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July 22, 2005

Senate panel approves MARAD bill

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has unanimously reported the Maritime Administration Enhancement Act of 2005.

The bill establishes a grant program to assist small shipyards for capital improvements and improve maritime training programs for small communities largely served by the maritime industry.

The bill also allows the Maritime Administration (MARAD) to use a portion of funds for the operation of the National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF) and proceeds recovered from vessel accident litigation and arbitration to be placed in a reserve fund to cover the costs of vessel maintenance, repairs, and replacements.

In addition, the Maritime Administration Enhancement Act requires students entering the Merchant Marine Academy to meet the same physical and mental standards required by the Department of Defense, and academy cadets would be permitted to train on certain foreign flagged vessels determined to be in the interest of national security.

The bill clarifies the role of the Global Maritime and Transportation School which offers maritime education and training programs to public and private professionals located on the campus of Kings Point, home of the Merchant Marine Academy.

Subject to appropriations, the bill increases the authorized payments for cadets enrolled to State Regional Maritime Academies to $500,000 by fiscal year 2008, easing the burden on states with maritime academies to train cadets more effectively.

The measure provides MARAD the flexibility to decide on the timing of ship and title transfer to foreign governments, U.S. territories, and States. Such a transfer to States is not permitted under current law.

The Maritime Administration Enhancement Act also clarifies the roles of the Maritime Administrator and the Department of Defense in the loan guarantee process overseen by the Maritime Administration, and streamlines the cumbersome application process.

There were no amendments offered. The bill now proceeds to the full Senate for its consideration

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