Toledo, OH – Great Lakes Maritime Task Force’s many accomplishments over its first 20 years are highlighted in the organization’s 2012 Annual Report released today. GLMTF was founded in Toledo, Ohio in November 1992, and has been at the forefront of Great Lakes/Seaway issues ever since.
GLMTF’s first challenge came in 1993 when the U.S. Coast Guard proposed to retire the MACKINAW, its only heavy icebreaker stationed on the Great Lakes. GLMTF quickly engaged the Great Lakes delegation in Washington and two legendary legislators, Minnesota Congressman James L. Oberstar (D) and Ohio Senator John D. Glenn (D), took the lead. The Coast Guard not only reversed its decision, but launched a study of Great Lakes icebreaking needs that culminated in the 2006 christening of a new, multi-purpose MACKINAW.
However, another battle loomed. In 1995, a group labeling itself the Jones Act Reform Coalition (“JARC”) set about to make American-crewed, -built and -owned ships a thing of the past by repealing the Jones Act and other maritime cabotage laws. Their campaign established new benchmarks for deceit. For example, concerning the Lakes they claimed a salt a mine in New York had to close because there were no U.S.-flag lakers available to haul salt. In truth, U.S.-flag lakers routinely move more than 1 million tons of salt per year and the mine shut down because it flooded.
Most in Congress knew better and a majority of the House of Representatives soon signed a resolution expressing full support for the Jones Act. Every Representative from a District fronting the Lakes, Democrat and Republican alike, co-signed H. Con. Res. 65. The JARC faded away.
In retrospect, GLMTF’s first hurdles were perhaps the easiest to clear. This century has seen challenges that are testing its mettle. While reason has often prevailed in the development of ballast water laws and regulations, there are still some who would apply standards that will be impossible to meet for the foreseeable future. The much-needed second Poe-sized lock remains unbuilt and will not be included in the Administration’s budget until a new benefit/cost analysis corrects the fundamental flaws that mar the current critique.
The dredging crisis remains GLMTF’s top priority. “We knew the dredging crisis would test our endurance,” said Donald N. Cree, President of GLMTF in 2013 and Great Lakes Special Assistant to the National President for American Maritime Officers. “The bad news is only 17 of the 63 Federally maintained ports on the Lakes were dredged in 2012 and the budget for FY13 maintains only 15 harbors. The good news is legislation requiring the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund to spend what it takes in each year for dredging on dredging has already been introduced in the House and Senate.”
Great Lakes legislators have been quick to support the bills. H.R. 335, the Realize America’s Maritime Promise (“RAMP”) Act, has been co-sponsored by 17 representatives from the Great Lakes basin, and 74 members of the House in total.
S. 218, the Harbor Maintenance Act of 2013, was authored by Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) and already has both Senators in Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, New York, and Wisconsin as co-sponsors, as well as Senator Casey (D-PA) and Senator Kirk (R-IL). In total, 31 Senators have co-sponsored the bill.
The Task Force continues to work other issues in 2013. Concerning ballast water introduction of non-indigenous species, GLMTF notes that no new exotics have been identified since 2006, and that development is closely tied to the requirement that came into effect that year that oceangoing vessels exchange their ballast before entering the St. Lawrence Seaway. Federal regulations will require oceangoing vessels to install treatment systems, some as soon as 2014, but that Task Force notes that these companies need an assurance the systems they soon will install will meet regulatory requirements for the life of the vessel.
Concerning lakers treating their ballast, GLMTF stresses the fact that no system that can handle lakers’ flowrate for ballast (as much as 80,000 gallons per minute) is even on the drawing board is but one reason Federal regulations should not require lakers to treat their ballast. The Lakes are interconnected, so once an exotic has taken root, it can and will migrate at will. Some aquatic nuisance species have been present for more than 170 years; they have moved or been moved to wherever they are going to be in the Lakes by one of the 64 vectors of spread tracked by NOAA and the U.S. Geological Survey.
GLMTF remains committed to construction of a second Poe-sized lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and applauds efforts to correct a flawed analysis of the project’s benefit/cost ratio.
The announcement that the U.S. Coast Guard is bringing another icebreaker to the Great Lakes fulfills a longtime goal, but the Task Force still believes a second heavy icebreaker to supplement the MACKINAW is needed to ensure the free flow of cargo during periods of ice cover.
The Task Force eagerly awaits reintroduction of legislation to promote more Short Sea Shipping on the Great Lakes by enacting a narrow exemption from the Harbor Maintenance Tax for non-bulk cargos transported between Great Lakes ports. GLMTF also urges Congress to adequately fund the six State Maritime Academies, including Great Lakes Maritime Academy in Traverse City, Michigan, that supply many of the new officers on U.S.-flag vessels.