Marine Link
Friday, July 12, 2024

Bill Moves USCG Closer to Obtaining a New Great Lakes Icebreaker

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

June 27, 2024

(Photo: Lake Carriers’ Association)

(Photo: Lake Carriers’ Association)

The U.S House of Representatives on Wednesday passed an amendment to the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill that would move funds from the Office of the Secretary of Homeland Security to the U.S. Coast Guard for the procurement of an already authorized Great Lakes icebreaker (GLIB).

The GLIB is needed to maintain winter deliveries of raw materials to the U.S. steel manufacturing industry (supporting nationwide automobile and appliance manufacturing) and respond to winter flooding of Great Lakes coastal communities.

The amendment was submitted by Representative John James (MI-10), who said, “The procurement of this already authorized Great Lakes icebreaker will mean smoother commerce in the Great Lakes region during the winter months. The Great Lakes account for countless jobs in Michigan and the entire upper Midwest, and its economy is critical to the overall health of American commerce and trade. I am happy to have led these efforts in the House and urge the Senate to swiftly adopt these measures to ensure this amendment can be signed into law.”

Trade group the Lake Carriers’ Association (LCA) and its’ 13 member companies applaud the amendment. According to LCA, it sends a strong message to the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the U.S. Coast Guard, that the Great Lakes are an important economic driver for the nation and deserve the Department’s attention and resources.

LCA president Jim Weakley said, “Representative James just took a major positive step to ensuring the Great Lakes maritime supply chain remains viable during the winter months. The U.S. Coast Guard’s new Great Lakes icebreaker will not only ensure commerce can move safely and efficiently during the winter months but will also protect Michigan’s shoreline communities from devasting ice jam flooding which occurs nearly every year in the St. Clair River.”

The U.S. Coast Guard asked for $55 million for the GLIB in the President’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget but only received $20 million toward the icebreaker’s procurement. The construction timeline for the new vessel depends on the U.S. Coast Guard receiving adequate and efficient funding.

With only one heavy Great Lakes icebreaker and a seriously aging fleet of smaller icebreakers, the U.S. Coast Guard is approaching a compounding problem of keeping the supply chain moving on the Great Lakes during the winter, LCA said, noting that the U.S. economy depends on Great Lakes shipping for the raw materials which turn into U.S. made steel among other building blocks of manufacturing. An economic analysis chartered by the Lake Carriers’ Association has equated inadequate U.S. Coast Guard icebreaking on the Great Lakes to the loss of $2 billion in economic activity and over 10,000 jobs in the past decade.

“This is a must pass piece of legislation deserving of full Congressional support. We cannot sit back and wait another 10 years for another $2 billion impact to the economy and additional lost jobs. Representative James has the support of more than 100 Great Lakes shipping companies, shoreside manufacturing facilities, labor organizations, and emergency managers dealing with ice jam flooding,” Weakley said.

The final vote on the full House Homeland Security Appropriations Bill is expected to take place Thursday.