SENATE COMMITTEE CLEARS MARAD AUTHORIZATION, CRUISE SHIP BILLS
The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee has cleared for a Senate vote legislation authorizing funding for Maritime Administration programs for the upcoming fiscal year, and allowing non-U.S. built cruise ships to operate in the U.S. domestic trades under certain conditions.
Aside from providing $80.2 million for MarAd’s administrative costs and for running the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and State maritime academies, the Maritime Administration authorization bill provides $54 million for the agency’s Title XI shipbuilding finance program.
The $96 million for the agency’s Maritime Security Program, which grants operating payments to U.S.-flag merchant ships, does not require authorization, but does require congressional approval when MarAd’s overall budget comes before the House and Senate.
The authorization bill also eliminates for one year the three-year period newly registered bulk operators must wait to carry government-impelled cargo.
A recent analysis conducted by MarAd shows that if just two or three bulk carriers take advantage of the elimination of the three-year waiting period, taxpayers could save more than $52 million over a five-year period.
The legislation also clears the way for scrapping aged vessels in the National Defense Reserve Fleet, by restoring the right to scrap ships abroad. Over the past several years, MarAd has been barred from scrapping overseas because of concerns raised by the Environmental Protection Agency. The bill directs the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Transportation to initiate discussions to establish an international standard for scrapping vessels. The bill also orders the Navy, the EPA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the State Department and the Transportation Department to develop a scrapping program within nine months after the legislation is passed by Congress.
The legislation also allows foreign-built cruise ships to enter the coastwise trade between U.S. ports for two years, provided that all repair and maintenance work is performed in U.S. shipyards. To be eligible, the ships must carry at least 800 passengers and must have entered the cruise market no earlier than Jan 1, 1980.
Also, non-U.S. built ships will not be allowed into the U.S. domestic trade until the operator of such ships executes a contract with a U.S. shipyard for the construction of two or more cruise ships of the size equal to those permitted into the trade under the two-year window.