Inland Issues Safety Of Towing Vessels, Environment; And Efficient Intermodal Shipping Top Agendas
The issues confronting the inland waterways/Great Lakes community largely deal with safety on the waterways—whether it be navigational safety issues or the safety of the environment. But efficiency is also a paramount issue, especially since an era of increased trade with neighboring countries may be heralded by the passage of NAFTA.
Inland Waterway Infrastructure Corps of Engineers Projects A hearing of the House Public Works Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on May 4 explored the issues of inland waterway infrastructure, port development, and related issues. Inland Waterways User Board (IWUB) Chairman Berdon Lawrence reportedly urged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to devise innovative and inexpensive construction techniques for pending projects, saying that without such innovation, only one project would be authorized in the next decade.
"Maritime System of the Americas" At a recent SNAME Symposium at the Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y., Deputy Maritime Administrator for Inland Waterways and Great Lakes John Graykowski spoke of a MarAd study of a "Maritime System of the Americas" that attempts to identify more efficient means of transporting goods between the U.S. and Mexico, the U.S.'s third largest trading partner, as well as Canada, Central America, the Caribbean, and the northern rim of South America. The per se Maritime System of the Americas refers to the Great Lakes, the Mississippi and its navigable tributaries, the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway and its tributaries, the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.
Mr. Graykowski noted that 60 percent of U.S. agricultural goods come from the "heartland" of the U.S., so it has become increasingly important to find efficient methods of transporting heartland goods to these areas.
The Maritime System of the Americas study began in 1992, according to Project Manager Doris Bautch of the Maritime Administration, predating the passage of NAFTA. However: "Now that NAFTA has passed," she said, "we expect that there will be more trade moving by water," noting that she has received a lot more inquiries about the study since NAFTA.
The study has three phases, one of which is complete: it studied small vessels on the waterways and rivers that link the central U.S. to various neighboring countries — with heavy focus on the Mississippi — and discovered a niche market for such ships there. The phase one study also found that vessels or vessel systems which are capable of safe navigation both on inland and ocean waters have sufficient economies to serve small volumes of general cargoes, containers, and minor bulk commodities. According to the study, the advantage of such river ocean service is that it only has to capture a relatively small portion of a large and rapidly growing market for general cargo movements to Mexico and South America.
Phases two and three are being conducted concurrently, and Ms. Bautch said she hoped a final report would be completed by the end of the year. Phase two will study short sea shipping, covering vessels in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, with transshipment at coastal ports for trade among Canada, the U.S., Mexico and other neighboring countries. Phase three will examine intermodal connections of deep-draft oceangoing vessels, with considerations for alternatives.
A scrapped possible phase four of the study would have examined the possibility of lengthening the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway to connect the "heartland" of the U.S. with Mexico. It was decided, said Ms. Bautch, that the possibility of that extension would not be explored at this time.
Deputy Maritime Administrator Joan Yim said on March 10 at the Transporte International '94 Conference and Exhibit: "At the Maritime Administration, we intend to adjust our objectives to meet Secretary of Transportation Federico Pena's vision for a seamless intermodal transportation system one that effectively ties America together and efficiently moves the nation's trade through port gateways into the global marketplace via waterborne transportation." Towing Safety: HR 3282 & HR 4058 Currently two bills are on the table which deal with towing safety: HR 3282 (The Towing Vessel Safety Act) sponsored by Congressman Billy Tauzin, and the Towing Safety Act (HR 4058) sponsored by Congressman Gerry Studds. The principal difference between the bills is that Mr. Studds' bill contains provisions for crewing, inspection and deep-sea licensing that Mr. Tauzin's bill does not. Mr. Studds reportedly feels the first bill does not go far enough on those issues, whereas Mr. Tauzin believes the issues require further study before they can be legislated properly. Mr. Tauzin's bill reportedly has the support of Secretary of Transportation Federico Pena, as well as Adm. J. William Kime, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), who reportedly contend that the issues Rep. Studds' bill raises and HR 3282 does not are valid ones which beg discussion, but safety measures should be taken immediately and time for those discussions should not delay immediate attention to safety.
At press time, a hearing had already been held by the House Subcommittee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries, but no date had apparently been set for mark-up of the bill by the full Committee, which Mr. Studds chairs. A recent interview with Mr. Tauzin on the subject published in the AWO newsletter indicated that Secretary Pena's recommendations on the issues Mr.Studds has raised will not be available until August, but Secretary Pena wishes the towing safety provisions of the legislation to pass by September — the anniversary of the Amtrak accident — making the timing problematic.
Clean Water According to Mr. Studds' spokeswoman Sue Waldron, HR 2199 — the Clean Water Funding Act that has come to be known as the "Polluter Pays" bill — has been the subject of several hearings, and Mr. Studds had testified before the House Appropriations Committee on the bill. More hearings were scheduled for the end of May, making a June mark-up possible. Revisions to the Clean Water Act are also the focus of some debate. A newly released report from the Izaak Walton League of America (IWLA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), entitled Restoring the Big River: A Clean Water Act Blueprint for the Mississippi, makes multiple recommendations to counter what the organizations call threats to the river. According to the report, toxic chemicals and wastes have combined with wetlands loss and the maintenance and development of the river's navigation system to eliminate wildlife habitats rapidly, and levees and artificial banks have not only eliminated habitats but hindered the river's natural flooding/cleansing process.
Maritime Security Trade Act Congressman William O. LipinskifD-Ill.) proposed Maritime Security and Trade Act (HR 4003), which was reportedly widely approved of in an April 28 meeting of the Merchant Marine Subcommittee of the House Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee — with the exception of the funding mechanism, a 150 percent increase in the vessel tonnage tax. Although the major outcry against the funding mechanism has come from foreign owner/operators who say they will derive no ben- efit from the legislation, the majority of U.S. owner/operators at the meeting reportedly said it would negatively impact their interests as well. The Shipbuilders Council of America (SCA) voiced its opinion that the legislation should include a shipbuilding component, an opinion shared by members of the Committee including Mr. Lipinski, who reportedly indicated such a component may be added in the future.
Witnesses present included representatives of U.S.-flag liner companies, the SCA, the National Industrial Transportation League (which disapproved of the bill), the Liberty Maritime Corporation, and the Seafarers International Union.
Proposal On Cargo Preference Changes In Great Lakes A proposed MarAd program would allow Great Lakes ports to compete for government-generated agricultural commodity cargoes, a certain portion of which are set aside for U.S.-flag vessels.
No U.S.-flag ships currently provide service between the Great Lakes and foreign destinations. The proposal's one-season trial period would be for the current season, and would entail allowing cargoes subject to cargo preference requirements to be transported from the Great Lakes by either U.S.-flag or foreign-flag ships and taken along the St. Lawrence Seaway for eventual transfer to U.S.-flag vessels for ocean transport.
Additional information on this proposal can be obtained from John Graykowski, Deputy Maritime Administrator for Inland Waterways and Great Lakes, tel: (202) 366-1718.