Maritime Transportation Safety and Stewardship Programs
2253 Rayburn House Office Building
This is a hearing of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.
Summary of Subject Matter
Official Hearing Transcript
Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation
Hearing on “Maritime Transportation Safety and Stewardship Programs”
(Remarks as Prepared)
The Subcommittee is meeting today to hear testimony on a variety of maritime transportation safety and stewardship programs implemented and enforced by the Coast Guard. The Subcommittee has held periodic reviews of the Coast Guard’s regulatory regime to keep the Committee updated and to provide the regulated community an opportunity to relay information on what effects, positive or negative, new programs or updates to regulations have on the industry.
As we have done with previous regulatory hearings, we will review pending and final rules impacting the safety and security of our ports and waterways, as well as regulations affecting business practices and the viability of the U.S. flag. The continued reviews allow for oversight on implementation and how the regulations are impacting vessel safety, the flow of commerce through our ports, and the ability to grow jobs in the maritime sector.
Maritime commerce is essential to the U.S. economy. While regulations must address concerns related to safety, security, and stewardship, they must also balance the importance of maintaining the free flow of maritime commerce. Domestic shipping alone is responsible for over 500,000 American jobs and $100 billion in annual economic output. In addition, 90 percent of all global trade and over 25 percent of our Gross Domestic Product moves via the sea. The federal government should foster an atmosphere where our maritime industry can compete and expand.
The National Academy of Sciences Transportation Research Board recently released a report on the impact of Coast Guard regulations on the United States flag registry. The good news for the Service is the Board reported that U.S. regulations are not an impediment to the competitiveness of the U.S. flag fleet. The Board provided recommendations on further improvements that can be made by the Coast Guard to support the U.S. flag fleet. What is an ongoing frustration is the lack of unified approach within this Administration to support programs that promote the U.S. flag fleet.
The Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have developed separate regulations under two different federal laws to govern ballast water discharges. Although the agencies have worked together to try to reach uniformity, the programs still differ in implementation dates, vessels covered, geographic reach, enforcement, and penalties for noncompliance. For instance, the Coast Guard rules allow for vessel owners to seek an extension if treatment technologies do not exist or cannot be installed by the deadline. The EPA provides no mechanism for an extension, leaving a vessel owner liable for civil and criminal penalties through no fault of his own.
The situation only becomes more confusing and burdensome for vessel owners as each individual state adds its own ballast water discharge requirements on top of the EPA’s program. Under the EPA’s current program, numerous states and tribes have added their own differing discharge standards. Some states have laws in place forcing vessels owners to treat their ballast water to a standard for which no technology has yet been invented. The situation is ridiculous. It is completely unreasonable to ask vessel operators to comply with two federal standards and as many as 25 different, contradictory, and unachievable state and tribal standards. I hope my colleagues will join me in looking at ways to rectifying this issue.
Lastly, the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) was amended by the International Maritime Organization in 2014 to require verified gross weights of containers before they are loaded on vessels. Implementation of the provision goes into effect on July 1, 2016. I look forward to the witnesses’ views on how to implement this requirement in a manner to ensure that U.S. exports continue to move unimpeded.
If we want to grow our economy and remain a world power capable of defending ourselves and our allies, we must work together to strengthen and preserve our maritime industry. I thank the witnesses for appearing today and look forward to their testimony.
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