APRIL 22, 2016 — Members of the American Waterways Operators, the national trade association representing the tugboat, towboat and barge industry, called on Congress on Wednesday during AWO's annual Barge-In event.
More than 160 vessel owners and operators held 220 meetings with lawmakers in the Senate and House of Representatives.
"The tugboat, towboat and barge industry directly employs tens of thousands of workers while supporting the jobs of hundreds of thousands more and providing valuable support for homeland and national security" said Tom Allegretti, AWO President & CEO. "We wanted to ensure that Congress understands the value of our industry to the nation and the importance of our key public policy priorities."
Support for the Jones Act
AWO members urged Congress to continue to strongly support the Jones Act, which requires that vessels moving cargo in U.S. domestic commerce be owned, crewed, and built by Americans. With the Jones Act as its statutory foundation, the domestic maritime industry supports nearly 500,000 family-wage jobs and almost $100 billion in economic output.
Today, more than 40,000 American-owned vessels – the majority of them tugboats, towboats and barges – move essential commodities safely and efficiently on America's rivers and along its coasts. U.S. military leaders strongly support the Jones Act for its role in maintaining the national shipbuilding industrial base and sealift capability and the force multiplier provided by American mariners who serve as the eyes and ears for the U.S. Coast Guard on the waterways.
Vessel Discharge Reform Legislation
Among AWO's top priorities this year is securing passage of the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act. S. 373/H.R.980 would replace a patchwork of overlapping and conflicting federal and state regulations with a uniform, science-based federal framework for vessel discharge regulation administered by the U.S. Coast Guard. Passage of this much-needed legislation, according to AWO, will "fix a broken regulatory system that hinders maritime commerce, stifles business investment and wastes taxpayer money on duplicative and overlapping regulations"
Inland Waterways Infrastructure
AWO members urged Congress to maintain investments in infrastructure while opposing policies that would hinder or halt commercial navigation. A reliable inland waterway infrastructure is essential to America's domestic commerce and international trade and barge transportation is the safest, most environmentally friendly and most economical mode of freight transportation.