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AWO Letter – March 13, 2024

Posted on March 18, 2024

Coast Guard Will Not Enforce California Commercial Harbor Craft Rule. RADM Andrew M. Sugimoto, 11th District Commander, wrote to the California Air Resources Board on February 21, stressing that the Coast Guard will not enforce the California Air Resources Board’s new emissions rule and citing continuing safety concerns with the regulations. Echoing concerns expressed by AWO and maritime labor, the Coast Guard noted the requirement for Diesel Particulate Filters, which are yet to be developed for the marine environment, and these filters’ unsafe track record on trucks and school buses. The Commercial Harbor Craft rule took effect in January 2023, and California has requested a waiver to enforce the rule from the EPA.

Congress Passes FY2024 Energy and Water Appropriations. Last week, the House and Senate passed the FY2024 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill as part of a package of six spending measures that also funded the departments of Veterans Affairs, Agriculture, Commerce, Interior, and Transportation. The package was signed into law by President Biden on March 9.

The bill includes $8.68 billion for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, $1.27 billion more than the President’s FY24 Budget Request. The Corps’ Operations and Maintenance account received $5.55 billion, a $1.24 billion increase from the President’s FY24 budget, with $2.6 billion of that sum coming from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.

Other highlights include:

  • $1.85 billion for the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF), $40.3 million of which was allocated for the St. Lawrence Seaway;
  • $456 million for inland waterways projects, with at least $120 million coming from the Inland Waterway Users Trust Fund, which will likely fund Chickamauga Lock, Three Rivers, and the Lower Monongahela to completion;
  • $367 million for Mississippi Rivers and Tributaries, which will fund several harbor and channel improvement projects;
  • $132 million for further study into Bayou Sorrel and channel deepening in the Bennett Johnston Waterway;
  • $120 million for the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP), the result of a bipartisan request; and
  • $2.2 million for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation (WFIA) Program.

Please reach out to Liam Morcroft or Craig Montesano if you have any questions.

House T&I Plans Coast Guard Bill Markup. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee plans to mark up an amended version of the Coast Guard Authorization Act on March 20. Originally reported out by the Committee in April 2023, the bill will redesignate the fiscal years under which authorization levels for Coast Guard programs are set and will likely include a title that institutes reforms in response to revelations in the Operation Fouled Anchor report into sexual assault and harassment at the Coast Guard Academy. AWO is working with key Committee members to address industry priorities for the bill.

AWO Launches New Industry Promotional Video on Safety. On March 12, AWO released a new video highlighting our industry’s strong record as the safest mode of freight transportation, and our commitment to continuous improvement. The two-minute video, The Tugboat, Towboat and Barge Industry: Delivering Safety on America’s Waterways, emphasizes our industry’s focus on the safety of mariners, the communities we serve, and the environment. The video also highlights our strong, longstanding safety partnership with the Coast Guard and features mariners from across the country discussing the importance of safety.

National Towing Safety Advisory Committee to Meet. The National Towing Safety Advisory Committee (NTSAC) will hold its next meeting April 30-May 1 in Annapolis, MD. NTSAC is a Congressionally authorized federal advisory committee (FAC) that provides the Coast Guard with advice on issues related to shallow-draft inland navigation, coastal navigation, and towing safety. FACs are crucial forums for AWO members to engage and share real-world experience and subject matter expertise to help shape Coast Guard decision-making. NTSAC has two active subcommittees developing recommendations to improve Subchapter M regulations and policy and to develop best practices for towing vessel crewmember training. AWO will share more information about the meeting as further details are confirmed.

MARAD Publishes Online Carbon Emission Toolkit. The Maritime Administration’s Maritime Environmental and Technical Assistance (META) program has published an online toolkit to aid vessel owners and operators in making decisions on alternative fuels and tracking greenhouse gas emissions. The Ship Alternative Fuel and Emissions Toolkit (SAFE-T) allows users to track Scope 1 carbon emissions, compare the carbon intensity of shipping routes, compare the well-to-wake emissions of alternative marine fuels, and more.

AWO Endorses Sustainable Fuels Grand Challenge. AWO recently signed onto a letter alongside other maritime organizations calling for the Department of Energy to establish a Sustainable Marine Fuels Grand Challenge. This initiative, modeled on the successful Sustainable Aviation Fuel Grand Challenge, would accelerate the production and availability of sustainable marine fuels in the commercial market. Marine fuels are excluded from many federal incentives including the Renewable Fuel Standard and the Clean Fuel Production Credit, which leads to under-investment in and decreased availability of sustainable marine fuels.

AWO Comments on Advanced Manufacturing Production Credit. AWO recently submitted comments to the IRS regarding the agency’s proposed 45X Advanced Manufacturing Production Credit. This Inflation Reduction Act tax credit is intended to reduce the cost of the manufacture of renewable energy components, including vessels used in the construction of offshore wind farms. In the comments, AWO urges the IRS to include vessel types that are not suited solely for offshore wind work and requests guidance on applying the tax credit toward retrofits.

EPA Clean Ports Grants Available. The Environmental Protection Agency has issued two notices of funding opportunity (NOFO) for the $3 billion Clean Ports Program. The Inflation Reduction Act-funded program will provide $2.8 billion for Zero-Emission Technology and $150 million for Climate and Air Quality Planning grants. Zero-Emission vessels and their charging equipment are eligible for the grants, and private companies can apply as long as they are in a “Statutory Partnership” with a public entity. Applications are due May 28, and the EPA is requesting an optional request to apply letter by March 28.

AWO Chairman Gives Keynote at TTB Conference. On March 6, AWO Chairman Rick Iuliucci, Vice President with The Vane Bros. Company, delivered the keynote address at Marine Log’s Tugs, Towboats & Barges (TTB) 2024 conference in Mobile, AL. The theme of the conference was navigating the industry’s transition to a low-carbon future, and Rick’s remarks focused on the AWO Sustainability Task Force’s recommended public policy strategy to address the global drive toward decarbonization, including: telling the positive story of our industry’s present-day contributions to sustainability; advocating for policies that encourage greater use of waterways transport and investment in waterways infrastructure; and avoiding policies that cause harm to our sustainable industry by creating regulatory patchworks, imposing infeasible requirement or unrealistic timelines, or insisting on a “one-size-fits-all” approach to sustainability in maritime.

Celebrating One Year of the American Waterways HERO Award. March 1 marked one year since the launch of the American Waterways Honor & Excellence in Rescue Operations (HERO) Award, recognizing rescues undertaken by AWO member company employees that demonstrate selflessness, skill and bravery. AWO is proud to celebrate the recipients of this award and congratulates the inaugural class of honorees, who exemplify the tugboat, towboat and barge industry’s steadfast commitment to safety. For more information, and to nominate individuals or crews to receive the award, please visit the American Waterways HERO Award webpage.

AWO Hosts Combined Regions Annual Meeting in New Orleans. On February 22-23, AWO hosted over 200 attendees at the 2024 Combined Regions Annual Meeting in New Orleans. The first day of the meeting included remarks from Rear Admiral David Barata, Commander, Eighth Coast Guard District; a 2024 weather outlook from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration; a Coast Guard Sector Commanders panel; and a panel on the 2022 low water event. The following day, AWO staff gave an update on AWO’s advocacy work in the Midwest, Ohio Valley, and Southern Regions and facilitated a discussion on AWO’s 2024 advocacy priorities; members elected new members of the Board of Directors from the three regions; and AWO President & CEO Jennifer Carpenter and Kirby Corporation’s Vice President of Public & Government Affairs Matt Woodruff led a conversation on the Jones Act. Thank you to all who attended!

AWO Atlantic Region Meets in Savannah. The AWO Atlantic Region held its annual meeting in Savannah, GA, on February 28-29. Atlantic Region members, joined by guest speakers from the U.S. Coast Guard, the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association, and Georgia Ports, discussed timely issues impacting the tug and barge industry. Keynote speaker Rear Admiral Douglas Schofield, Commander of the Seventh Coast Guard District, discussed key challenges facing the agency, from navigation safety to cybersecurity. AWO Chairman Rick Iuliucci emphasized the importance of shoring up government and industry partnerships as AWO looks to execute its ambitious advocacy agenda in 2024.

Other highlights included a discussion on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway from Brad Pickel, Executive Director for the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association; an update on the growth of Georgia Ports from Lee Beckmann of the Georgia Ports Authority; and a discussion on the Jones Act with AWO’s Jennifer Carpenter and David Wood of Crowley Corporation, who serve as American Maritime Partnership President and Florida Maritime Partnership Chairman, respectively.

Maritime Leaders Gather in Sacramento for AWO Pacific Region Annual Meeting. On March 5, AWO members and other industry leaders gathered in Sacramento, CA for the Pacific Region Annual Meeting, the Coast Guard-AWO Safety Partnership Regional Quality Steering Committee, and a Barge-In at the state Capitol. The 40 attendees elected new Board members from the Pacific Region and approved AWO’s 2024 advocacy priorities, heard from U.S. Coast Guard 11th District Commander RADM Andrew Sugimoto, and discussed other pressing issues. Following the annual meeting, AWO members and staff took part in 60 legislative meetings as part of a California state Barge-In, educating legislators on the dangerous implications of the California Air Resources Board’s Commercial Harbor Craft Rule.

Washington State Legislature Recognizes Maritime Industry Importance. Before the Washington state legislature ended its session in early March, legislators passed House Resolution 4677, recognizing the importance of the domestic maritime industry. Introduced by Rep. Brandy Donaghy, the resolution acknowledges the importance of domestic mariners and vessels as well as the industry’s ability to assist in natural disaster recovery. Thanks to a previous Western Towboat Company tugboat tour, this priority was a familiar topic of conversation for many key Washington state House members, reinforcing the importance of such tours for AWO’s state and federal advocacy.

AWO Opposes CHPE Permit. AWO recently submitted comments to the New York State Department of Public Service opposing an application to amend a permit that would allow Champlain Hudson Power Express (CHPE) to bury submarine cables at an unsafe depth. In the comments, AWO emphasizes that the 9 feet specified in the permit is not deep enough to provide adequate protection against anchor strikes and snares and asked the state to ensure the cable is buried a minimum of 15 feet, as is mandated in federal channels. Please reach out to Liam Morcroft with any questions.

National Harbor Safety Committee Conference Scheduled for March. The 19th Biennial National Harbor Safety Committee Conference will be held March 20-21 in Chicago. Speakers will include U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Linda Fagan, U.S. Coast Guard VADM Peter Gautier, and other industry experts. Registration is now open online.

AWO Spring Convention Registration is Open! Registration for AWO’s Spring Convention and Barge-In is now open. Members can register to attend through the AWO Member Dashboard and reserve rooms at The Westin Washington – Downtown by clicking this link.

Please contact with any questions.


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