Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Coast Guard Legislation Passes House, Moves to Senate

A legislative package that includes $8.7 billion in discretionary funding for the US Coast Guard has passed the House with strong bipartisan support and now heads for the Senate, which has been working on its own version of the Coast Guard bill.

The measure would also amend laws that govern the activities of the Coast Guard, the Maritime Administration and the Federal Maritime Commission.

Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, praised the legislation, which he said represents a bipartisan effort to strengthen the critical mission of the Coast Guard, and to secure the safety of our oceans and coastline in a time of global unrest.

The House version, said Young, contains improvements that would repeal overbearing rules and regulations on fishermen and vessel owners, work to replace and modernize aging USCG assets, and improve land and housing infrastructure across Alaska.

Young said he worked to address a number of Alaska specific concerns within the transportation act, including the Maritime Lien Reform Act, which would prohibit maritime liens from being imposed on fishing permits. While Alaska law currently prohibits liens of Alaska limited entry permits, court rulings have subjected fishing licenses to maritime lien under the Federal Admiralty Law.

Young also back legislation in the bill to require a Coast Guard determination on the feasibility of refurbishing the Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Sea, which is currently out of service.

Young also worked to include in HR 4005 language to permanently exempt owners of fishing vessels and small commercial vessels from having to obtain a permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency before discharging rain water runoff, air conditioner condensate or bilge water from their vessels.

And he supported requiring regular reporting on the status of the International Maritime Organization Polar Code negotiations, including safety for ships operating in polar waters, and the impacts on coastal communities of costs of delivering freight and fuel, as well as on the safety of maritime transportation.

Prior to this legislation, the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2012 was signed into law by President Obama on Dec. 20, 2012.

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