Tuesday, September 22, 2020

NOAA, U.S. Navy Team on Unmanned Maritime Systems

NOAA and the U.S. Navy recently inked a deal to further develop the use of unmanned maritime systems, allowing NOAA to expand its science, service and stewardship mission with the Navy’s expertise, infrastructure, best practices and training.

“With the strengthening of our ongoing partnership with the Navy, NOAA will be better positioned to transition unmanned maritime technologies into operational platforms that will gather critical environmental data that will help grow the American Blue Economy,” said retired Navy Rear Adm. Tim Gallaudet, Ph.D., assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and deputy NOAA administrator.

NOAA relies on unmanned systems and other advanced technologies to enhance its ongoing research and data-gathering efforts. The Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command, which is responsible for defining the physical environment from the ocean floor to the stars so that the Navy can defend and maintain freedom on the water, has been a leader in developing and using unmanned systems for more than two decades.

“This agreement lays the foundation for collaboration, engagement, and coordination between NOAA and the U.S. Navy that our nation has never seen before,” said RDML John Okon, Commander Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command. “It will help us take advantage of each other’s strengths to advance each of our strategic and operational mission priorities.”

Cutter Oliver Henry Delivered to Coast Guard

Over the summer, the U.S. Coast Guard received its latest Sentinel-class fast response cutter (FRC), the Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Henry (WPC-1140), from Bollinger Shipyards.

The 154-foot cutter, which is in Florida for pre-commissioning trials and maintenance, is set to arrive in Santa Rita, Guam, later this year, the agency said..

“The fast response cutters are a real game changer here in the Pacific for the Coast Guard,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jessica Conway, the Coast Guard 14th District’s patrol boat manager. “Already the FRCs stationed here in Hawaii are conducting longer missions over greater distances than the older patrol boats they are replacing.”

Named after the first African American Coast Guardsman who paved the way for minorities within the agency, Cutter Oliver Henry will become the second of a trio of fast response cutters based in Gaum. All will be able to conduct search and rescue, marine protection enforcement and other missions.

“Here in the Pacific one of our greatest challenges is distance,” said Conway. “With the FRCs boasting a larger crew size and greater endurance, they are able to complete missions both close to shore and over the horizon, aiding both the people of Guam and our partners in the region.”

Plans Withdrawn for Potash Export Facility at Port of Grays Harbor

Citing ongoing local concerns and regulatory obstacles, BHP has announced that it is no longer pursuing plans for a potash export facility at the Port of Grays Harbor.

The company, which had been envisioning a facility at the port’s Terminal 3 since 2015, withdrew its permit applications earlier this month and will instead shift its focus to developing at Fraser Surrey Docks in British Columbia and do its due diligence on other shortlisted terminals, according to the port.

“While we are incredibly disappointed to lose this significant opportunity not just for our community, but for our state and our nation, I am grateful to BHP for the lessons we have learned about what community engagement and the environmental permitting process can and should look like,” Port Executive Director Gary Nelson said in a statement. “This was our project to lose and unfortunately, as I have said many times in the past, time kills deals. For rural economic development to thrive, we have to be able to provide prospective investors and employers with clearly defined requirements along with timelines for the path forward. After five years, we collectively were not able to do that for the BHP project.”

Terminal 3’s industrial property and its proximity to rail and deep-water access were attractive features for BHP, which spent years conducting “geotechnical, environmental, cultural and other site investigations” related to its proposed facility. But regulatory issues hampered progress.

“We will also look to work with our tribal leaders and state and federal elected officials to help improve the current permitting processes so that businesses like BHP, and REG and Contanda before them, don’t have to waste multiple years and millions of dollars on a process that has no end,” said Port Harbor Commission President Stan Pinnick.

U.S. Coast Guard Release Strategy for IUU Fishing

A new 10-year strategy to bolster global safety against Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing was released Thursday by the U.S. Coast Guard.

The 40-page document entitled IUU Fishing Strategic Outlook stresses the agency’s commitment to fight illegal fishing practices and details a three-pronged effort that includes using innovative intelligence to target enforcement operations, exposing  “predatory and irresponsible State behavior,” and broadening its cooperation with multilateral fisheries enforcement agencies, including domestic and foreign partners.

“The Coast Guard’s IUU Fishing Strategic Outlook outlines the Service’s efforts to combat the scourge of IUU fishing over the next decade,” said Adm. Karl Schultz, commandant of the Coast Guard. “We are committed to working with our allies and like-minded partners to strengthen the international fisheries enforcement regime and counter this pervasive threat. As a recognized world leader in maritime safety, security and environmental stewardship, the Coast Guard has a responsibility to help build a coalition of partners willing to identify and address IUU fishing bad actors and model responsible global maritime behavior.”

Visit https://www.uscg.mil/Portals/0/Images/iuu/IUU_Strategic_Outlook_2020_FINAL.pdf for more on the strategy.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Charleston Ice Plant Reopens

More than seven months after a devastating fire, the Charleston Ice Plant in Coos Bay has reopened for business on a limited basis before the facility is fully operational in the coming weeks. The ice plant, which had been vital resource to commercial fishermen along the West Coast, had been closed since December 2019 when a fire ravaged the facility.

In rebuilding the plant, the Port of Coos Bay saw that having available flake ice in the Charleston Marina was crucial to keeping the region’s commercial fishing industry viable. Bolstering ice making and storage capacity at the new facility would help meet fishermen’s needs during the high seasons.

“Service will be limited initially to commercial fishing vessels as crews are awaiting the arrival of additional components for the service delivery system to accommodate smaller vessels,” the port said. “There will be no on dock truck service until the dock structure is fully completed.”

With the new plant, storage capacity will go from 115 to 158 tons, and production from 2 to 5 tons per hour, which will improve service delivery times during the high season, the port said.

Rebuilding the facility was critical to the Port of Coos Bay, Oregon’s third biggest fishing hub. The Charleston Ice Plant is among the few public ice docks in the state to provide enough ice necessary for commercial fishermen to preserve their catch.

Wildfires Prompt State to Delay Bridge Replacement Project

To keep the highway system open for wildfire evacuees, the Oregon Department of Transportation is delaying the I-5 Interstate Bridge Trunnion Replacement Project and is asking the U.S. Coast Guard to move the timeline by two weeks to finish repairs.

The state wants to make repairs from 12 a.m. Sept 22 to 11:59 p.m. Oct. 6. The state will immediately alert the Coast Guard and the maritime community if the state finishes repairs sooner than expected.

Meanwhile, mariners can pass under the bridge by using the high span between Pier 5 and Pier 6 (three white lights over one green light) with a clearance of 72 feet to the zero water level mark, according to the agency.

While trunnions and other bridge parts are being replaced, the northbound bridge’s life span can’t be raised. Recreational vessels can’t transit while a safety zone is in place near the construction area. Sailboat operators must be mindful of their vertical clearance when moving under the high span.

Visit https://www.interstatebridge.org/ for more updates.

COVID-19 Affects TWIC Operations

While the U.S. Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration expect mariners to comply with 33 and 46 Code of Federal Regulations, the agencies recently announced that they will “exercise flexibility” if COVID-19 makes compliance with the Transportation Worker Identification Credential unreasonably difficult to meet.

This flexibility helps to “prevent undue delays” and keep the Marine Transportation System and the flow of commerce moving amid the pandemic.

For Maritime Facilities and Vessels:

On TWIC Readers: Vessels certified to carry more than 1,000 passengers and the maritime facilities that receive those vessels must comply with the TWIC Reader Rule enacted June 7, but the Coast Guard won’t enforce the rule until Dec. 31. Facilities and vessels don’t have to update facility security plans/vessel security plans or put in readers until Dec. 31.

On the TWIC exemption: TWICs that expired between March 1, 2020, and July 31, 2020, have an exemption extension that is valid 180 days from the card’s expiration date. Email TWIC.Issue@tsa.dhs.gov for more.

On escort ratios: Escort ratios for secure and restricted areas of a facility may change to meet employee shortages or other demands due to COVID-19, constituting an adjustment to the facility security plan or approval from the Captain of the Port.

On new hires: – Generally, a new hire with proper identification can access secure or restricted areas as long as another person with a TWIC can monitor the new hire. During the pandemic, the side-by-side escorting for restricted areas mandated in 33 CFR 101.105 won’t be enforced. More new hire compliance options are available in 33 CFR 104.267 and 105.257.

On the Alternative Security Program: Those unable to comply may seek temporary relief via noncompliance or an amendment to cover the entire ASP can be submitted to CG-FAC.

Operators need to consider the safety risks of noncompliance. “This request to continue operations should include new measures or safeguards the facility or vessel plans to employ to mitigate any risk from the non-compliance with 33 CFR part 104 or 105,” according to the agency.

For Merchant Mariner Credentials:

The NSA and Coast Guard understand that the pandemic, the closure of enrollment centers and potential processing delays may affect those seeking a merchant mariner credential. During the pandemic, the Coast Guard will not suspend or revoke a merchant mariner credential for those having an expired TWIC. The Coast Guard will notify the industry before it resumes enforcement of this requirement. However, this doesn’t apply to mariners whose TWICs have been suspended or revoked because they posed a security threat.

Mariners applying for an original credential need to show that they have enrolled for a TWIC. They can pre-enroll and set up an appointment at https://universalenroll.dhs.gov or by calling 855-DHS-UES1 (855-347-8371). TWIC enrollments must be completed in-person at an enrollment center. While this is enough to start the MMC process, applicants for an original credential won’t be able to get a MMC until their biographic and biometric data is given to the Coast Guard by TSA.

For Mariners who already have a MMC, no action is needed if their TWIC expires and their credential remains valid. Mariners seeking a renewal, raise of grade, new endorsement or duplicate merchant mariner credential may apply without a valid TWIC if they can show that they have enrolled for a TWIC renewal.

Nearly all TSA Enrollment Centers are open processing new and renewing TWIC enrollments without delays. Visit https://universalenroll.dhs.gov/locator to see if a nearby center is open.