US Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Chairman of the Senate Seapower Subcommittee and a member of the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security, has introduced the “Energizing American Shipbuilding Act.” The legislation would support American shipbuilding by requiring a portion of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and crude oil exports to be transported on US-built, US-crewed vessels. The legislation was also introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman John Garamendi, D-Calif., the Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.
When Congressman Garamendi had introduced similar bills in previous years, the former US Trade Representative had intervened against those proposals. However under the Trump Administration the current US Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, may be less inclined to intervene against this proposal. Reports also suggest that this bill has received support from several national stakeholders, including the US shipbuilding industry, iron and steel industry, and labour leaders.
The Marine Safety Center recently updated two tools posted to its ballast water management system website to assist industry when completing the ballast water management system type approval process, or when accessing letters of intent. First, the Ballast Water Management System Type Approval Review Checklist was updated May 9th to streamline Marine Safety Center’s review of type approval applications, and second, the Letters of Intent Register now includes both the system name and the manufacturer’s name for each Letter of Intent that has been submitted to improve the ease of searching and/or identifying LOIs when multiple systems listed are manufactured by a single company.
The US Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), within the Office of Management and Budget is seeking public input on how the Federal government may prudently manage regulatory costs imposed on the maritime sector. Multiple Federal agencies regulate the US maritime sector consistent with their statutory authorities. OIRA seeks public comment on how existing agency requirements affecting the maritime sector can be modified or repealed to increase efficiency, reduce or eliminate unnecessary or unjustified regulatory burdens, or simplify regulatory compliance while continuing to meet statutory missions. The request for information is meant to inform agencies’ development of regulatory reform proposals. All submissions will be made publicly available.
All-inclusive eastbound Trans-Pacific service contracts between ocean carriers and US importers to inland destinations are seeing increase of 5 to 25 percent, due to the higher trucking and fuel costs. The US trucking industry continues to grapple with increased volumes, more congestion resulting in fewer turn times, a severe driver shortage and the impact of the new electronic logging devices (ELD) impacting mid-range hauls of 200 to 300 miles. It cost US retailers up to 30% more to ship something via truck in April than it did last year.
Over the last few weeks China’s General Administration of Customs has stepped up inspection of everying from US vehicles, pork, fruits to logs. Chinese officials have not cited bilateral trade friction for any of the delays, but the timing of more rigorous environmental checks and quarantine procedures would say otherwise. China has denied rumours that it has offered a package of trade concessions and increased purchases of American goods aimed at cutting the US trade deficit with China by up to $200 billion a year. The second round of US-China trade talks continue today.
The US Coast Guard Marine Safety Center received its 14th application for Ballast Water Management System (BWMS) type approval for the OceanGuard Ballast Water Management System manufactured by Headway Technology Co., Ltd. USCG has only approved six of the 14 systems that have applied and have not approved a BWMS since May 2017.
US sanctions on the direct or indirect sale, supply, or transfer to or from Iran of graphite, raw, or semi-finished metals such as aluminum and steel, coal, and software for integrating industrial processes are requiring carriers to review their services, operations and business relationships with Iran. Shipping lines serving Iran have a six-month window to leave or cease their operations in the country, following the announcement that the US is withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which in 2015 agreed to lift economic sanctions on Iran in return for the country ending its nuclear weapons programme. Some containers lines have already stopped taking bookings for certain cargoes that would be impacted by the sanctions program. Iran relies on seaborne trade for both imports as well as for sales of its goods apart from oil and the country had struggled with logistical difficulties before international sanctions were lifted in 2016. Iran’s port operators and shipping sectors, including top cargo operator the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) and oil tanker group NITC, will once again be blacklisted on Nov. 4. The US will separately re-impose sanctions on the provision of insurance and reinsurance, which had been another challenge for Iran in the past.
A group of New England senators is calling on the US government to speed up an analysis of Canada’s efforts to protect the endangered North American Right Whale (NARW), and to consider trade action if Canada’s rules do not prove as strong as in the US. The right whale’s numbers have dropped to only 450, following an unprecedented spate of dead whales found in Canada’s Gulf of St. Lawrence last year. The US Coast Guard has just issued a news release stating that with NOAA they are increasing focus this year on enforcement of the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan to detect and deter illegally placed fishing gear and reduce the likelihood of fatal whale entanglements from occurring. The senators say US fishermen have made big sacrifices to reduce impacts on the whales and now they’re calling on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to investigate whether fishermen in Canada are being held to similar standards. If not, they say, then NOAA should consider barring the import of Canadian seafood from the relevant fisheries.
The Federal Maritime Commission’s Bureau of Enforcement has initiated an expedited inquiry into complaints that some ocean carriers are unilaterally changing service contract terms by cancelling the port/container yard to final customer destination leg of the cargo shipment. Letters were sent last Friday, April 20th, to those shipping lines whose service contract actions have been called into question. In this inquiry, the Commission is seeking information that will assist in understanding the timing, fairness, and lawfulness of the alleged unilateral changes to ocean carriers’ obligations for inland trucking services. These cancellations are allegedly due to lack of inland truck availability and likely a result of the acute shortage of truck drivers facing the US nationwide.
NOAA Fisheries announced that a voluntary vessel speed restriction zone under the Dynamic Management Area program is currently in effect 12 Nautical Miles east of Boston to protect an aggregation of right whales. This DMA is in effect through May 3, 2018. Mariners are requested to route around this zone or transit through it at ten knots or less. The US Coast Guard has issued a notice to mariners and reminded that it is unlawful to approach within 500 yards of a North Atlantic right whale by a vessel, aircraft (including drones) or other means, or to fail to take required avoidance measures. Avoidance measures include steering a course away from the whale and immediately leaving the area at a slow, safe speed. The 450 remaining North Atlantic right whales are surface feeders, which means they are often at the surface or just below the surface when feeding, which makes them hard to see and especially vulnerable to being hit by a vessel.
Off Canada's east coast the mandatory speed restriction is in place from April 28 until November 15 for vessels 20 metres or longer to a maximum of 10 knots when travelling in the western Gulf of St. Lawrence. The speed restriction zone may be changed as needed and vessels will be allowed to at normal speeds in parts of two shipping lanes north and south of Anticosti Island when no whales are in the area. A 15-day mandatory slowdown of 10 knots will be activated within a section of the shipping lanes when one North Atlantic right whale is spotted and can be extended as needed.
The United States exported 97.0 million short tons (MMst) of coal in 2017, a 61% (36.7 MMst) increase from the 2016 level. Exports to Asia more than doubled from 15.7 MMst in 2016 to 32.8 MMst in 2017, although Europe continues to be the largest recipient of US coal exports, accounting for 45% of total US metallurgical exports in 2017. Steam coal, which is used to generate electricity, accounted for most of the increase in 2017 coal exports. India, South Korea, and Japan were three of the top five recipients of US steam coal exports in 2017. India, the largest importer of steam coal from the United States, imported 7.6 MMst of steam coal from the United States in 2017—nearly three times as much as in 2016—mainly to fuel growing electricity capacity in the country.
This week the US Senate blocked legislation that environmentalists and opponents argue would weaken water pollution standards. Senators voted 56-42, depriving the legislation of the 60 votes it needed to move forward. The bill included a version of the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA), which would have exempted ships’ ballast water from the Clean Water Act under the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and stop most states’ attempts to regulate ballast water. The US Coast Guard would have assumed all responsibilities for managing ballast water, thereby streamlining and standardizing treatment requirements between the multiple jurisdictions.
Holt Logistics has become the first independent port operator in the north-eastern US to conduct a pilot based on the blockchain application developed by Maersk and IBM. The solution is designed to provide transparency and promote the sharing of information, which in turn can reduce costs, improve productivity and speed the delivery of goods shipped around the world. The focus is the development of a highly secure digital ledger system using IBM Blockchain technology that will allow users of the network to transparently share information and updates about cargo as it moves around the world. The technology can reduce the need for multiple records that currently are produced at each point in the shipping chain. The new technology can to save as much as 20 percent of the cost of shipping transactions when the system is fully developed.
Marine terminal operators in Los Angeles-Long Beach have agreed to restructure the 13-year old PierPass extended-gate program, slashing the traffic mitigation fee by 55 percent to $31.52 per TEU ($63.04 per FEU) and including mandatory appointments to spread truck flow out over the day and night gates. Port users have expressed a desire for changes to increase flexibility and reduce the bunching up of trucks that often occurs before the start of the nighttime OffPeak shifts. Subject to regulatory approval by the Federal Maritime Commission, the revised OffPeak program is expected to begin in August.
The US Port State Control Annual Report for 2017 provides results of 9,105 Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) exams resulting in 91 detentions and 6 International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS) control actions. The annual detention rate of 0.99% is the lowest ever for the US Coast Guard. Detentions found that improvements were needed on fire fighting and fire protection systems. The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) inspections saw deficiencies in safety management systems which now include ballast water management. The Austalian Maritime Safety Authority has also released its AMSA Port State Control Report for 2017 showing a similar decline in the detention rate. And if you're still reading, the US Office of Port and Facility Compliance (CG-FAC) has also published its 2017 Year in Review.
The US Coast Guard has released Marine Safety Information Bulletin 03-18, Oily Mixtures (“Oily Bilge Water”) Management for Oceangoing Vessels of less than 400 Gross Tons, to provide guidance to the industry, mariners, and the general public, on compliance options for oily bilge water management for oceangoing vessels less than 400 gross tons.