House panel examines maritime safety, environmental regulations

Courtesy of Morguefile

The U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure's Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee held a hearing on Thursday to discuss the state of maritime transportation safety and stewardship regulations.

U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), chairman of the subcommittee, said in his opening comments that the hearing aimed to review regulatory practices put forward and implemented by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), covering cruise-vessel safety and security, towing-vessel safety, and ballast water and incidental discharges, among other standards. 

Hunter said the USCG and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have separate regulations regarding ballast-water discharges. As a result, there is confusion regarding which regulations should be followed by which vessels. Another difference Hunter notes is that the USCG regulations allow extensions to deadlines, but that EPA regulations do not. Hunter also said many states have implemented their own regulations on water discharges.

Congress has recently passed two Coast Guard funding bills that provide for new maritime regulations, and in 2014, the International Maritime Organization approved changes to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) involving container weights. The Coast Guard implements SOLAS.

“If we want to grow our economy and remain a world power capable of defending ourselves and our allies, we must work together to strengthen and preserve our maritime industry,” Hunter said.

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