Congress passes NDAA, including major wins for AWO, maritime industry

The Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on December 15, following House passage on December 8. The Coast Guard authorization, Maritime Administration, and Water Resources Development bills were included in the bill, which now heads to President Biden’s desk for signature. The bill includes a number of significant provisions that represent major victories for AWO and coalition partners including the American Maritime Partnership and Waterways Council, Inc., on top industry priorities. Among other provisions, the NDAA:
  • Significantly tightens the Jones Act waiver process, eliminating the use of blanket waivers and requiring the determination that a waiver is necessary in the interest of national defense to be made by the President, not the Secretary of Homeland Security;
  • Allows ATBs with automated engine rooms to retain previously approved crewing levels, reversing a problematic Coast Guard interpretation that required these vessels to carry additional engineers;
  • Eliminates language passed by the House earlier this year that would have impeded the flexibility of vessel owners to use emergency response resources not listed in their vessel response plans;
  • Requires the Coast Guard to study the creation of a credentialed mariner database;
  • Permanently changes the cost share for inland waterways infrastructure projects to 65% general Treasury-35% Inland Waterways Trust Fund; and,
  • Establishes a Corps of Engineers regional dredging pilot program sought by AWO to give the Corps more flexibility to respond quickly to changing river conditions requiring emergency dredging.
The bill also contains new regulations to prevent and respond to sexual assault and harassment aboard commercial vessels. AWO provided extensive input to ensure the new requirements are both effective and practical; while the final language represents a significant improvement over earlier drafts, additional advocacy will be needed in the 118th Congress to address ongoing industry concerns about surveillance equipment requirements for oceangoing vessels with accommodations for more than 10 crewmembers.
AWO thanks all the members who contributed to this shared legislative victory for our industry! Your grassroots advocacy was crucial to achieving these hard-won results. For more information, please contact Craig Montesano.