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.

POSITION PAPERS

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.


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. The Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA), included in the Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018, establishes that long-sought process on the U.S. side of the Lakes to set uniform federal discharge requirements jointly regulated by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG).

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.

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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.

NEWS & POLICIES

U.S. Representative Mike Gallagher 2022 Legislator of the Year

GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN (July 25, 2022) – On Friday, July 22, 2022, the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force (GLMTF) recognized the unwavering commitment of Wisconsin Congressman Mike Gallagher to protect and advance the Great Lakes maritime supply chain at the U.S. Venture, Inc. facility in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Congressman Gallagher has spearheaded legislation that invests in shipbuilding on the Great Lakes, improves the maritime supply chain during the winter, and ensures the Great Lakes Navigation System remains viable for years to come.

Congressman Gallagher introduced the Supplying Help to Infrastructure in Ports, Yards, and America’s Repair Dock (SHIPYARD) Act of 2021 that would provide $25 billion to make investments needed to optimize, improve, and rebuild shipyard facilities, electrical infrastructure, environmental systems, and the equipment of public and private shipyards in the U.S. that support the U.S. Navy fleet. “At a time when China is commissioning three ships in a single day, we desperately need to strengthen the American shipbuilding industrial base to expand, support, and service the fleet,” said Rep. Gallagher. “The bipartisan, bicameral SHIPYARD Act makes critical investments to better ensure shipyards across the country, such as Marinette Marine, can build the Navy the nation needs.”

He also introduced the Great Lakes Winter Commerce Act, a bill that would clearly define the U.S. Coast Guard’s (USCG) responsibility for icebreaking on the Great Lakes. Currently, the USCG conducts Great Lakes icebreaking based on an 85-year-old Executive Order that fails to clearly define the USCG’s mission. This bill would update that mission to help ensure it meets the modern demands of commerce in the Great Lakes region. “In cold winter months, icebreaking helps keep our Great Lakes economy moving. But a lack of sufficient icebreaking in recent years has shown that Congress needs to modernize the Coast Guard’s icebreaking mission on the Great Lakes,” said Rep Gallagher. “The Great Lakes Winter Commerce Act is a bipartisan, bicameral bill codifying an icebreaking performance standard to meet the reasonable demands of commerce. This will help ensure that small businesses in Northeast Wisconsin can continue shipping goods from point A to point B — no matter the month or the weather.”

Congressman Gallagher was a staunch supporter of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) 2020.  He ensured a 13% set-aside in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for the Great Lakes Navigation System. Previous legislation included funding for small harbors like the Port of Green Bay but failed to sufficiently increase the funding to adequate levels. This bill increased the amount allotted to harbors on the Great Lakes Navigation System from 10% to 13% with actual funding levels this year approaching 15%.

“Congressman Gallagher has helped to solidify thousands of good paying jobs for the hard-working people of Wisconsin.  U.S. shipyards are critical to our national defense and Mike Gallagher continues to make that a priority,” stated Craig Perciavalle, Vice President and General Manager of Bay Shipbuilding.

“At a time when the American supply chain is struggling, Congressman Gallagher championed critical legislation to rebuild Great Lakes ports and waterways.  The Port of Green Bay is grateful for the passage of WRDA 2020 and the effort Congressman Gallagher put in to ensure an equitable portion of funding for the Great Lakes Navigation System,” stated Dean Haen, Director of the Brown County Port and Resource Recovery Department.  He continued, “The Great Lakes Maritime Task Force’s Legislature of the Year Award is a fitting tribute to Rep. Gallagher and acknowledges all that he has done for our region and our industry.”

“Congressman Gallagher’s support for U.S. merchant mariners, Wisconsin ports, and Wisconsin shipbuilding drives economic stability in the Great Lakes region and in the nation.  Simply put, he helps to create family sustaining jobs for thousands,” stated Mark Ruge, President of the Wisconsin Domestic Maritime Coalition.

“Mike Gallagher invests in the American worker protecting sailors from damaging ice floes, advancing U.S. shipbuilding, and keeping the maritime supply chain moving on the nation’s Fourth Sea Coast,” stated John Baker, International Longshoremen’s Association and Great Lakes Maritime Task Force Vice President.

“The work done by Congressman Gallagher to correct years of neglect to the Great Lakes Navigation System during the winter months is monumental.  The Great Lakes Winter Commerce Act is a great step in the right direction.  In addition, the support Congressman Gallagher provided to get the Great Lakes designated as a navigation system with a guaranteed allocation of money from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund will undoubtedly serve the Great Lakes region for decades to come and that is why he is our Legislator of the Year,” stated Jim Weakley, President of the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force.

“The importance of the Great Lakes cannot be overstated. Here in Northeast Wisconsin, these lakes are crucial to not just our economy, but to our way of life, and it’s critical we do everything we can to preserve these national treasures for generations to come,” said Rep. Gallagher. “It’s an honor to be named the 2022 Legislator of the Year by the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force, and I look forward to continuing my work to both protect the Great Lakes and expand opportunities for the businesses that rely on them.”

The presentation of the award was made at the U.S. Venture, Inc. facility in Green Bay.  President and CEO of U.S. Venture, John Schmidt stated, “The Port of Green Bay serves as a critical link in the supply chain for gasoline, diesel, and renewable energy products supplied to Northeastern Wisconsin.  We appreciate and commend Congressman Gallagher for his continued support of the Port and the Great Lakes.”

About Great Lakes Maritime Task Force

The Great Lakes Maritime Task Force, with 74 members, is the largest coalition to speak for the Great Lakes Navigation System.  Advocating for domestic and international shipping, its members represent labor and management from U.S.-flag vessel operators, shipboard and longshore unions, port authorities, cargo shippers, terminal operators, shipyards, and other Great Lakes interests. The Great Lakes commercial maritime industry supports more than 147,000 American jobs in eight Great Lakes states and generates more than $25 billion in economic activity.

 

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Great Lakes Ships Lose a Month Due to Lack of Icebreakers

CLEVELAND, OHIO (May 12, 2022) – The ice season is over on the Great Lakes but the impacts of insufficient Coast Guard icebreaking linger.  With a defined shipping season of 10-months, due to the closure of the navigational locks in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan which connect Lake Superior and the iron ore mines to the steel mills in the southern lakes, delays to the maritime supply chain have tremendous impacts.

During this year’s ice season, the U.S.-flag Great Lakes shipping industry lost the equivalent of a month due to delays in ice covered waters.  1.645 million tons of cargo carrying capacity was delayed for 679.5 hours or 28 days due to ice conditions on Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, and in Green Bay and a lack of Coast Guard icebreakers to meet the needs of commerce.

“It amazes me that a cargo container stuck in Chesapeake Bay or in the Suez Canal gets worldwide attention and that happens on the Great Lakes every year.  The loss of one day of shipping is tremendous, but a month is devasting.  Imagine if highways in the northern states didn’t have enough snowplows to keep traffic moving during frequent winter storms and sat on the road for a month…it is unacceptable,” stated Jim Weakley, President of the Great Maritime Task Force.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), ice conditions this past winter were “average” to “slightly below average” during the bulk of the icebreaking period.  Several ships, including some Canadian-flag lakers, faced perilous journeys through ice infested waters that nearly forced a vessel aground in the Straits of Mackinac and shutdown waterways.  At one point several vessels were stuck in eastern Lake Superior for more than three days.  With an aging fleet of six 40-year-old small icebreaking tugs and only one heavy icebreaker the U.S. Coast Guard couldn’t keep up.  Multiple vessels were shoved near the edge of the navigational channels as ice floes over a foot thick shifted which lasted up until mid-April.  At the beginning of the ice season the U.S. Coast Guard lost five icebreakers to engineering casualties, just when they were needed most.

“The Coast Guard needs more icebreakers on the Fourth Sea Coast.  We have 237,000 jobs depending on a reliable Great Lakes Navigation System.  In addition, our sailors deserve to feel safe navigating our waterways regardless of the time of year,” stated John D. Baker, International Longshoremen’s Association and Vice President of the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force.

While progress fixing the icebreaking issue has been slow, it is moving forward thanks to key Great Lakes Senators and Congressional Representatives.  Over the past year both the current Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard and the nominee to replace him testified before the Senate Commerce Committee acknowledging the need for another heavy Great Lakes icebreaker.  In addition, the Great Lakes Winter Commerce Act has passed the House in the Coast Guard Authorization Bill which authorizes full funding for the new icebreaker, mandates transparent and accurate performance measures, and commissions a study by the Government Accountability Office to examine the impacts and needs for additional U.S. Coast Guard icebreakers on the Great Lakes.

About Great Lakes Maritime Task Force

The Great Lakes Maritime Task Force, with 74 members, is the largest coalition to speak for the Great Lakes Navigation System.  Advocating for domestic and international shipping, its members represent labor and management from U.S.-flag vessel operators, shipboard and longshore unions, port authorities, cargo shippers, terminal operators, shipyards, and other Great Lakes interests. The Great Lakes commercial maritime industry supports more than 147,000 American jobs in eight Great Lakes states and generates more than $25 billion in economic activity.

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MEMBERS

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.