Welcome to the USGLSA Website
Welcome to the web site of the United States Great Lakes Shipping Association. I hope you will find this to be a source of information about our organization as well as have it serve as a useful informational tool for our membership and other interested parties.
Comments from the Executive Director
Spring, 2015 – Navigation Season Opens
The official opening 2015 Lakes/Seaway Navigation Season is now upon us. Good wishes to all for a safe, productive and rewarding Season.
Business forecasts appear to indicate that 2015 could be quite positive again for Lakes and Seaway trades. Thus, much interest in getting a strong start. While the System areas experienced severe snowy and frigid temperatures over the Winter months and earlier forecasts have warned of a repeat of the difficult times during early 2014, others have now moderated to some extent. In reality, there are areas where things are improving faster than in other places, but we all know from experience how sometimes small bottlenecks can bring major headaches. As with the opening of each Season, our outstanding United States Coast Guard is working closely, 24/7, with Canadian Coast Guard and the vessel operators to coordinate and implement plans designed to provide the best possible assistance as the Lakes vessels which are already moving, and the international flag vessels which are on their way with the opening of the Seaway System April 2. Some news which will further challenge the mission this Spring, however, has been the recent announcement that the U.S. Coast Guard's premier ice breaking asset, MACKINAW is currently out of service with some serious and still not fully diagnosed technical/mechanical problems, with return to service not clear at this time. That development will require some redeployment plans which is nothing new to this challenging and always rapidly changing operating period. There will be continuation of improved queuing guidelines for convoys developed last year, but locations to the North, such as Thunder Bay are still being assessed and how that looks will impact performance. The U.S. Coast Guard Office of Pilotage has been working with the Pilotage Districts, USGLSA and the Shipping Federation of Canada over the past year to seek better communication, contingency planning and improved manpower availability when required during these difficult periods. We remain hopeful those and all other efforts will bear fruit. Let's see how the weather and ice condition forecasts unfold in comparison to what we are hearing and observing now! Mother Nature can be fickle and throw some mean curves, so just as always, we will just deal as responsively as possible with whatever comes.
U.S.Coast Guard Pilotage Rates for 2015
In a recent Notice of Final Rule Making, USCG has established pilotage rates for the 2015 Season. Effective August 1, 2015, Season 2014 rates will be increased on average 10 percent and effective at the beginning of the season, accelerated capital surcharges averaging an additional 10 percent will be imposed. This was a significant departure from an initial NPRM which proposed an average 2.5 percent rate increase only for 2015. In the Final Rulemaking, it was explained that the methodology established in Appendix A of USCG rate making guidelines was defective as one of the benchmarks no longer worked as designed. Accordingly, the Office of Lakes Pilotage exercised a discretionary provision contained n Appendix A called Step 7 to make an independent analysis of other factors and set what it determined to be appropriate. In this case, the Lakes Pilotage Office considered Canadian pilotage compensation levels and some additional independent financial analysis of the revenue streams of the U.S. pilots' organizations which it determined warranted the increases. Because this approach has now been employed in two successive annual rate making cycles, USGLSA has been asking USCG to take steps to promptly revisit and revise this methodology issue and create a fact based analysis system which can be predictable and not implemented continuously through the discretionary power of the Lakes Pilotage Office.
More Coast Guard News
It has been announced that final arrangements are being worked out to provide for a posting at USCG D-9 Cleveland Headquarters of a USCG representative of the Lakes Pilotage Office. This action which is expected to assist in better coordination between the Washington DC based Pilotage Office and the Lakes Region has been suggested for some time by USGLSA and others. We applaud the efforts of D-9 Commander RADM Fred Midgette and USCG for moving positively on this initiative.
Federal Ballast Water and other Discharge Legislation
Recently, Federal legislation has been proposed in both the House (H.R. 980) and Senate S.373) which is called the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA). Currently, ballast water is regulated by the EPA, Coast Guard and a variety of States often in highly different ways; all of which creates a very confusing and often contrary set of regulatory requirements. VIDA would serve to place all ballast water and other selected discharge regulations under the sole jurisdiction of USCG. USGLSA supports this initiative.
Proposed APHIS User Inspection Fees
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has published a Notice of Public Rule Making proposing to institute some very steep and new Agricultural Quarantine Inspection (AQI) Fees covering vessel and other modes of transportation involving U.S. border crossings. A large group of affected carriers and affiliated trade associations including USGLSA have joined in opposing the size and application of newly proposed methodologies which in some cases hold the possibility of increases by extraordinary levels. For example, vessels calling at ports multiple times in the Lakes during a navigation season currently have established caps on the number of times the fee would be imposed. Those caps are sought to be removed, having the effect under comparable circumstances of raising fees by 66 percent on average or more depending on number of calls newly assessed. The group has argued that while the inspections are a vital part of assuring the absence of invasive pests, the charges are of a size and nature requiring more assessment and which did not engage stakeholders and how this might be implemented more smoothly. Through these efforts, legislation has recently been introduced in the House of Representatives (H.R. 1091) by Congresswoman Federica Wilson of FL which seeks to halt the implementation of the fees and instead directing the Secretary of Agriculture to work with stakeholders to develop alternate proposals through joint discussions.
FYI - New Lakes Profile Information Now Available
Following up on prior Studies conducted by the Martin & Associates Group addressing the economic impact of Lakes/Seaway shipping on the U.S. and Canadian economies and a comparative study of vessel operations vs. other modes of transportation, a third Study has been released. That Study reports on the amount of infrastructure investment that exists in the Lakes/Seaway industries. What is remarkable is how much the private enterprise sector has invested and continues to invest in this industry. It is not only governments. Copies of all three of these repots can be found at www.marinedelivers.com Go to the Resources tab.
USGLSA Leadership News – Larry Del Regno elected President, Aaron Bensinger elected Secretary and Bob Audy, Treasurer. Same District Directors.
At the Annual Meeting of Members of USGLSA held in Cleveland March 26, Larry Del Regno of World Shipping/Cleveland was elected President. Larry has served at World for many years, and has been involved in USGLSA activities during that period. Larry succeeds Tom Gierszal of Columbus Shipping and Trading/Cleveland who was elected on March of 2010. Tom will remain actively involved in USGLSA work, but now in a less formal way. Everyone at USGLSA thanks Tom for his strong leadership and service during his term. Aaron Bensinger of InterShip, Inc., Griffith, IN was elected Secretary and Bob Audy of World Shipping/Detroit was elected Treasurer. Finally, our District Directors were all re-elected; Dan Sydow of Daniels Shipping/Duluth, Steve Connor of World Shipping/Detroit, Jackie Csiszar of World Shipping/Cleveland, and Rick Laurion of Benchmark Marine/Chicago.
Looking to 2015
Once the weather related uncertainties of 2015 are behind us, we look forward to a solid shipping season and we wish everyone safe and efficient transits. The USGLSA will seek to serve the interests of its agency members by assessing events and issues which may affect the operations of the Agencies themselves and equally important, the vessel operators our agent members serve on our Great Lakes. We will continue to provide a voice, individually and in concert with other stakeholders and their representatives on the U.S. Lakes as well in the Seaway System for those who operate in these waters.
Stuart H. Theis
April 7, 2015
Mr. Theis, who has served as Executive Director since April 2007, is an attorney and businessman with prior associations at Cleveland, Ohio based M. A. Hanna Company and Oglebay Norton Company. At Hanna, he held a variety of legal/operational positions including Corporate Vice President with responsibilities for Hanna's Great Lakes/St Lawrence Seaway and Ocean Marine vessel and dock operations in the U. S. and Canada. While at Oglebay Norton, Mr. Theis served as President of the Company's Great Lakes fleet and dock operations. Mr. Theis is a member of the American Bureau of Shipping and serves as a member on two U. S. Coast Guard Advisory Committees, the Great Lakes Pilotage Advisory Committee and the National Maritime Security Advisory Committee.