LCA warns mild winter must not derail effort to build heavy icebreaker

U.S.-flag vessel operators on the Great Lakes are concerned the mild winter of 2015/16 will derail efforts to build a second heavy icebreaker. Lake Carriers’ Association (LCA) warns in its 2016 State of the Lakes report, released March 15, it is concerned the mild ice season is going to lull Great Lakes shipping and those who regulate it into a false sense of security regarding icebreaking resources.

“We’ll do ourselves a great disservice if we breathe a sigh of relief, declare the winters of 2013/14 and 2014/15 a 100-year occurrence, and say the U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards have enough icebreaking resources,” according to the report. “They don’t.”

U.S.-flag vessel operators on the Great Lakes are concerned the mild winter of 2015/16 will derail efforts to build a second heavy icebreaker. Lake Carriers’ Association (LCA) warns in its 2016 State of the Lakes report, released March 15, it is concerned the mild ice season is going to lull Great Lakes shipping and those who regulate it into a false sense of security regarding icebreaking resources.

“We’ll do ourselves a great disservice if we breathe a sigh of relief, declare the winters of 2013/14 and 2014/15 a 100-year occurrence, and say the U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards have enough icebreaking resources,” according to the report. “They don’t.”

The Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2015 authorizes another heavy icebreaker for the Lakes, but funds for the $200 million vessel have yet to be appropriated. LCA is confident funding will come. The new icebreaker has lots of horsepower behind it. In the House, Reps.Candice Miller (R-MI), Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Sean Duffy (R-WI) are laser-focused on the issue. In the Senate, Sens. Gary Peters (D-MI) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) are leading the way on it.

In addition to a second heavy icebreaker, LCA is calling for the U.S. Coast Guard to accelerate modernization of its aging 140-foot-long icebreaking tugs by moving the work from its yard in Baltimore to Great Lakes shipyards.

LCA’s State of the Lakes report also addresses last summer’s 20-day closure of the MacArthur Lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, calling it a “wake up call” that a second Poe-sized lock is desperately needed. Again, there is forward progress to report.

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will produce an Economic Reevaluation Report that will reassess the lock’s benefit/cost ratio,” the report states. “Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) called for twinning the Poe Lock in his January 2016 State of the State address. Not long after that the Ohio House of Representatives voted 93-0 to pass a resolution with the same goal. The momentum is building.”

A U.S. Department of Homeland Security report on the need for a second Poe-sized lock to connect Lake Superior to the lower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway issued March 4 forecasts almost 11 million Americans would lose their jobs if the Poe Lock was down for six months and the nation would suffer a $1.1 trillion decrease in economic activity.

LCA remains concerned the government has yet to enact a uniform, federal standard for ballast water and urges passage of S. 373, the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act that requires vessels entering the Lakes from the oceans to treat their ballast and lakers to continue to employ time-tested best management practices.

While progress has been made on the dredging crisis, more than 17 million cubic yards of sediment still clog the Great Lakes Navigation System. LCA calls on Congress and the administration to 1) continue to increase annual funding for dredging as called for in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 so that outlays from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) equal receipts no later than 2025; and 2) allocate 10 percent of HMTF outlay to the Lakes each year.

LCA stresses that once again unfair trade in steel is having significant and negative impacts on Great Lakes shipping and its customers and urges Washington to enact and enforce trade laws that protect America from predatory trade laws.

To read the full report click here.

Maritime Editorial