A number of issues important to the inland navigation industry have made significant progress in the last year. These include:

The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). Approval of this long overdue legislation, which is supposed to be renewed every two years but hasn’t been passed since 2007, is in the homestretch. At press time, a congressional conference committee was crafting the final bill, and a new WRDA could take shape in the next few months. The legislation would set new policies for inland waterways construction, operation and maintenance, and set higher spending limits for the federal government to complete the long overdue Olmsted Locks and Dam project in Illinois. This is not a money bill. Funding must come from an appropriation.

Several wind energy projects off the coasts of Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts passed important milestones in the federal approval process. Offshore wind offers new opportunities for the workboat industry, but it also presents navigation challenges as offshore wind farms could alter or disrupt existing vessel routes and threaten vessel safety.

Responding to complaints from mariners, Congress approved legislation that would require only one visit to obtain TWIC cards. But the TSA has been slow to implement the law, and Congress has demanded that the agency speed up its timetable to eliminate the two trips mariners must make to an enrollment center for TWIC applications and renewals. TSA launched a one-visit pilot program in Alaska last summer and said full implementation is expected later this year. After an initial visit to an enrollment center, an applicant will be able to receive the card by mail.

The final rule on new national standards for towing vessel inspections are expected to be published by the Coast Guard in September. The Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Homeland Security must then review the rule.

The U.S. Maritime Administration has launched a comprehensive re-examination of the U.S. maritime industry with the goal of developing the first National Maritime Strategy. The strategy seeks to boost the sagging merchant marine fleet, and it will also touch the inland waterways industry. — P. Glass