Major barge line operator backs 20-year waterway plan

Major barge line operator backs 20-year waterway plan

Matt Woodruff, director of government affairs for Kirby Corp., the nation’s largest operator of inland tank barges, was among witnesses at a Senate committee hearing called to examine ways that investment in the nation’s water resources infrastructure creates and saves jobs and increases America’s economic competitiveness.

Appearing before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on May 6, Woodruff, who also is general counsel of Waterways Council Inc., urged the committee to support a 20-year plan “to keep our waterways reliable and bring billions of dollars in benefits to our economy, creating and maintaining a host of jobs along the way.â€

The plan, which includes a recommendation that the current diesel fuel tax be increased by 30 percent to 45 percent, was adopted in April by the Inland Waterways Users Board. Under the 20-year plan, Woodruff said, 25 projects would be finished in the next 20 years, instead of six projects, and the country would avoid between $350 million and almost $1.2 billion in project-cost growth.

“We also will recognize that at least $2.8 billion in benefits from these projects that would be forgone if the projects’ completion were delayed,†he added.

DOT unveils ‘Strategic Plan for 2010-2015’

The U.S. Department of Transportation has unveiled for public comment its strategic plan for 2010-2015.

Acting Maritime Administrator David T. Matsuda said the plan, entitled “Transportation for a New Generation,†helps set the priorities of the department and offers a blueprint for providing the public with safe, convenient, affordable and environmentally sustainable transportation choices for the 21st century.

“Having a government that reaches out to the people is one of the top priorities of the Obama administration,†Matsuda said in a “Dear Colleague†letter. “For example, America’s Marine Highway transportation development is a very important issue to the administration. Taking the time to review the plan and provide comments will only help make marine transportation development stronger across the nation.â€

A copy of the 74-page plan can be viewed and comment can be submitted at https://dotstrategicplan.ideascale.com/a/panel.do?id=8329.

USCG plans to change vessel-numbering system

The U.S. Coast Guard plans to change the way it numbers undocumented vessels and casualty reports. The changes would align and modernize terminology used in the Standard Numbering System (SNS), the Vessel Identification System (VIS) and casualty reporting. The changes also would require validation of vessel hull identification numbers; require SNS vessel owners to provide personally identifiable information; and provide administrative flexibility for states.

The Coast Guard said that together, the proposed changes would improve recreational boating safety efforts, enhance law enforcement capabilities, advance maritime security and clarify requirements for all stakeholders.

All the proposed changes are spelled out on 14 pages of the May 7 Federal Register. Comments may be mailed by Aug. 5 to Docket Management Facility (M-30), U.S. Department of Transportation, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Ave., S.E., Washington, D.C. 20590-0001.

For more information, contact Jeff Ludwig at (202) 372-1061.

Proposed bill would free unspent dredging funds

The Great Lakes Maritime Task Force says that ships working the Great Lakes won’t leave port with their cargo holds less than full if Congress passes legislation introduced April 15 in the Senate.

The bill, S. 3213, would require the government to stop diverting the taxes it collects for dredging to paper balance the federal budget and instead spend them for their intended purpose: maintaining the nation’s deep-draft ports and waterways.

Introduced by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the bill requires the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund to spend what it takes in each year. The tax levied on cargo moving through deep-draft ports and deposited into the Trust Fund totals as much ad $1.6 billion a year. Since annual expenditures are less than $800 million, the fund now has a surplus of nearly $5 billion.

James H. I. Weakley, president of the Task Force, said that when a vessel leaves iron ore at the loading dock, “that affects the cost of the steel that goes into our cars and our refrigerators. The coal that’s left behind impacts the cost of electricity. The aggregate that doesn’t get shipped weakens the construction industry’s ability to begin the desperately needed rebuilding of our basic infrastructure. Overseas cargoes become less competitive with East, West and Gulf Coast ports.â€

AWO hails court decision against Chicago locks closure

The U.S. Supreme Court has denied the State of Michigan’s request that Chicago area locks be closed.

The American Waterways Operators (AWO) said it was gratified that the court’s action “will keep waterborne commerce flowing and will avoid the devastating impact that closing the locks would have on Midwest consumers and the hard-working Americans employed in the towing industry and other industries that rely on commodities shipped by barge.

“The benefits of barging go beyond the fact that it is the safest, most economical way to ship cargo. Barging has the smallest carbon footprint of all transportation modes and is the most environmentally friendly way to move critical commodities, reducing traffic congestion and air pollution.â€

Michigan wants the locks closed to keep Asian carp from working its way into the Great Lakes. The AWO, on the other hand, has endorsed nine actions other than lock closures put forward by a federal agency consortium in its Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework that should be implemented to stop the Asian carp.

The actions endorsed by AWO include construction of a third electric fish barrier in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, the use of bubble and acoustic technology fish barriers, measures to identify the location of invasive species and funding research on Asian carp-specific biological control agents.

‘Navigable’ waters to become just ‘waters’

Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has introduced a new Clean Water Act that the National Waterways Conference (NWC) says would, among other things, continue previous legislative efforts to replace the term “navigable waters†with the phrase “waters of the United States.â€

The NWC said opponents of the previous efforts maintain that the new bill, H.R. 5088, “would usurp states’ authority and impose onerous environmental regulations on insignificant water bodies not intended to be subject to federal oversight.â€

The Senate approved a similar bill, S. 787, last June.

Panama Canal to hold the line on tolls this year

The Panama Canal Authority (PCA) has announced that it will not adjust tolls this, year but that next January it would implement a new pricing proposal approved last month by the PCA’s board of directors.

Alberto Aleman Zubieta, administrator of the authority, said the new price structure approved by the directors would safeguard the competitiveness of the waterway and facilitate the canal’s goal of providing a valuable service to world commerce.

The new price structure will affect all canal segments, including containers, dry bulk, liquid bulk, vehicle carriers, reefers, passenger ships and general cargo. For details of the board-approved proposal, visit http://www.pancanal.com.

The Panama Canal’s modernization program continues to move forward with the construction of a third set of locks at a cost of $5.25 billion. Expansions will double the waterway’s capacity by 2014.

Allen stays on to manage BP oil spill response

Adm. Thad Allen, who was succeeded May 25 by Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr. as Coast Guard commandant, is staying on to manage the administration’s response to the BP oil spill that followed an explosion aboard a drilling rig April 20 in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Remaining in my current role as the national incident commander after being relieved as the commandant will allow me to focus solely on this critical response, and Adm. Papp on the vital work of the Coast Guard,†Allen said.

Corps reports high runoff into Missouri River reservoirs

Late season snow in the mountains, rain over much of the upper basin and wet soil conditions combined to push runoff into the big Missouri River reservoirs. The result is 127 percent of the normal runoff in May and increasing reservoir levels 1 to 2.4 feet, according to Jody Farhat, chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Missouri River Basin Water Management.

“Reservoir storage is currently 60.8 million acre feet (MAF),†Farhat said. “We’ve not been that high since 1999.†Runoff for 2010 is currently forecast to total 28.5 MAF, 115 percent of normal.

About the Author:

Carlo Salzano has been in journalism since graduating from La Salle University in 1948 as a chemistry major. That’s right, chemistry. He began his career as a copy boy at the Philadelphia Inquirer, before moving on to United Press International in Philadelphia, Charleston, West Virgina, Baltimore and Washington. After 14 years, Carlo joined Traffic World magazine and stayed on for 23 years, retiring as editor in 1990. A majority of Carlo’s time at Traffic World was spent covering the maritime community and he continued on in the maritime field while freelancing throughout his “retirement.” He is married and has three children and eight grandchildren.

Categories: Maritime News