Great Lakes Shipping Community Urges Swift Passage Of U.S. Coast Guard Authorization Bill

Toledo, OH – Companies and organizations dependent on Great Lakes shipping are urging the Senate to quickly approve the Coast Guard Authorization Bill (S.1129) when it comes before them next week. The bill would set funding for all U.S. Coast Guard operations this year and next. Key Great Lakes missions that would be funded include search and rescue, law enforcement, aids to navigation, pollution response and icebreaking.

Of particular importance is the provision that authorizes construction of a new Great Lakes icebreaker as capable as the heavy icebreaker MACKINAW. The MACKINAW was built in 2006, but the other vessels charged with icebreaking date as far back as 1979. While this past winter was not as harsh as the arctic-like winters of 2013/2014 and 2014/2015, U.S.-flag Great Lakes carriers had to cancel or delay more than 1.8 million tons of cargo because the U.S. Coast Guard was unable to meet the needs of commerce. A number of their icebreakers suffered casualties that kept them out of service for significant periods of time.

S.1129 also authorizes a new Coast Guard Center of Expertise for Great Lakes oil spill preparedness and response. This is very important as the Lakes are the source of drinking water for more than 30 million North Americans.

The bill includes the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA), which consolidates the current patchwork system of separate and sometimes conflicting regulations on commercial vessel ballast water discharges by the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Great Lakes states into a unified regulatory system in which each has roles that play to their regulatory, technical, and scientific strengths. As the Coast Guard’s ballast water regulatory system has matured over time, the initial uncoordinated efforts between states and the federal government to stop the introduction of non-natives species will be integrated. VIDA does not eliminate the regulation of commercial vessel ballast water, rather it improves it by imposing stricter and more uniform requirements on vessels bringing foreign ballast water into the Great Lakes.

Senate passage of the Coast Guard Authorization Act will continue and enhance the Coast Guard’s priority missions of maritime safety, homeland security, and environmental protection on the Great Lakes.

Founded in 1992, Great Lakes Maritime Task Force promotes domestic and international shipping on the Great Lakes. With 82 members, it is the largest coalition to ever speak for the Great Lakes shipping community and draws its membership from both labor and management representing U.S.-flag vessel operators, shipboard and longshore unions, port authorities, cargo shippers, terminal operators, shipyards and other Great Lakes interests. Its goals include ensuring Lakes dredging is adequately funded; construction of a second Poe-sized lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan; addition of another heavy icebreaker to the U.S. Coast Guard’s Lakes forces; a federal ballast water discharge standard; protecting the Jones Act and other U.S. maritime cabotage laws and regulations; maximizing the Lakes overseas trade via the St. Lawrence Seaway; opposing exports and/or increased diversions of Great Lakes water; and expanding short sea shipping on the Lakes.

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For more information contact Glen Nekvasil, Secretary: (440) 333-9996 / E-Mail: info@glmtf.org