should not be a new rule without 50 years of study. He stressed an interest in rebuilding the United States’s international shipping fleet, citing a trend of the decline in U.S. shipping vessels.

Some of the issues facing merchant marine ships flying the U.S. flag were outlined by Captain William Schubert of USA Maritime. According to Schubert, privately owned vessels are struggling to be competitive in the international market because of the high cost to operate. Despite government funding to offset costs, low wages abroad and U.S. tax code issues act as barriers. He stated that nearly one third of the ships that the Maritime Security Program supports may no longer be able to operate if cuts occur.

“We can’t afford to lose a single ship right now,” Schubert said.

The maritime industry and the job market were also a part of the conversation. The effect of sequestration on the Maritime Security Program and the loss of mariner jobs were discussed.

The second hearing will take a look at environmental issues.

Transportation Committee Leaders Introduce Water Resources Reform and Development Act
Committee leaders introduced bipartisan water resources reform legislation that aims to streamline the infrastructure project delivery process and strengthen water transportation networks.

H.R. 3080, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013 (WRRDA), was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Penn.); Committee Ranking Member Nick J. Rahall, II (D-W.V.); Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio); and Subcommittee Ranking Member Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.).

Through WRRDA, Congress authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop, maintain and support port and waterway infrastructure needs, as well as support flood protection and environmental restoration needs.

Historically, Congress has passed such legislation every two years to provide clear direction to the administration and the corps, but no bill has been signed into law since 2007.

“Investments in America’s water infrastructure create jobs and lay the foundation for sustained economic growth in a global economy,” said Bishop. “This bipartisan legislation is an important first step in addressing the challenges facing our nation’s harbor and inland waterway infrastructure and I will continue to work with my colleagues to enhance the levels of investment we make to support American competitiveness.”

Extension Gives MHK Permit Holders Two Additional Years
Through the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013, which was signed by U.S. President Barack Obama in August, marine and hydrokinetic (MHK) companies will have the chance to extend projects for an additional two years. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has the ability to extend permits for MHK energy projects, even though it is not specifically mentioned in the legislation.

Previously, a license application could not be completed by an MHK company during the three-year span of the preliminary permit. The company was required to wait until the permit expired and compete for a new permit. This opened the door for a competitor to obtain a company’s site during the process.

The recent law affords a company more time to complete necessary paperwork and reduces the risk of losing a site by extending the original permit. The new rule was immediately effective, benefitting companies that are current preliminary permit holders.

National Ocean Council Supports Regional Marine Planning
The Marine Planning Handbook, distributed by the National Ocean Council, outlines lessons learned to act as a guide for the development of marine planning. The handbook is based on insights found during the making of the National Ocean Policy. The handbook supports marine industries, the public and the government working to improve the ocean economy and conservation.

Marine planning uses scientific data specific to a region to promote ocean resources and mitigate conflict.

The National Ocean Council plans to update the handbook on an as-needed basis.

FGDC Launches New Version of Web-Based Geospacial Data
Geoplatform.gov was given the latest round of updates by the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC). The Web-based platform aims to give public access to data for use by government agencies, as well as external partners.

Geoplatform.gov offers features like place-based data to help in decision making, a cloud-computing system for data storage and problem-solving tools. Geoplatform.gov and ocean.data.gov are collaborating to ensure that maps, data and other pertinent information are shared between the two organizations.

Cloud computing is being explored as a means for improving marine planning efforts.


-back to top-