Great Lake Maritime Task Force

When leaders from the Great Lakes shipping community come together, the opportunities are limitless. The Great Lakes Maritime Task Force is a membership organization bringing together labor and management from U.S.-flag vessel operators, shipboard and longshore unions, port authorities, cargo shippers, terminal operators, shipyards, and more. Together, we are working to transform and improve the shipping experience throughout the Great Lakes.


From ballast water regulation to dredging, the Jones Act to harbor maintenance taxes, shipping and maritime activity among the Great Lakes is complex and ever-changing. Review our position papers for detailed information and GLMTF’s stance on current conversations, issues or challenges facing our industry .U.S. EPA published their proposed implementing regulations for VIDA on October 26, 2020, which addresses 20 discharges incidental to the normal operation of a vessel. In general, GLMTF supports this regulation, including how ballast water is regulated in the Great Lakes. Click here to view all Positions Papers or scroll through the slides listed below.

Jones Act and Other U.S. Maritime Cabotage Laws

Section 27 of the 1920 Merchant Marine Act, generally referred to as the Jones Act, mandates that all cargo moving between U.S. points be carried in vessels that are crewed by, built by, and owned by Americans. Other laws and statutes apply the same ground rules to carrying passengers, towing, dredging, and salvaging in U.S. waters.

The U.S. is far from unique in reserving its domestic waterborne commerce to its domestic fleets. Eighty percent of the world’s coastlines of United Nations shipping nations have similar cabotage laws for their domestic maritime commerce.

Uniform Regulation of Ballast Water

Vessel discharges, such as ballast water, are critical to maintain safe and efficient operations. The maritime industry has a long history of establishing best management practices and technical innovations to ensure the Great Lakes ecosystem is protected. However, ensuing legal battles opened the door for each state and multiple federal agencies to establish their own regulatory regimes that were often impossible to meet and conflicting. Great Lakes stakeholders pushed for a better way.

U.S. EPA published their proposed implementing regulations for VIDA on October 26, 2020 which addresses 20 discharges incidental to the normal operation of a vessel. In general, GLMTF supports this regulation including how ballast water is regulated in the Great Lakes.

Efficient Funding for the Second Poe-Sized Lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

The navigational locks at the Soo connect Lake Superior to the lower four Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence Seaway, and international markets. Eighty million tons of cargo, valued at $6 billion and supporting 123,000 jobs, transit the Soo Locks each year. The locks allow cargoes like iron ore and grain to move from mines and farms to customers in the U.S., Canada, and overseas as well as allowing domestic and overseas cargoes to move “up the system” and into upper Midwest markets.

Keep Commerce Moving on the Great Lakes During the Winter Months – Protect the Supply Chain

While the 2019/2020 ice season proved to be historically mild (the fifth mildest since 1970), several commercial vessels still suffered delays due to inadequate icebreaking. Over the past ten years, the lack of adequate icebreaking on the Great Lakes has caused the loss of over 10,000 jobs and $2 billion to the economy. Congress continues to appropriate funding for a new heavy icebreaker including $4 million in 2020, $14 million over the last three years, with language directing the USCG to establish an acquisition program office to oversee building the new ship. In addition, bipartisan bills have been introduced in both the House and the Senate which will codify the USCG icebreaking mission into law and define the requirements that must be measured. Known as the “Great Lakes Winter Commerce Act of 2020,” this bill will correct the chronic issue of false performance measures that have covered up the Great Lakes icebreaking atrophy over the past 40-years with nearly a 50 percent reduction in the number of icebreakers compared to the fleet in 1979.

Full Federal Funding for State Maritime Academies

The maritime industry is facing an increasing shortage of licensed merchant mariners with profound commercial and national security implications. Since 1874, America’s State Maritime Academies have been educating and training cadets for licensed officer positions in the United States Merchant Marine. State Maritime Academies, including the Great Lakes Maritime Academy in Traverse City, Michigan, produce 70 percent of all new licensed officers in the United States and are the largest source of newly licensed officers in the country.

Short Sea Shipping

A number of new short-distance shipping services have been proposed in the Great Lakes region. In each case, the goal has been to relieve highway or border congestion and move commerce more efficiently. New short sea shipping services on the Great Lakes are likely to take the form of truck ferries and feeder services.

Great Lakes Shipbuilding and Government Programs to Promote the Industry

Great Lakes shipyards are fully capable of building all types of commercial and military vessels for service throughout the world, limited only by the size of the navigational locks in the St. Lawrence Seaway. Within the Great Lakes, shipyards have built 1,000-foot-long vessels that keep the mills supplying steel for U.S.-made automobiles and appliances, the lights on in southeast Michigan, and U.S. workers building America’s infrastructure.

Full Funding for Dredging Great Lakes Deep-Draft Ports and Waterways

Decades of inadequate funding for dredging the Great Lakes have left more than 13 million cubic yards of sediment clogging ports and waterways. Sediment on the bottom means cargoes are left at the dock when vessels can not load to the design depths of the system. This can be as much as 270 tons of iron ore on a U.S.-flag vessel for each inch lost when channels are not adequately dredged. The foreign-flag vessels frequenting the Lakes can forfeit 116 tons for each inch of draft lost.



Dredging on the Great Lakes

Ending the dredging crisis is GLMTF’s top priority. Decades of inadequate funding for dredging have left the Great Lakes Navigation System clogged with more than 15 million cubic yards of sediment, despite the fact the Federal government taxes cargo to pay for dredging. Relief is in sight. The Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 requires the Federal government to increase funding for dredging annually, but Congress must appropriate the funds each year. GLMTF focuses the bulk of its efforts to restore adequate funding for dredging Great Lakes ports and waterways.

Celebrating Outstanding Legislators

Each year, GLMTF recognizes members of the Great Lakes congressional delegation who have made significant contributions to keeping waterborne commerce on the Lakes a key component of the nation’s transportation system by presenting them a Great Lakes Legislator of the Year Award. The selection process is not easy, on Capitol Hill the Great Lakes delegation is one of the best.


U.S. Senator Gary Peters 2021 Legislator of the Year 

Today the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force (GLMTF) recognized the tremendous work done by Michigan U.S. Senator Gary Peters for protecting and advancing the Great Lakes Navigation System. “The Great Lakes are more than just an economic engine and ecological treasure: they are simply in our DNA as Michiganders,” said Senator Peters. “It’s critical we do everything in our power to protect and preserve the Great Lakes for future generations – and that’s always been my focus. I’m deeply honored to have earned this distinction and am thankful to have excellent partners like the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force that work tirelessly to improve the lives of Michiganders.”


House Transportation Committee Funds Key Great Lakes Projects

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Tuesday approved $1 billion for U.S. Coast Guard shore side infrastructure nationwide and $350 million for a heavy Great Lakes icebreaker as part of its budget reconciliation bill, an action that the Great Lake Maritime Task Force (GLMTF) called “great news for the Great Lakes.”

The GLMTF described the heavy Great Lakes icebreaker as desperately needed and expects that a portion of the infrastructure funds will go to good use replacing and repairing crumbling Great Lakes search and rescue stations and other USCG facilities that are used to protect Great Lakes ports and waterways.



We’re stronger when we work together. GLMTF membership is an excellent way to ensure your company and industry’s voice is part of the ongoing conversation surrounding Great Lakes shipping. Membership is open to all companies and organizations that rely on or are involved in domestic and/or international Great Lakes shipping.