Great Lakes Maritime Task Force releases annual report for 2020

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The following is excerpted from an article and the annual report released by the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force, a coalition of which American Maritime Officers and American Maritime Officers Service are members. The complete report is available online.

On March 10, the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force (GLMTF) released its annual report for 2020.

The report includes the significant investments GLMTF members made protecting their workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic. To ensure our readiness, the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force updated our priorities. Again, number one is the health and safety of our workforce, of which economic security is a critical piece.

Great Lakes commercial maritime supports 147,000 good paying U.S. jobs, family supporting jobs providing nearly $10.5 billion in annual wages. It generates $25.6 billion in economic activity in the U.S. and supports local, state, and federal programs, with more than $4.6 billion in taxes that are paid because of the business done, purchases made, and paychecks taken home.

Other priorities include support for the Great Lakes Winter Commerce Act of 2021, which was recently reintroduced in the both the House and Senate and codifies the U.S. Coast Guard's (USCG) icebreaking mission into law, mandating accurate performance measures that illustrate the impacts of an inadequate icebreaking fleet. Funding for another heavy Great Lakes icebreaker at least as capable as the USCGC MACKINAW remains a key component to providing the USCG with adequate capabilities to meet the reasonable demands of commerce during the winter months.

As noted in the report, the House and Senate bills "mandate icebreaking be performed in all U.S. Great Lakes waterways where vessels need assistance from damaging ice, not just ... short connecting waterways. Finally, they require icebreaking performance be measured based the reasonable demands of commerce, not an interpretation (that) justifies a smaller fleet of icebreakers on the Great Lakes."

GLMTF supports programs that increase commercial shipbuilding and repair at Great Lakes shipyards; full funding of state maritime academies to support their role in the education of the next generation of licensed mariners; strict adherence to the Jones Act and all existing maritime cabotage laws crucial to America's national, homeland, and economic security; ballast water regulations that are protective of the environment, maintain efficient waterborne commerce on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway, and are bi-nationally compatible.

As noted in the report: "The Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA), included in the Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018, establishes that long-sought process on the U.S. side of the Lakes to set uniform federal discharge requirements jointly regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Coast Guard. U.S. EPA published their proposed implementing regulations for VIDA on October 26, 2020, which addresses 20 discharges incidental to the normal operation of a vessel. In general, GLMTF supports this regulation including how ballast water is regulated in the Great Lakes."

The GLMTF works to ensure that the 60 federally maintained deep-draft ports and connecting waterways in the Great Lakes navigation system are adequately funded for dredging through the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, and to secure continued efficient funding for the second Poe-sized lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

As noted in the report: "A resilient Great Lakes navigation system with sufficient and efficient federal funding for the second Poe-sized lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan is critical to the American economy. The navigational locks at the Soo connect Lake Superior to the lower four Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence Seaway, and international markets. Eighty million tons of cargo, valued at $6 billion and supporting 123,000 jobs, transit the Soo Locks each year. The locks allow cargoes like iron ore and grain to move from mines and farms to customers in the U.S., Canada, and overseas as well as allowing domestic and overseas cargoes to move 'up the system' and into upper Midwest markets."

Finally, GLMTF advocates support for short sea shipping by enacting a narrow exemption from the Harbor Maintenance Tax for non-bulk cargoes moved on the Great Lakes.

About Great Lakes Maritime Task Force

The Great Lakes Maritime Task Force, with 70 members, is the largest coalition to speak for the Great Lakes Navigation System. Advocating for domestic and international shipping, its members represent labor and management from U.S.-flag vessel operators, shipboard and longshore unions, port authorities, cargo shippers, terminal operators, shipyards, and other Great Lakes interests.

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