Congress at Work on Maritime Programs

Joan M. Bondareff and Jonathan K. Waldron

While much attention is being paid to the Mueller report and the internal Democratic fight regarding impeachment procedures for President Donald Trump, the 116th Congress and its respective committees are trying to do their regular work in the meantime—including passing both authorization bills and appropriation bills for fiscal year 2020. Here are some key legislative developments relevant to the marine industry.

Maritime Administration Authorization Bill

On May 15, 2019, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation reported S. 1439, the “Maritime Administration Authorization and Enhancement Act for Fiscal Year 2020,” sponsored by Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), Chairman of the Committee. S. 1439 hopes to accomplish a multitude of goals, including a 10-year reauthorization of the Maritime Security Program, a U.S.-flagged fleet of commercial ships deemed critical for defense sealift operations; and codifying President Trump’s “military to mariner” executive order (E.O. 13860), aimed at streamlining the transition of active duty and retired military into civilian maritime jobs. Additionally, the bill includes the Port Operations, Research, and Technology (“PORT”) Act, which authorizes $600 million for the secretary of transportation to make grants for port and intermodal infrastructure projects; the Maritime SAFE Act, aimed at combatting illegal fishing; increased funding—up to $40 million for FY2020—for the Small Shipyard Grant Program; and full funding ($33 million) for the Title XI maritime guaranteed loan program to support the maritime industrial base. The bill requires that all components used in grant-funded projects are American-made and American-bought (a Baldwin amendment). The bill also authorizes a program to support infrastructure development at Department of Defense-designated Strategic Ports, and enacts reforms at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy regarding sexual harassment and assault prevention. Continue reading “Congress at Work on Maritime Programs”

Potential Impacts of Offshore Legislation on Industry

Jonathan K. Waldron and Stefanos N. Roulakis

The U.S. House of Representatives has introduced legislation that could potentially greatly alter the landscape for oil, gas, and wind installation and decommissioning activities on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (“OCS”). Stakeholders should examine the legislation for impacts to their operations.

New Development

The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure marked up and approved H.R. 3409, the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2019 (“2019 CGAA”) on June 26, 2019. This legislation, if enacted, could have significant impacts on how oil, gas, and wind vessel activities are conducted on the OCS. Of particular note, the legislation could have an outsized effect on offshore wind in the United States, which is at a nascent stage and requires installation activities of the type contemplated in the 2019 CGAA.

Background

In January 2017, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) proposed to overturn decades of precedent with regard to offshore operations potentially subject to the Jones Act in its “Proposed Modification and Revocation of Ruling Letters Relating to Customs Application of the Jones Act to the Transportation of Certain Merchandise and Equipment Between Coastwise Points” (the “Notice”). The Notice, which was published in the CBP Customs Bulletin, proposed the modification of approximately 25 CBP rulings that delineated the difference between “equipment of the vessel,” the transportation of which does not implicate the Jones Act, and “merchandise,” which may only be transported by qualified vessels under the Jones Act.

Please click here for the full client alert. 

The Maritime Outlook for the 116th Congress

Joan M. Bondareff and Genevieve Cowan*

When we last wrote about the 115th Congress, it had just completed work on the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2019 and Save Our Seas legislation. These bills were summarized in our Mainbrace (October 2018) article, Congress Passes Major Maritime Safety Legislation but Fails to Fund a New Icebreaker or Pass Authorization for Most Coast Guard Programs. Of notable significance since our last article, the 2019 spending deal finally provided funding for a new polar icebreaker, which is discussed in detail further below. Continue reading “The Maritime Outlook for the 116th Congress”

Impact of New U.S. Import Tariffs on the Maritime Industry

Joan M. Bondareff and Matthew J. Thomas

President Trump, from his campaign through his time in office, has been a vocal supporter of U.S. manufacturing jobs and a critic of what he characterizes as unfair trade practices from traditional U.S. trading partners. This is one reason he withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and currently is renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (“NAFTA”). As we are putting this issue of Mainbrace to bed, the administration has announced the successful completion of a new trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, which is now called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (“USMCA”). At a later date we will provide insights into the “new” NAFTA and its potential impact on the maritime industry. Keep in mind that Congress will ultimately have to approve the USMCA before it goes into effect.

Although there are hints of some negotiations between the United States and China, we expect this is the last trade deal that President Trump will negotiate because of his increasing rhetoric and tougher stance on the imposition of billions of dollars of new tariffs that go into effect on January 1, 2019. This also explains his imposition of tariffs on thousands of products imported from China, and steel and aluminum tariffs for most countries, including the European Union, as well as his threats to impose tariffs on automobile imports. In this article, we analyze the potential impact of these tariffs on the broader maritime industry. Continue reading “Impact of New U.S. Import Tariffs on the Maritime Industry”

Congress Passes Major Maritime Safety Legislation but Fails to Fund a New Icebreaker or Pass Authorization

Joan M. Bondareff, Jonathan K. Waldron, and Genevieve Cowan*

This article provides an update on the status of several maritime-related bills pending with the 115th Congress as of October 3, 2018, and reviews one major marine safety law that passed Congress and is awaiting presidential signature.

America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018

The latest version of “America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018” (S. 3021), previously referred to as WRDA, is a product of compromise. The issues that were stalling the legislation for most of the summer have been resolved, resulting in a now far broader version that includes improvements to America’s water resources infrastructure; a streamlined project acquisition process for the Army Corps of Engineers that allows them to accept funds from nonfederal sponsors to advance studies and project elements; an extension of a new Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) water loan program for two more years; an EPA study requirement on small water utilities that are repeatedly out of compliance; a Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) study on whether to move the Army Corps out of the Department of Defense and into a civilian agency; and enhancements to oversight and transparency when reviewing water resources development activities by Congress. For a full summary and section-by-section review of the bill, please visit the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s webpage on America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018. Continue reading “Congress Passes Major Maritime Safety Legislation but Fails to Fund a New Icebreaker or Pass Authorization”

After Flurry of Hurricane Waivers, Calls for Coastwise Changes Recede

Mainbrace | March 2018 (No.1)

Matthew J. Thomas, Jonathan K. Waldron, and Jeanne M. Grasso

 

 

 

In September 2017, in response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) issued a series of widely publicized waivers allowing carriage of cargo by non-coastwise qualified vessels in the Gulf region and to and from Puerto Rico. Public interest in the Jones Act spiked in mid-September, and some members of Congress introduced legislation for longer-term relief, particularly for Puerto Rico. Although controversial, the waivers for the most part seemed to achieve their intended goal, allowing for additional capacity to be available to move certain critical cargoes, particularly in the energy and other bulk sectors. As discussed in more detail below, the way the waivers were granted was rel­atively unique in the context of hurricanes, and some con­troversy arose with regard to the Puerto Rico waiver. The waivers, however, expired as planned with no significant fanfare or controversy, and broader political and public interest in the Jones Act sub­sided after a flurry of activity. Continue reading “After Flurry of Hurricane Waivers, Calls for Coastwise Changes Recede”

Trump and the Maritime Industry: A Look Back and Forward

Mainbrace | March 2018 (No.1)

Joan M. Bondareff and Stefanos N. Roulakis

We have completed one year with the Trump administra­tion, so it is therefore a good time to assess whether he has made any drastic changes in his administration’s approach to the maritime industry. In short, there have not been any major changes. But as with almost everything involving the federal government, minor changes can have great effects.

The First Year

AROUND THE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES
The president has put in place his appointees to key mar­itime positions: Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, who has a significant maritime background as the former Deputy MARAD Administrator; Rear Admiral (“RADM”) Mark Buzby, the new MARAD Administrator and former Commander of the U.S. Military Sealift Command; Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, who oversees oil and gas development as well as off­shore wind on the Outer Continental Shelf (“OCS”); and Secretary of Homeland Security (“DHS”) Kirstjen Nielsen, who oversees the Coast Guard (among other agencies). Additionally, Chief of Staff John Kelly is intimately familiar with the Coast Guard from his time undertaking joint operations with the agency while he was in the military. Unlike previous administrations, at least there are political and experienced appointees in place to set maritime policy. We will discuss below what new policies they have put in place. Continue reading “Trump and the Maritime Industry: A Look Back and Forward”