AWO Letter - January 12

Coast Guard Publishes Final Rule on Towing Vessel Inspection User Fees. The Coast Guard has published a final rule on towing vessel inspection user fees, which will take effect beginning March 27, 2024. The final rule makes no changes to the proposed rule published in January 2022, establishing annual fees of $2,184 for Coast Guard option vessels and $973 for TSMS option vessels.
Inspection and other Coast Guard user fees have been required by law since 1990, and the agency is required to base the fees on the cost to the government of providing the services. When Subchapter M was implemented beginning in 2018, the Coast Guard had not established a specific inspection user fee for towing vessels that distinguished between the Coast Guard and TSMS options, and so all towing vessels were subject to the $1,030 annual fee provided in existing regulations for “other” inspected vessels. In 2021, AWO successfully secured legislation preventing the Coast Guard from collecting inspection user fees until the agency published new regulations taking into account the difference in cost to the government of providing inspection services to Coast Guard and TSMS option vessels. Collection of user fees will resume in March now that the rulemaking has been finalized.
The Coast Guard’s final rule fails to adequately address flaws in the agency’s cost study that AWO highlighted in our comments on the proposed rule. In a procedural anomaly, the final rule was also not reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget prior to publication despite its impact on small businesses. AWO is working with Congressional champions to request a briefing from the agency and will keep members apprised of future developments. If you have questions or concerns, please contact Caitlyn Stewart.
AWO Executive Committee Meets with Coast Guard to Reiterate Importance of Agency-Industry Partnership. RADM Wayne Arguin, the Coast Guard’s Assistant Commandant for Prevention Policy, met with AWO Executive Committee members on January 3 to hear their concerns about the agency’s recent engagement with industry and to reiterate his commitment to ensuring proactive communication and close collaboration at all levels. The discussion resulted in the mutual identification of key issues to be discussed at the next meeting of the Coast Guard-AWO Safety Partnership National Quality Steering Committee in March, including communication and stakeholder engagement; practical implementation of statutory requirements on harassment, sexual harassment and sexual assault; and engine room crewing on ATBs.
Coast Guard Releases FAQs on SASH Policy Letters. The Coast Guard recently released Frequently Asked Questions on the agency’s recent policy letters guiding implementation of three Safer Seas Act provisions to prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment on vessels: CG-CVC Policy Letter 23-04, regarding signage requirements; CG-CVC Policy Letter 23-05, regarding surveillance requirements for certain seagoing vessels; and CG-CVC Policy Letter 23-06, regarding the requirement for a master key control system. The FAQs were included in recent updates to Marine Safety Information Bulletin 13-23, Ch. 2. AWO has been compiling questions, concerns and other feedback from members for Coast Guard consideration and has identified a number of issues that are not sufficiently addressed by the FAQs. AWO will continue to engage with the Coast Guard to ensure the agency’s guidance is clear and comprehensive and promotes practical compliance with the statutory requirements. For more information, please contact Caitlyn Stewart.
AMP Announces New Leadership Slate. On January 8, the American Maritime Partnership (AMP) announced its new leadership slate, elected at the coalition’s annual meeting last fall. AWO President & CEO Jennifer Carpenter serves as president, the first woman to hold the role, alongside new Vice President Sara Fuentes of the Transportation Institute and Secretary and Treasurer James “Jim” Weakley of the Lake Carriers’ Association. “AMP plays a pivotal role in championing the strength and vitality of our domestic maritime industry, and I am proud to continue to drive our industry forward into the future,” Jennifer said in AMP’s press release. The new AMP leaders will each serve a two-year term.
NPRM on Cybersecurity in the Marine Transportation System at OMB for Review. The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is currently reviewing a proposed Coast Guard rule to add cybersecurity requirements to existing maritime security regulations in 33 CFR Subchapter H for facilities and vessels. AWO has been tracking this rulemaking since its announcement in 2022 and has encouraged the Coast Guard to take a flexible, non-prescriptive regulatory approach to accommodate the wide range of operations and differences in cyber capabilities across the maritime industry. Review by OMB is the final step in the regulatory review process prior to publication in the Federal Register. AWO will convene our Security Working Group to review the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking when it is released. Please contact Liam Morcroft for more information.
MARAD Modernizes Title XI Financial Requirements. The Maritime Administration (MARAD) has issued a final rule updating the financial requirements for the Federal Ship Financing Program. Also known as Title XI, this loan guarantee program is administered by MARAD for the financing of U.S. flag vessels built in U.S. shipyards. The new rule establishes modern financial performance and creditworthiness criteria and increases the flexibility of regulations governing Title XI so as to allow MARAD to adapt loan terms that are appropriate to particular projects.
MARAD Seeks Information on Launch Barges. Every January, the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) surveys the domestic maritime industry to identify coastwise-qualified launch barges that are available to transport or install platform jackets on the Outer Continental Shelf. MARAD uses that information to assist in making determinations on whether non-coastwise qualified vessels can perform that work. If you own, operate, or plan to construct a launch barge in 2024, please contact MARAD using the contact information here.
Tax Credit Guidance Released for Offshore Wind Vessels. The Treasury Department has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on the implementation of the advanced manufacturing production tax credit, also known as section 45x of the Internal Revenue Code. Established by the Inflation Reduction Act, section 45x tax credits may be provided for the construction of offshore wind vessels. The NPRM defines offshore wind vessels as “any vessel that is purpose-built or retrofitted for purposes of the development, transport, installation, operation, or maintenance of offshore wind energy components.”
USCG Unveils New MMC Printing Format. During the December 2023 meetings of the National Merchant Marine Personnel Advisory Committee (N-MERPAC) and National Merchant Mariner Medical Advisory Committee (N-MEDMAC) the Coast Guard shared final details of its plan to move to a new format for printing Merchant Mariner Credentials (MMCs). MMCs will soon be printed on a single synthetic, tear-resistant 8.5” x 11” paperstock that has significant security features to prevent counterfeiting. The new style will incorporate visual elements of the current passport-style book, including the red cover page and identification page, and mariners can fold it in quarters to resemble the current passport style.
The new printing format, which N-MERPAC and N-MEDMAC brought before industry for feedback during their spring and fall 2023 meetings, will allow the Coast Guard to retire its existing error-prone printers and move to commercial printers that are cheaper, faster, and simpler to repair or replace. AWO will continue to support efforts that reduce the overall time it takes the National Maritime Center (NMC) to produce MMCs and will work to ensure the smooth transition of this process. If you have questions or would like to see mockups of the new MMC format that were shared with the AWO Mariner Credentialing Working Group, please contact Patrick Parsons.
FMP Announces Leadership Slate for 2024. On January 4, the Florida Maritime Partnership’s Board of Directors approved its new leadership slate for 2024. David Wood, Crowley Maritime Corporation, will serve as President; Christopher Smith, Tote Services, will serve as Vice President; Susan Allan, Overseas Shipholding Group, will serve as Treasurer; and AWO Vice President – Atlantic Region Brian Vahey will serve as Secretary. Modeled after the American Maritime Partnership, the FMP represents Florida’s diverse domestic maritime industry and works to promote the importance of the Jones Act with Florida’s federal and state lawmakers. “Florida is one of the most important maritime states in the country, and the Florida Maritime Partnership is one of AWO’s most important allies,” Brian said. “It’s an honor to be able to work more closely with such a dedicated group of industry leaders.”
AWO PAC Corner
AWO PAC and Inside Elections. AWO PAC has partnered with Inside Elections for another special edition, featuring analysis of special elections in Ohio and New York as well as a rating chart for congressional races.
AWO PAC is the connected political action committee for The American Waterways Operators and serves as the trade association’s separate segregated fund. As a trade association, AWO is prohibited from using general treasury funds or membership dues to make federal contributions. AWO is one of the most effective advocacy associations in Washington, DC, and relies on voluntary personal contributions to fund AWO PAC.

AWO PAC supports federal candidates who are champions of the U.S. tugboat, towboat and barge industry and who are leaders on issues important to our industry. AWO PAC is dedicated to protecting AWO members’ investments in the safest, most environmentally responsible and most economical mode of freight transportation and safeguarding the integrity of the Jones Act to protect the bottom lines of our members. AWO PAC may solicit contributions from individuals of a member company once the member representative gives AWO written prior approval.

AWO Requests Hearing on LA Draft Water Discharge General Permit. On behalf of members in Louisiana, AWO recently requested a hearing on the state’s draft Water Discharge General Permit for Vessel Cleaning, Repair, Fleeting, and Shipyards issued on November 3, 2023. Based on member feedback, AWO intends to request that the current sampling frequency listed in the draft be modified from once per event to monthly, consistent with the previously authorized permit in 2014. Please contact Mark Wright at (985) 222-5230 or with any questions.
AWO Partners with Marine Log for Tugs, Towboats and Barge Conference. AWO is excited to be the official association sponsor of Marine Log Magazine’s Tugs, Towboats and Barges (TTB) 2024 Conference, taking place March 6-7 in Mobile, AL. This two-day event brings together tug and towboat owners, operators, builders, designers, and more for informative sessions and quality networking. Learn more and register online.
AWO Announces Staff Promotions. AWO is excited to announce three staff promotions that were approved by the Executive Committee at its December meeting:
  • Al Romano to Vice President – Accounting & Finance;
  • Bradley Trammell to Senior Associate – Government Affairs; and
  • Deanna Wisniewski to Senior Manager – Public Affairs & Communications.
We thank Al, Bradley, and Deanna for their dedication, hard work and results on behalf of AWO members and congratulate them on their well-deserved promotions!
Mark Wright to Depart AWO. Mark Wright, who has served as AWO’s Vice President – Southern Region since 2010, has announced plans to leave AWO at the end of January to pursue new opportunities. AWO thanks Mark for his many years of service to members in the Southern Region and wishes him well in his next chapter.
The search for Mark’s successor will begin shortly. We will share the position description with members and welcome your referrals of top-flight candidates to fill this important role as the lead ambassador to AWO members and external stakeholders, including the Coast Guard and other governmental entities, in the Southern Region. In the meantime, all necessary staff resources will be available to assist Southern Region members during the transition. If you have any questions, please contact Jennifer Carpenter or Lynn Muench.
Join Us for the Annual Regional Meetings. Please join us for the upcoming Annual Meetings of the AWO regions! All AWO members are welcome to attend any of the meetings, regardless of geographic location or operational sector. Register on your Member Dashboard or on the AWO App. Contact Caitlin Clark with questions or if you need assistance.
Reminder: the hotel room block for the Combined Regions and Safety meetings in New Orleans is closing January 31. Book now to secure your room.
  • Combined Meeting of the Midwest, Ohio Valley & Southern Regions and AWO Safety Committees February 21 – 23 -- New Orleans, LA
  • Atlantic Region February 28 -- Savannah, GA
  • Pacific Region March 5 – 6 -- Sacramento, CA