Press Release

Posted on September 23, 2021

House Transportation Committee Funds Key Great Lakes Projects

CLEVELAND, OHIO (September 15, 2021) – 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.

The GLMTF views a new heavy Great Lakes icebreaker as a step in the right direction for correcting years of economic devastation when commercial vessels have been trapped in ice for days and unable to deliver critical cargoes vital to the nation’s economic security.  The icebreaker is also the most valuable tool to combating ice jam flooding on rivers in the Great Lakes region.  Unfortunately, too late for residents in the Detroit area who suffered catastrophic damage in February 2021 while the USCG’s only heavy Great Lakes icebreaker was in a maintenance period and unable to respond.

“We are very pleased with this large step toward significant progress in maintaining navigable commercial shipping lanes on the Lakes for a greater part of each year,” said Great Lakes Maritime Task Force President John Clemons, who serves as American Maritime Officers National Vice President, Great Lakes. “A new and needed heavy icebreaker is crucial to U.S. commerce and will extend the ability of U.S.-flagged lakers to deliver the materials that fuel American manufacturing. AMO and American Maritime Officers Service will continue working together with members of Congress and our labor and industry partners on the task force to see this through to completion.”

“The Masters, Mates & Pilots strongly supports and greatly appreciates the decision by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to provide funding for a new heavy Great Lakes icebreaker.  A new multi-mission icebreaker is an extremely important asset that is vitally needed on the Great Lakes to help keep the flow of commerce moving and maritime workers employed,” Tom Bell, Vice President, United Inland Group – Great Lakes, International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots.

“The SIU is very pleased to see funding for Great Lakes icebreaking being included in the package that was marked up today.  This is a critical safety issue for our members on the Great Lakes, and we are looking forward to seeing this funding being enacted into law,” Michael Sacco, President, Seafarers International Union.

“The Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association applauds the work on behalf of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to provide much needed funding to construct a Great Lakes Icebreaker. Securing this funding is a critically important step toward facilitating the long-term commerce and growth of the Great Lakes region, as well as new economic opportunities that will help advance the domestic maritime industry,” Adam Vokac, President, Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association.

“These appropriations are extremely important to the Great Lakes and the national economy.  Three hundred fifty million dollars for a heavy Great Lakes icebreaker will pay for itself in a few years as it safely moves American shipping, keeps Great Lakes ports and facilities open for business, protects U.S. sailors and shoreline communities, and ensures jobs for hundreds of thousands of shoreside workers,” Jim Weakley, Vice President of GLMTF and President of the Lake Carriers’ Association.

“This is a signal that the Great Lakes are important to Congress and the nation.  Another heavy Great Lakes icebreaker is needed now to keep Wisconsin’s waterways reliable as the most efficient means of moving critical raw materials to manufacturing facilities around the Great Lakes,” Mark Ruge, President of Wisconsin’s Domestic Maritime Coalition.

“Great Lakes ports commend the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for including critical funds for a new heavy Great Lakes icebreaker in its reconciliation package.  The new vessel will help to ensure that key waterways remain open during winter months.  This translates into a more reliable navigation system, with more commerce moving through our ports and more jobs in our communities,” Steve Fisher, Executive Director of the American Great Lakes Ports Association.

“Port Milwaukee strongly supports federal funding for a new Great Lakes icebreaker,” said Adam Tindall-Schlicht, President of the Wisconsin Commercial Ports Association and Director of Port Milwaukee. “Wisconsin’s ports serve customers every day throughout the year, and industries depend on the resiliency and reliability of maritime infrastructure, particularly during the winter months. A second icebreaker will enhance the U.S. Coast Guard’s operations and prove invaluable for both the regional economy and continued safety on the Great Lakes.”

“Modern, dependable Great Lakes icebreaking assets are essential to maintaining the safe and efficient flow of the cargoes critical to everyday life in North America. For too long, the necessity and importance of these assets has been overlooked, ignored, or marginalized, at a cost not only to people and commerce on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway, but also to national security. Fortification of North America’s supply chain is overdue, and a new Great Lakes icebreaker is an important component in that effort,” Deb DeLuca, Executive Director, Duluth Seaway Port Authority.

“The Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority is supportive of the initiative for a new Great Lakes Icebreaker,” said Kyle Burleson, Director of Port Operations for the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority.  “The Port of Detroit is an active port throughout the year, but of course, the winter months provide a great deal of uncertainty as to the conditions of ice on the Great Lakes.  As we seek to pursue new opportunities and grow our existing support for the manufacturing, power generation, and road building industries, the certainty provided by an additional icebreaker in ensuring the waterways remain open for commerce will aid the Port’s ability in attracting new business and provide assurances for port customers that their cargo will arrive on time and on budget.”

Additionally, the legislation includes funding for U.S. Maritime Administration grants to small shipyards and port infrastructure projects, which should also benefit the Great Lakes region.

GLMTF is the largest coalition speaking for the Great Lakes shipping community, drawing its membership from both labor and management representing U.S.-flag vessel operators, shipboard and longshore unions, port authorities, cargo shippers, terminal operators, shipyards, and other Great Lakes interests.

Press Release

Posted on February 2, 2021

Congressman John Moolenaar Named Legislator of the Year

CLEVELAND, OHIO (February 11, 2021) – Today the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force recognized the significant contributions Michigan Congressman John Moolenaar (R) has made to the entire Great Lakes Region.

Thanks to Congressman Moolenaar’s leadership, the linchpin of the Great Lakes Navigation System, a new large navigational lock in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan is under construction. 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. It takes legislators like Congressman Moolenaar to move vital maritime infrastructure projects forward. The locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan are of national significance and ensure resiliency to a commercial maritime system that supplies cargoes to America’s industrial base.

“Every Michigan resident cherishes the Great Lakes and wants to ensure future generations can enjoy them too. That’s a responsibility I take seriously and in Congress I have worked to be a strong steward of the Great Lakes,” said Moolenaar. “I am proud to have worked across the aisle to help fund the construction of a new lock at the Soo Locks which will ensure shipping continues to support American jobs in manufacturing, construction, and other industries. I have also supported the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative because it will help protect the Lakes from invasive species and pollution. It’s an honor to receive this award from the Maritime Task Force and I will continue to be an advocate for our state and the Great Lakes in the years to come.”

Congressman Moolenaar has actively advocated for the Great Lakes Navigation System and continues to protect the Great Lakes and the mariners that ply the waters. He was instrumental in the increase of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers funding for the Great Lakes, securing a substantial share of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for the system’s operation and maintenance. The additional funds will be used to improve navigation structures, conduct much needed dredging of Great Lakes harbors and channels, and stabilize and replace failing nearshore infrastructure where high waters have caused significant coastal damage.

Congressman Moolenaar has been a staunch supporter of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) putting the protection of our waters at the top of the list. His work on the House Appropriations Committee has been vital to ensuring continued and increased funding for the GLRI. Congressman Moolenaar recognizes the Great Lakes as a unique national treasure and the largest system of fresh water in the world, providing drinking water for nearly 40 million people and are an economic driver that supports jobs, commerce, agriculture, transportation, and tourism.

About Great Lakes Maritime Task Force

The Great Lakes Maritime Task Force, with 70 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.

Press Release

Posted on January 28, 2021

The Great Lakes Maritime Task Force Thanks the Administration for the Executive Action on “Buy American” Provisions in Federal Spending

The Great Lakes Maritime Task Force (GLMTF) wishes to thank President Biden and his Administration on signing the Executive Order, “Strengthening ‘Buy American’ Provisions, Ensuring [the] Future of America is Made in America by All of America’s Workers,” that reinforces the federal requirement that purchases by the federal government include buy American provisions. For too long allowances were made to “look the other way” when spending taxpayer funds to support the goods and services of the federal government. This order reverses those long years that sent dollars and jobs overseas.

Specifically cited in the Executive Order is the Jones Act, a cornerstone of the American maritime economy. Nearly 124,000 workers’ employment, with combined salaries of $8.4 billion, are directly tied to the Jones Act in the eight Great Lakes states and contributes $30.66 billion to the Great Lakes states’ economies.

“The new Administration’s unequivocal support for the Jones Act is welcomed and paramount to the men and women ashore and afloat that are the foundation of American manufacturing, infrastructure, agriculture, and energy needs,” said John Clemons, American Maritime Officers National Vice President, Great Lakes and President of GLMTF.

With strong binational support in Congress, the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act also included the affirmation of the Jones Act has as an opportunity to invest in America’s workers and the future of America. The Administration and Congress are working in lock step to shore up this lynchpin of our economy.

“The Whitehouse has taken unprecedented action that supports the Great Lakes economy and homeland security. This Executive Order creates jobs and protects the pilot light of the nation’s manufacturing base which is the Great Lakes maritime industry,” stated Jim Weakley, President of the Lake Carriers’ Association which represents the operators of U.S.-flag Great Lakes shipping and is a member of GLMTF.

GLMTF is the largest coalition speaking for the Great Lakes shipping community, drawing its membership from both labor and management representing U.S.-flag vessel operators, shipboard and longshore unions, port authorities, cargo shippers, terminal operators, shipyards, and other Great Lakes interests.

Press Release

Posted on August 8, 2019

Senator Rob Portman Named 2019 Great Lakes Legislator of the Year

TOLEDO, OH – Ohio Senator Rob Portman (R) has been named 2019 Great Lakes Legislator of the Year by the largest labor/management coalition representing shipping on America’s Fourth Sea Coast. The award is presented annually by Great Lakes Maritime Task Force (GLMTF) to a legislator who has helped advance waterborne commerce on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway and will be presented on August 9th at 1:30 p.m. at The Great Lakes Towing Company, 4500 Division Avenue, Cleveland, OH.

“Senator Portman understands the importance of marine transportation to our national and regional economies,” said John D. Baker, President of GLMTF in 2019. “As co-chair of the Great Lakes Congressional Task Force, Senator Portman often works in a bipartisan way on the complex issues confronting the region.”

Baker, President Emeritus of the International Longshoremen Association’s Great Lakes District Council, said, “GLTMF is especially grateful that Senator Portman played a key role in passing the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act as part of the Coast Guard Authorization Bill. While preserving a role for the states and the Environmental Protection Agency, it charged the Coast Guard with primary responsibility for implementing and enforcing vessel regulations. Senator Portman negotiated language that overwhelmingly passed the House and Senate.”

“Senator Portman’s commitment to workforce development and interest in U.S. shipbuilding are other reasons for his selection,” said Richard Hammer, 1st Vice President of GLMTF and Assistant General Manager of Donjon Shipbuilding and Repair. “Presenting the award at the Great Lakes Shipyard on the Cuyahoga River is an appropriate venue,” he continued.

John E. Clemons, 2rd Vice President of GLMTF and National Vice President Great Lakes for American Maritime Officers, stressed Senator Portman’s support for a strong U.S.-flag merchant marine played another role in his selection. “As a member of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, Senator Portman understands that the economic security, homeland security and national security interests of the United States are best served by vessels crewed, built and owned by Americans.”

Jim Weakley, 3rd Vice President of GLMTF and President of Lake Carriers’ Association, stressed Senator Portman’s support for the many jobs along the waterfront and the roles they play in the economy are unquestioned. “Senator Portman continues to work on environmental and economic issues that benefit Lake Erie and the entire Great Lakes region. His bipartisan nature is a true testament to Midwest values and Ohio’s tradition of statesmanship.”

“I’m honored to be named the 2019 Great Lakes Legislator of the Year by the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force,” said Portman. “As co-chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, I will continue to lead the fight to protect our Great Lakes while ensuring our shipping industry in Ohio and across the region remains competitive. Lake Erie is an Ohio treasure that provides drinking water for three million Ohioans, supports hundreds of thousands of jobs, and draws millions of visitors each year. I will continue to fight to help preserve this treasure for future generations.”

With his selection as Great Lakes Legislator of the Year, Senator Portman becomes the eleventh Ohio legislator to receive the award since its inception in 1998. . Previous recipients are Sen. John D. Glenn (D); Rep. Louis B. Stokes (D); Rep. Steve LaTourette (R); Sen. Mike DeWine (R); Sen. George Voinovich (R); Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D); Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D); Rep. Betty Sutton (D); Rep. Bob Gibbs (R) and Rep. David Joyce (R).

Founded in 1992, Great Lakes Maritime Task Force promotes domestic and international shipping on the Great Lakes. With 78 members, it is the largest U.S. coalition to ever speak for the Great Lakes shipping community and draws its membership from both labor and management representing U.S.-flag vessel operators, shipboard and longshore unions, port authorities, cargo shippers, terminal operators, shipyards and other Great Lakes interests. Its goals include ensuring Lakes dredging is adequately funded, construction of a second Poe-sized lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, bolstering the Coast Guard’s icebreaking resources, protecting the Jones Act and other U.S. maritime cabotage laws and regulations, maximizing the Lakes overseas trade via the St. Lawrence Seaway, opposing exports and/or increased diversions of Great Lakes water, and expanding short sea shipping on the Lakes.

Press Release

Posted on September 17, 2018

Rep. Jack Bergman Named 2018 Great Lakes Legislator of the Year

TOLEDO, OH – Michigan Congressman Jack Bergman (R) has been named 2018 Great Lakes Legislator of the Year by the largest labor/management coalition representing shipping on America’s Fourth Sea Coast. The award is presented annually by Great Lakes Maritime Task Force (GLMTF) to a legislator who has helped advance waterborne commerce on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway and will be presented on September 18 at Great Lakes Maritime Academy in Traverse City, Michigan.

“Although this is just his first term, Rep. Bergman has quickly become recognized as a leader on Great Lakes and Seaway issues,” said Jim Weakley, President of GLMTF in 2018. “This reflects that his district fronts on three of the five Great Lakes: Superior, Michigan and Huron.”

Weakley, who is also President of the Lake Carriers’ Association, said GLTMF is especially grateful that Rep. Bergman spoke directly to President Trump about the need for a second Poe-sized lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. “Within hours of Congressman Bergman talking to the President, our nation’s leader publicly declared his support for fixing the Soo Locks. That support, coupled with the new benefit/cost ratio of 2.42, puts the project in the best spot it’s been in years.”

Congressman Bergman’s commitment to adequate U.S. Coast Guard icebreaking resources is another reason for his selection. “The locks at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, open on March 25 and close on January 15,” said John D. Baker, 1st Vice President of GLMTF, and President Emeritus of the International Longshoremen Association’s Great Lakes District Council. “But if heavy ice covers the Lakes, the resumption of the iron ore trade and overseas exports of grain from the Lakes largest grain-shipping ports will be delayed. Rep. Bergman is fully supportive of building another heavy icebreaker to help the MACKINAW and other icebreakers keep commerce moving under even the most trying conditions.”

Richard Hammer, 2nd Vice President of GLMTF and Assistant General Manager of Donjon Shipbuilding and Repair, saluted Rep. Bergman’s dedication to adequate dredging of Great Lakes ports and waterways. “U.S.-flag lakers are the most efficient self-unloaders in the world, but they lose as much as 270 tons of cargo for each inch of draft they forfeit when ports and waterways are not adequately dredged. The problem was particularly acute in 2013, and while water levels are currently high, they will go down again. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needs to dredge more than 13 million cubic yards of sediment from the Great Lakes Navigation System before full loads will become the norm.”

John E. Clemons, 3rd Vice President of GLMTF and National Vice President Great Lakes for American Maritime Officers, stressed Congressman Bergman’s support for a strong U.S.-flag merchant marine played another role in his selection. “Rep. Bergman knows that vessels crewed with Americans, built by Americans, and owned by Americans keep America safe and serve the economy well. These are the tenants of the Jones Act and as that law nears its 100th birthday, America’s domestic merchant marine has never been stronger.”

With his selection as Great Lakes Legislator of the Year, Rep. Bergman becomes the tenth Michigan legislator to receive the award since its inception in 1998. Previous recipients are Senators Debbie Stabenow, Carl Levin and Spencer Abraham, and Representatives Bill Huizenga, Candice Miller, Dave Camp, Vernon Ehlers, Bart Stupak, and Dave Bonior.

Founded in 1992, Great Lakes Maritime Task Force promotes domestic and international shipping on the Great Lakes. With 78 members, it is the largest U.S. coalition to ever speak for the Great Lakes shipping community and draws its membership from both labor and management representing U.S.-flag vessel operators, shipboard and longshore unions, port authorities, cargo shippers, terminal operators, shipyards and other Great Lakes interests. Its goals include ensuring Lakes dredging is adequately funded, construction of a second Poe-sized lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, bolstering the Coast Guard’s icebreaking resources; protecting the Jones Act and other U.S. maritime cabotage laws and regulations; maximizing the Lakes overseas trade via the St. Lawrence Seaway; opposing exports and/or increased diversions of Great Lakes water; and expanding short sea shipping on the Lakes.

Press Release

Posted on May 3, 2018

GLMTF 2017 Annual Report Sees Lakes/Seaway Shipping Moving Forward

TOLEDO, OH – Increases in cargo movement on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway in 2017 were but two of several positive developments last year. The 2017 Annual Report of Great Lakes Maritime Task Force (GLMTF) released today highlights progress on maintaining the Jones Act as the foundation of America’s domestic maritime policy; building a second Poe-sized lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan; construction of another heavy icebreaker for the Great Lakes; and increased funding for dredging Great Lakes ports and waterways.

The Jones Act requires that cargo moving between U.S. ports be carried in vessels that are U.S.-crewed, -built and -owned. Although the Jones Act was enacted in 1920, the United States has reserved domestic waterborne commerce to U.S.-flag vessels since 1817. Following the hurricanes that battered Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico, there were claims the law was inhibiting relief efforts, particularly in Puerto Rico, but there was no basis in fact. “The docks were jammed with cargo. The problem was the land-based transportation infrastructure was so tattered after the hurricane that cargo could not move inland. Congress wisely rejected making any changes to the Jones Act.”

On the infrastructure front, GLMTF continued its efforts to build a second Poe-sized lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. The Soo Locks connect Lake Superior to the lower Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway and typically handle 80 million tons of cargo per year, 90-plus percent of which transit the Poe Lock. Although authorized by Congress, the project has been stalled by a flawed benefit/cost analysis by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but President Trump has pledged to get the project moving.

The Task Force is also focused on building another heavy icebreaker to partner with the MACKINAW so the U.S. Coast Guard can keep cargo moving during the ice season, typically mid-December to mid- or late-April. The Annual Report notes that in December 2017 and January 2018, U.S.-flag lakers had more than 1.8 million tons of cargo delayed or cancelled by ice.

“While the MACKINAW performed well, the Coast Guard’s smaller icebreakers were often overmatched, and some had to be taken out of service for varying periods of time … The only way the fleet can reliably meet the needs of commerce is if the United States Coast Guard has two heavy icebreakers stationed on the Great Lakes.”

The Great Lakes are currently in a period of high water, but it is inevitable that they will fall again, so it is imperative that Congress continue to increase expenditures from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and give the Lakes their fair share of dredging dollars. “Thanks to GLMTF’s commitment to restoring adequate funding for dredging, the Lakes’ annual appropriation has just about doubled, from $80 million in 2012 to almost $160 million in 2017, but the need remains great. Nearly 15 million cubic yards of sediment still clog the Great Lakes Navigation System.”

GLMTF continued to support passage of the S. 168, the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA). This legislation will bring much needed clarity and consistency to governance of ballast water discharges and put oversight where it best belongs: The U.S. Coast Guard. The current patchwork approach of regulations differing from federal agency to federal agency and state to state makes compliance nearly impossible.

GLMTF’s Annual Report also highlights other developments on the Great Lakes and Seaway in 2017.

Founded in 1992, Great Lakes Maritime Task Force promotes domestic and international shipping on the Great Lakes. With 79 members, it is the largest coalition to ever speak for the Great Lakes shipping community and draws its membership from both labor and management representing U.S.-flag vessel operators, shipboard and longshore unions, port authorities, cargo shippers, terminal operators, shipyards and other Great Lakes interests. Its other goals include maximizing the Lakes overseas trade via the St. Lawrence Seaway; opposing exports and/or increased diversions of Great Lakes water; and expanding short sea shipping on the Lakes.