MARAD Chief Defends Jones Act

By MarEx 2015-10-06 20:57:06

Speaking at the 2015 Jones Act Shipping Forum in New York, U.S. Maritime Administrator Paul “Chip” Jaenichen affirmed the overwhelming support for the Jones Act in Congress, the Maritime Administration and the Obama Administration.

In his address, Jaenichen said that for almost a century, presidents from both parties have supported the Jones Act including, President Barack Obama, President George W. Bush, President Bill Clinton and President Ronald Reagan.

“We have four presidents from both political parties over a three decade span backing and reinforcing their support of the Jones Act. I ask you, what other kind of issues would trigger that level of political census?” said Jaenichen.

In his remarks, Jaenichen said emphatically that the Jones Act is subject to many “tall tales, embellishments and outright falsehoods or misrepresentations,” such as Puerto Rico’s attempt to blame the Jones Act for its financial woes.

“The unvarnished truth is that Puerto Rico has built a mutually beneficial relationship with Jones Act carriers and the Jones Act – providing just one quarter of maritime service to the island (based on both tonnage and the number of annual vessel calls) is in no way, shape or form responsible for Puerto Rico’s economic difficulties… no more than the foreign flag shippers that service the island. It’s just another Jones Act tall tale,” said Jaenichen.

Jaenichen also noted that while these falsehoods “may weaken the popularity of the Jones Act, it will never diminish our federal government’s overall support for the Act.”

Echoing Jaenichen’s strong remarks about the rock solid support for the Jones Act in Congress was Tom Allegretti, chairman of the American Maritime Partnership (AMP). In his remarks, Allegretti stated that the strong support for the Jones Act trade is due to the industry’s longstanding positive impact on national, economic and homeland security, affirmatively noting that any attempt to include an amendment of the Jones Act in pending legislation is a “vote subtractor” that can hurt Congressional progress.

“Some in Puerto Rico have suggested that a Jones Act exemption be included in the legislative package under the erroneous theory that the Jones Act is bad for Puerto Rico. But here’s the kicker: If Congress did that – include an anti-Jones Act amendment in the package – the chances of the overall package getting enacted into law would diminish. That’s because the presence of an anti-Jones Act amendment would reduce or subtract the number of Members of Congress who would vote for the overall bill. So Puerto Ricans would be undermining, and maybe even sabotaging, their own assistance package by including an anti-Jones Act amendment in it,” said Allegretti.

This Congressional mathematics was apparent earlier this year when Senator John McCain filed a Senate floor amendment to repeal the Jones Act, which was overwhelmingly disputed by Members in both Chambers of Congress. “Ultimately, several weeks later, facing almost certain defeat, [Sen. McCain] withdrew his amendment and did not offer it. We believe his amendment would have failed overwhelmingly. Even Sen. McCain jokingly admitted that his strategy for repealing the Jones Act was to “pray to the patron saint of lost causes.” In other words, there is no appetite in Congress to change the Jones Act,” said Allegretti.

Last December, Congress enacted the strongest endorsement of the Jones Act in history in a resolutions included in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014.

“When everything is taken into consideration, the primary purpose of the Jones Act is to ensure a healthy domestic maritime sector for the Department of Defense to utilize in times of need, and it works. End of story,” said Jaenichen.

“Every time the Jones Act is smeared, demonized or becomes a scapegoat for another problem, it threatens our national defense, our economy, our way of life and it threatens our Merchant Marine.”

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Hydrographic Survey of Malacca Strait Underway

By MarEx 2015-10-06 19:28:46

A hydrographic survey of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore (SOMS) has been launched this week by the three littoral States – Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore – and the Malacca Straits Council of Japan.

This initiative was one of the key recommendations that arose from a study conducted by OMC International – a maritime engineering consultant – commissioned by the littoral States of the SOMS in 2013 on real-time monitoring of under keel clearance in the SOMS.

The data from the survey will be used to produce large-scale Electronic Navigational Charts (ENCs) covering five areas in the Straits critical to navigation. This will complement existing ENCs of the SOMS and will provide the shipping industry and authorities with high resolution bathymetry information relating to the depth of waters.

Singapore’s Chief Hydrographer and Director (Port Services) of MPA, Dr Parry Oei said, “This survey is an excellent example of cooperation between user and littoral States in ensuring safety of navigation and protection of environment. It is timely as the Straits continue to grow in importance. Results from the survey would help update charts and also allow authorities and users of the Straits to have a better understanding of the seabed topology and its surrounding for safer and more efficient passage planning.”

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U.S. Sets Out 150 Oil Spill Research Priorities

By Wendy Laursen 2015-10-06 19:09:45

The U.S. Interagency Coordinating Committee on Oil Pollution Research (ICCOPR) has approved the Oil Pollution Research & Technology Plan (OPRTP) for FY2015-2021 and selected 150 priority research needs that should be addressed to improve oil spill management.

The report sets out the current state of research and examines key events, such as Deepwater Horizon, where lessons have been learned. It also covers research needs for better understanding of Arctic operations. Some of the incidents examined in the report include:

M/V Selendang Ayu

During a large storm in December 2004, the M/V Selendang Ayu, carrying a cargo of soybeans, lost power and grounded on the west side of Unalaska Island, Alaska, where it broke into two and released 337,000 gallons of IFO-380 fuel oil, marine diesel, a small amount of lube oil as well as its soybean cargo.

Response measures included employing SCAT, an assessment process used for all spills where shorelines are impacted, and manual shoreline cleanup. The potential of an additional release from the floating half of the vessel triggered testing and approval for dispersants and in situ burning (ISB), which were not employed.

After the initial response, cleanup was halted until April 2005 due to deteriorating winter weather conditions. In the spring, most shorelines were manually cleaned and dry mechanical tilling and berm relocation techniques were used where appropriate. Response actions continued during the weather-permitting seasons until June 2006.

This incident highlighted the difficulty of response operations in the Arctic environment and the availability of suitable response technologies in cold, icy conditions. The After Action Review for the M/V Selendang Ayu incident discussed the following specific R&D needs (Wood & Associates, 2005):

• improve information sharing, including identification of response equipment and resource availability.

• develop methods to determine the transportation and fate of oil in Arctic waters.

• develop measures of containment for application in Arctic conditions.

• develop technology improvements for Arctic shorelines and weather conditions.

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

In April 2010, an estimated 205.8 million gallons of oil began flowing from a subsea well blowout that followed an explosion and collapse of the Deepwater Horizon platform.

Response to the Deepwater Horizon spill was diverse and conducted on a larger scale than any previous efforts. Different response mechanisms were deployed depending on the day, the weather conditions, and the amount and location of oiled shoreline. This included: subsea and surface dispersant use, booming, and skimming. Application of 1.84 million gallons of dispersants, both aerially and sub-sea at the wellhead, was unprecedented, as was the use of controlled in-situ buring (a global record of 411 individual burns were conducted).

This spill was the first where dispersants were applied subsea at the wellhead. Existing options failed to satisfy the public expectations, which led to the testing and evaluation of more than 120,000 response technologies through the Alternative Response Technologies Evaluation System (ARTES) Program.

The incident report (USCG, 2011) highlighted the following R&D needs:

• ensure minimum standards and consistency for Gulf of Mexico Area Contingency Plans (ACPs).

• identify Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs).

• develop improved technology and response protocols for well blowouts.

• develop systems to better meet the needs of oil spill response organizations.

• establish standards and processes for rapid collection, processing, correlation, analysis and distribution of satellite imagery and oil thickness sensors to direct spill response operations with real-time data.

• develop improvements for subsea oil detection.

• develop and use enhanced SMART monitoring technologies and protocols in offshore environments.

• develop technology to determine oil slick thickness.

• develop improved and more efficient skimmers and mechanical recovery equipment.

• use a fully operational Common Operating Picture (COP) available during drills, exercises, and actual events.

• develop protocols for thorough, independent testing and evaluation of response technologies prior to being used on a spill.

• study the toxicity of dispersants as a function of oil and dispersant types, and different environments.

• study dispersant efficacy including volumetric limitations of applications.

• study dispersant efficacy in mitigation of environmental impacts.

• develop methods and programs to monitor and track large, dispersed oil plumes.

• conduct a case study analysis of all aspects of dispersant use including environmental effects of dispersants and dispersed oil.

• study the effectiveness of dispersants under different environmental conditions (e.g., subsea).

• study where ISB can be used as a response option and areas where it can be subject to expedited approval.

• study the performance of various fire boom designs and improve technologies for water-cooled and reusable booms.

• develop outreach programs for, and incorporate state and local emergency managers into, spill preparedness and response.

• Spill of National Significance (SONS) doctrine should be adapted to be more inclusive of state, local and tribal governments in a response.

Improved Response

“The research needs focus on the tools and technologies employed by the Coast Guard On-Scene Coordinators to address oil spills in the marine environment,” said Bill Vocke, who works for the Coast Guard’s incident management and preparedness policy directorate and also serves as ICCOPR’s executive director.

“Addressing these priority needs will not only improve our capabilities to respond to spills but also improve prevention, preparedness and injury assessment/restoration capabilities,” said Vocke.

The committee intends to update the plan every six years to reflect advancements in oil pollution technology and changing research needs.

However, the U.S. Coast Guard notes that the plan does not establish any regulatory requirement or interpretation, nor does it imply the need to establish a new regulatory requirement or modify an existing regulatory requirement.

The plan is available here.

Some of the research priorities announced

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India to Accept Offshore Wind Leases

By MarEx 2015-10-06 15:27:44

India is moving towards harnessing offshore energy via wind. Last month, the Indian government revealed plans to adopt an offshore wind policy that will pave the way for the nation to develop offshore wind energy products and research and opportunities in its Exclusive Economic Zone.

The India government will offer tenders for offshore wind leases next year, but the Defense Ministry must approve the contractors prior to the contracts being awarded.

The National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE) has been tasked with identifying viable offshore wind energy blocks. According to India’s Renewable Energy Secretary, developers that offer the lowest tariffs for energy developement will be given contracts.

National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE) of India will collect lease fees survey, construction and operations of wind farms.

The Indians have made it clear that leases will automatically be relinquished if the contractor is unable to begin commercial production within an unspecified period of time after signing a contract. India’s wind policies are meant to establish a regulatory framework to begin planning projects.

“The development would help the country in moving forward towards attaining energy security and achieve National Action Plan on Climate Change targets,” the government said in a statement.

India currently has 23GW of onshore wind capacity and aims to produce 175GW of clean energy by 2022.

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India to Offer Offshore Wind Leases

By MarEx 2015-10-06 15:27:44

India is moving towards harnessing offshore energy via wind. Last month, the Indian government revealed plans to adopt an offshore wind policy that will pave the way for the nation to develop offshore wind energy products and research and opportunities in its Exclusive Economic Zone.

The India government will offer tenders for offshore wind leases next year, but the Defense Ministry must approve the contractors prior to the contracts being awarded.

The National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE) has been tasked with identifying viable offshore wind energy blocks. According to India’s Renewable Energy Secretary, developers that offer the lowest tariffs for energy developement will be given contracts.

National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE) of India will collect lease fees survey, construction and operations of wind farms.

The Indians have made it clear that leases will automatically be relinquished if the contractor is unable to begin commercial production within an unspecified period of time after signing a contract. India’s wind policies are meant to establish a regulatory framework to begin planning projects.

“The development would help the country in moving forward towards attaining energy security and achieve National Action Plan on Climate Change targets,” the government said in a statement.

India currently has 23GW of onshore wind capacity and aims to produce 175GW of clean energy by 2022.

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U.S. and Russia Locked in Icy Arctic Dispute

By Reuters 2015-10-06 14:31:17

President Barack Obama’s recent trip to Alaska helped draw attention to global climate change – and to the national-security tensions that could result from a warming Arctic region.

Surveyors believe that the seabed under Arctic waters could contain hundreds of billions of barrels of untapped oil. As the North Pole becomes more accessible, and so more valuable, Arctic countries – each with its own and in some cases overlapping territorial claims – are getting ready for some serious competition.

The United States and Russia are geopolitical rivals and uneasy Arctic neighbors. More and more Russian and U.S. military forces are deploying on and under the Arctic Ocean.

But Washington and Moscow are approaching their Arctic build-ups quite differently. The Kremlin holds the advantage on the ocean’s surface; the Pentagon dominates beneath the waves. Though Russia and the United States both train Arctic ground troops, Washington is also building a northern strike force of high-tech stealth warplanes.

These different approaches are the results of military policies and priorities going back decades. Moscow chose to invest in icebreakers to work along its vast Arctic frontier, while Washington spent its money on submarines and warplanes that are equally useful outside the polar regions.

While Obama was in Alaska, the White House announced that the administration would push for more and better icebreakers. After decades of neglect, the U.S. Coast Guard, which operates all U.S. icebreakers, possesses just three of the tough, ice-shattering vessels, and American companies own another two. These five ships must divide their time between the north and south poles, plowing paths through sea ice so other vessels can safely navigate frigid waters.

“The administration will propose,” the White House explained on its official website, “to accelerate acquisition of a replacement heavy icebreaker to 2020 from 2022, begin planning for construction of additional icebreakers and call on Congress to work with the administration to provide sufficient resources to fund these critical investments.”

But even after adding a few icebreakers, Washington will still be far behind Moscow in this category of Arctic weaponry. The Russian government owns 22 icebreakers; Russian industry possesses another 19 of the specialized vessels. Moscow has another 11 icebreakers under construction or in planning.

To be fair, Russia’s Arctic coastline is many hundreds of miles longer than that of the United States. In theory, Russia’s icebreakers are spread out over a wider area during routine, peacetime operations. In wartime, however, the Kremlin could quickly concentrate its icebreakers, which could carve channels for Russian warships far more quickly than the Pentagon could do for its own ships.

But the United States’ Arctic strategy depends less on surface ships than Russia’s strategy does. Instead, the U.S. military is betting on submarines to exert its influence in the far north.

“The submarine is the best platform to operate in the Arctic,” Commander Jeff Bierley, skipper of the U.S. Navy submarine Seawolf, told Reuters, “because it can spend the majority of its time under the ice.”

The U.S. fleet operates 41 nuclear-powered attack subs with equipment for sailing under – and punching through – Arctic ice. Russia’s ice-capable attack-submarine force numbers just 25 vessels.

These U.S. subs likely deploy more regularly than Russia’s do. Amid economic volatility, the Kremlin has struggled to consistently fund naval deployments. Meanwhile, every two years the U.S. Navy sends a pair of attack subs into the Arctic Circle on a training and scientific mission. In the years between these ice experiments, Seawolf-class subs based in Washington state sail through the Bering Strait and under the ice cap, crossing over the top of the world and traveling from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic and then back.

The Navy designed Seawolf and her two sister ships specifically for Arctic operations. The vessels have ice-scanning sonar and equipment to help the subs force their way through the ice cap to reach the surface during emergencies.

On the ice, the two countries are at near-parity. The U.S. Army oversees three combat brigades in Alaska, each composed of roughly 3,000 soldiers. One brigade features paratroopers, another is in Stryker armored vehicles and a third is made up of reconnaissance troops.

The paratroopers regularly practice parachuting onto the Arctic ice. During one February 2015 training exercise, called Spartan Pegasus, two C-17 and two C-130 transport planes based in Alaska dropped 180 paratroopers plus two vehicles and supplies onto a training range north of the Arctic Circle, where temperatures hover around 20 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.

“The purpose of Spartan Pegasus,” the Army stated on its website, “was to validate soldier mobility across frozen terrain, a key fundamental of U.S. Army Alaska’s capacity as the Army’s northernmost command.”

The Strykers are less mobile. A C-17 – the U.S. Air Force keeps eight of the four-engine cargo planes in Alaska – can carry several Strykers, which weigh roughly 25 tons each, but the Air Force doesn’t often practice landings on Arctic runways. The Canadian air force does, however. It staged its own C-17s landings and take-offs from Arctic villages in temperatures as low as minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

So in theory the U.S. Air Force could move the Army’s Alaska-based Stryker brigade to Arctic battlegrounds. A C-17 can also drop Strykers via parachute, though the Air Force has only done this in tests.

The Russian army’s Arctic command is smaller. It controls just two brigades with armored vehicles. But combat units from outside the command regularly head north for training, in particular, paratroopers and the transport planes that ferry them. One Arctic exercise in March reportedly involved 80,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen plus more than 200 aircraft. An official photo from the war game depicts an An-72 transport plane and white-clad infantry on an airfield carved in the snow.

Russia has proved it can patrol the airspace over the Arctic. The U.S. Air Force, however, holds the northern advantage. In addition to C-17 and C-130 transports, the American air arm maintains E-3 radar planes and three fighter squadrons in Alaska – two with 20 high-tech F-22 stealth fighters each and one with 18 older F-16s.

In coming years, up to two squadrons of new F-35 stealth fighters will join the F-16s at Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks, Alaska, which will increase the Alaskan fighter fleet by at least a third. In February, the Air Force wrapped up cold-weather testing of the F-35 that proved the new radar-evading warplane can function in the Arctic climate.

“We’re pushing the F-35 to its environmental limits,” said Billie Flynn, an F-35 test pilot, “ranging from 120 degrees Fahrenheit to negative 40 degrees, and every possible weather condition in between.”

In a kind of literal Cold War, Russian forces will continue to dominate the surface of the Arctic Ocean while the American military preserves its edge below and above the ice. Meanwhile, both countries are training thousands of ground troops for Arctic ops – just in case the Cold War turns hot in the thawing polar region.

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