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The House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a hearing on a number of important maritime issues, highlighting what it considers to be deficiencies in the administration’s proposed U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) budget, criticizing ballast regulations from the USCG and Environmental Protection Agency, delays in the processing of merchant mariner credentials and pointing out the problems with crew fatigue.

According to Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), who chairs the subcommittee, the issues involved are extremely important. “Maritime commerce is essential to the U.S. economy,” he observed. “While regulations must address concerns related to safety, security, and stewardship, they must also balance the importance of maintaining the free flow of maritime commerce.

“Domestic shipping alone is responsible for over 500,000 American jobs and $100 billion in annual economic output. In addition, 90 percent of all global trade and over 25 percent of our gross domestic product moves via the sea. With the economy still in a fragile state and unemployment at record levels, it is imperative the federal government foster an atmosphere where our maritime industry can compete and expand.”

LoBiondo and others on the subcommittee were particularly critical of the administration’s proposed budget since it cuts 4 percent from current spending levels on USCG activities.  As Rep. John Mica (R-FL), who chairs the full Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, noted, the 4 percent overall cut “is the first time in over a decade that a president proposes to reduce funding for the Coast Guard.  These cuts have made me gravely concerned.”

The MTD has called for adequate funding for the USCG including the modernization of the agency’s aging auxiliary fleet.