The week of 19 March 2018, set maritime related records in Washington, DC. The U.S. Maritime industry visited the largest number of Congressional offices in the nine-year history of the annual Congressional Sail-in. The Omnibus spending bill approved by Congress and signed by President Trump provides much needed appropriations for water resource projects, dredging, beach nourishment and coastal restoration. The Dredging Contractors of America and member companies participated in the Sail-in and advocacy for important funding and legislative provisions contained in the Omnibus Bill.
Maritime Industry Congressional Sail-in
On March 20, 2018, more than 115 officers and representatives from U.S.-flag shipping companies, American maritime labor unions, and related maritime organizations and associations visited Capitol Hill for the ninth annual Maritime Industry Congressional Sail-In.
Maritime industry leaders met with Senators, Representatives and staff in 169 Congressional offices to discuss the importance of the U.S.-flag commercial shipping industry and America’s civilian merchant mariners to our Nation’s economic, military and homeland security.
We provided Congressional offices with up-to-date information about the programs and policies that enable the U.S.-flag merchant marine and its American crews to continue to meet the commercial sealift requirements of the Department of Defense, including the Maritime Security Program, the Jones Act and the U.S.-flag cargo preference shipping programs. Importantly, we emphasized that as our Nation dedicates its efforts to Buy American and Hire American it must also ensure that American cargo is Shipped American as another means to increase domestic employment, bolster America’s economy, and strengthen America’s commercial sealift capability.
Omnibus and the U.S.-Flag Maritime Community
It was a big week for the Sail-in and the timing was impeccable. During the Sail-in, Congress was in the middle of negotiating an important Omnibus spending bill, in which, was contained legislative proposals for programs that support the U.S. Maritime Industry. The Omnibus was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday, March 22, 2018; it passed in the U.S. Senate in the early hours of March 23, 2018 and signed by President Donald J. Trump later in the afternoon.
The Omnibus contains:
- The Maritime Security Program (MSP) is fully funded for Fiscal Year ’18. Bicameral support for MSP ensures national security and continued U.S.-flag presence in the international trade led Congressional Members to support the appropriation of $300 million for the full MSP funding level.
- Congress funds “Food for Peace” at $1.7 billion in the Omnibus allowing U.S.-Flag ships to take the lead in delivering this important cargo to the impoverished world. Food for Peace helps feed starving Third World nations while providing critical support to U.S. shipping and American farmers.
- Appropriations of $300 million to begin the long-sought State Maritime Academy Training Ship Replacement Program. Known as the National Security Multi-
mission Vessel (NSMV), this program will improve the training and stabilize the production of mariners by the nation’s maritime academies. The state-of-the-art training platforms will each carry 600 cadets and 100 officers and crew. They will also be designed to support the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as a response vessel in times of national emergency. The first new-build ship is scheduled to replace SUNY Maritime’s (NY Maritime) aging Empire State and that the second ship is scheduled to replace Massachusetts Maritime’s Training Ship Kennedy. The vessels will be built in U.S. shipyards.
- No Jones Act Waivers or Amendments contained in the Omnibus.
Dredging, Water Resources & Coastal and Inland Waterways Appropriations
The U.S.-Flag dredging industry will be putting its new Jones Act, U.S. built dredges, barges, tugs and tender vessels to good use – we invest in America, spending over $1.5 billion recently in capital construction and improvements, said William P. Doyle, CEO & Executive Director of the Dredging Contractors of America.
With the Omnibus spending bill complete and the previously enacted Supplemental legislation’s work plan in the final stages before release, the U.S. dredging industry is going to be busy. Here’s what’s in the works:
Under the $1.3 trillion Omnibus includes–
- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers civil works program receives funding of $6.8 billion, an increase of $789 million from the FY17 levels. This includes $3 billion for navigation projects and studies, with $1.4 billion from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and full use of revenues from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, and $1.9B for flood and storm damage reduction projects, an increase of $215M above FY17.
- The Investigations account would receive $123 million; Construction at $2.085 billion; Mississippi River and Tributaries at $425 million; Operation and Maintenance at $3.630 billion; and $200 million for Regulatory.
- The legislation includes specific instructions for evaluating studies and projects that would be eligible for the additional funding provided, as well as directions for new starts.
- A detailed work plan must be provided to the Congress within 60 days of enactment (from March 23, 2018).
Under the Supplemental includes–
- On Feb. 9, 2018, Congress passed, and President Donald Trump signed into law the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (aka the Supplemental).
- The Office of Management and Budget and the Army Corps is determining exactly where the funding will be directed.
- Notably, however, the Supplemental provides $89.3 billion in emergency disaster relief aid for the 2017 hurricanes, wildfires, and other natural disasters.
- Also, $17.4 billion of this is for the Army Corps to make repairs to Corps infrastructure and to undertake dredging and other activities. Of this $17.4 billion, $15 billion is for repairing and rehabilitating flood and storm damage reduction projects (including shore protection projects), $135 million for investigations, $770 million for the Mississippi River and Tributaries Account (repairing facilities along the Mississippi River), $810 million for Flood Control, and $608 million derived from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for operations and maintenance navigation dredging projects.
- The Army Corps is expected to announce its Work Plan for the supplemental with the next couple of weeks.