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4/21/2015: American energy renaissance

Last week, the American Waterway Operators held their 2015 spring convention in Washington, D.C.

Coast Guard Commandant, Adm. Paul Zukunft was the keynote speaker. Zukunft remarks focused on Transnational Criminal Networks, developments in the Arctic, cybersecurity and the American energy renaissance .

For those of you who were unable to attend, Maritime Commons is providing a condensed version of the Commandant’s remarks from the convention in a four-part series.

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Delivered by Adm. Paul Zukunft

American energy renaissance

The energy renaissance in the United States is causing tremendous change across our Maritime Transportation System. I’d like to share some trends that I am seeing and talk about what the Coast Guard is doing to meet these demands.

Not long ago, I visited a liquefied natural gas facility under construction in Louisiana. When it begins operating at full capacity, it will produce more LNG than the world’s shipping fleet can actually carry.

I also visited the Panama Canal construction, and saw the new locks that accommodate a massive increase in the size of ships transiting to and from the Asia-Pacific market. It’s the first canal improvement in its 100 year history. This will recalibrate our foreign trade balance.

Today, the United States is already the world’s largest producer of natural gas and crude oil and some predictions suggest that domestic energy production will exceed consumption by 2020.

This is significant because much of that oil and gas will move to market on our nations’ Maritime Transportation System, or MTS. This is a MTS that contributes $650 Billion dollars annually to the nations’ gross domestic product and sustains more than 13 million jobs.

The MTS is particularly critical to mid-stream commerce. Perhaps the greatest enabler of the U.S. economic engine is our sometimes overlooked inland waterway system.

What other country in the world can move commerce on the water in nearly any direction, like we can? The Mississippi River system, The Straits of Juan De Fuca, the Columbia River, Chesapeake Bay, St. Lawrence Seaway, the inter-coastal waterway and the Great Lakes are nautical super-highways for American commerce and the safety and security of this system of waterways are foundational to U.S. economic prosperity.

If you asked anyone five years ago to describe the maritime nexus for South Dakota, they probably would have said zero. The Bakken Oil Fields have changed that dynamic dramatically as tank barges move product to market. It is no coincidence that Senator Thune is Chairman of a Senate Committee with oversight for the Coast Guard. South Dakota most certainly has a maritime nexus today – as well as the rest of America’s heartland.

As the head of a maritime regulatory agency, it is my job to make sure that the Coast Guard facilitates this growth SAFELY, and that we do not impede it.

We have to remain ready to license crews, inspect new vessels and platforms, manage increasing vessel traffic, maintain aids to navigation and keep channels free of ice.

Meeting the increasing demand and to safeguarding the MTS

I’d like to share specific actions that the Coast Guard is taking to address this American energy renaissance…
First, we are undertaking a service-wide effort to revitalize our Marine Safety enterprise with particular focus on marine inspection and our regulatory framework. The Coast Guard does not have enough inspectors in some sectors. We will fix that. We have trained and certified about 500 inspectors over the past four years and we will continue to make sure we keep pace. I am closely monitoring the rollout of Subchapter M, as it will increase our inspection requirements for towing vessels by 51 percent.

Second, we will increase the proficiency of our Marine Safety workforce. We’ve established a number of National Centers of Expertise, to include: towing vessels, gas carriers, cruise ships and the Outer Continental Shelf. These centers provide technical reach-back and training for our inspectors and marine safety professionals throughout the Coast Guard.

Third, we are making investments in innovative technology to improve waterways management and the aids to navigation system. Specifically, we’re taking great steps to take advantage of Automatic Identification System, or AIS, technology and Electronic Chart Display and Information System, or ECDIS, capabilities that will allow for virtual aids to navigation, or ATON, and near real-time chart corrections and updates. One such update will allow us to broadcast safety and security zones and temporary ATON directly to a users’ ECDIS. We’ll eliminate the need to pull that data from a publication which, in turn, mitigates some potential for human error.

Fourth, the oldest – and most specialized – fleet in the Coast Guard is our river tender fleet. Many of these 60 year old vessels, working aids to navigation on our inland waters, are single-gender, single-mission and very hard to maintain given a lack any off-the-shelf replacement parts. You’d be hard pressed to find any two river tenders that are exactly alike. There is no standardization at all. Essentially, we’re maintaining large portions of our MTS with museum ships. As part of our long term effort to implement the future of ATON, we’ve got to make sensible choices about how to replace that fleet. We also must make good use of technology in our river system to compliment the great work of these tenders.

Finally, in order to ensure we facilitate commerce, we need to ensure that our relationship with the industry we regulate is a strong one. I use the term relationship because as a federal regulator, incident responder and maintainer of the MTS, everything we do is interconnected and in synergy with you, the professional mariner.

We all share in the responsibility for environmental stewardship and we all have a responsibility to prevent and respond to spills and incidents. Above all, we care deeply about the safety of life at sea. Thus, it my greatest desire that our relationship remain the gold standard for governmental and industry unity of effort and cooperation. The Coast Guard will facilitate economic prosperity.

In addition to this post, be sure to read the other three posts from the American Waterway Operators spring convention.

Part 1: Transnational Criminal Organizations
Part 2: American energy renaissance
Part 3: Cybersecurity
Part 4: Developments in the Arctic

This blog is not a replacement or substitute for the formal posting of regulations and updates or existing processes for receiving formal feedback of the same. Links provided on this blog will direct the reader to official source documents, such as the Federal Register, Homeport and the Code of Federal Regulations. These documents remain the official source for regulatory information published by the Coast Guard.

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