H.R. 6395, the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for FY2021, was passed by the House yesterday by a vote of 295 to 125. Like many complex pieces of legislation, many pieces of law making that started off with lives of their own have been wrapped into it, some of which are of considerable significance to the maritime industry.
COAST GUARD AUTHORIZATION ACT
One of these is the the Elijah E. Cummings Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2020, which reauthorizes the Coast Guard and Federal Maritime Commission (FMC). It includes increased authorized funding levels, demonstration program authorizations, new report requirements, and clarifications and enhancements of Coast Guard regulatory authorities intended to help the service address the evolving needs of the maritime transportation industry and improve execution of its eleven statutory missions.
The bipartisan legislation includes provisions to strengthen the Coast Guard by enhancing navigation and maritime safety, increasing funding to address a $1.8 billion backlog in shore infrastructure and deferred maintenance, authorizing new family leave and child care policies, and increasing gender and racial diversity in the Coast Guard Academy and within the ranks.
“The men and women of the United States Coast Guard deserve a comprehensive bill that strengthens the Coast Guard and ensures they have the resources they need to protect our maritime borders and rebuild our maritime infrastructure. The bipartisan Elijah E. Cummings Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2020 delivers for our Coasties, and will help us better protect our national security and the maritime transportation industry,” said Chair of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY).
DE FAZIO AMENDMENT
The NDAA also incorporates several pieces of legislation introduced by Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D.-Ore) as an amendment, that are designed to provide relief to the maritime industry during a national emergency, to increase training opportunities for merchant mariners, to authorize a new competitive grant program for projects at smaller ports and terminals, and to establish a National Shipper Advisory Committee to give U.S. importers and exporters a formal process to interact with the Federal Maritime Commission.
- Introduced by Chair DeFazio, the Maritime Transportation System Emergency Relief Act would establish a comprehensive maritime emergency relief authority to enable the Maritime Administration to provide financial assistance to stabilize and ensure the reliable functioning of the U.S. Maritime Transportation System in the event of a national emergency or disaster, including, the current COVID-19 public health emergency.
- Introduced by Subcommittee Chair Maloney, the Elijah E. Cummings Mariner Workforce Development Act, establishes a merchant mariner career training loan program that will provide assistance to merchant mariners who are enrolled in a course of study to obtain or upgrade a document or license. It also establishes a program to award grants to maritime training institutions to enable them to carry out demonstration projects that will support the development and implementation of new methods of recruiting, training, and retaining individuals in the merchant mariner workforce.
- Introduced by Rep. Michael Bost, (R. Ill.) the Coastal and Inland Ports and Terminals Commerce Improvements Act establishes a competitive grant program for projects at smaller ports and terminals and allows privately-owned terminals to compete for assistance.
- Finally, the amendment establishes a National Shipper Advisory Committee to advise the Federal Maritime Commission on policies relating to the competitiveness, reliability, integrity, and fairness of the international ocean freight delivery system.
“I am thankful to my House colleagues for stepping up today for the maritime industry,” said Chair DeFazio. “The Maritime Transportation System Emergency Relief Act would for the first time authorize the Maritime Administration to provide financial assistance to stabilize and ensure the reliable functioning of the U.S. Maritime Transportation System in the event of a national emergency or disaster, including, the current COVID-19 public health emergency. The hard-working men and women of the maritime industry have kept critical goods moving during the global pandemic, and for that our thanks are not enough. This bill gives them the same protections and relief given to other industries during COVID-19.”
“The coronavirus pandemic made it clear that the maritime industry needs more resources and more support to respond to catastrophes of any kind,” said Chair Maloney. “I’m pleased the Maritime Transportation System Emergency Relief Act was included in the National Defense Authorization Act, and look forward to this critical piece of legislation providing the United States Maritime Transportation System the reliable, comprehensive support it needs to respond to future emergencies and natural disasters.”