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
A REVIEW OF 2016
As another Navigation Season for the Lakes/Seaway international flag fleets has ended with the closure of the Seaway System on December 31, 2016, it looks like the 2016 results were not too bad over all. Actually, this past Season ties a previous record for longest number of days (286) the System remained open. Reported tonnage for all cargo through the Seaway in 2016 was slightly lower versus 2015 (3.1 percent) with general cargo slightly higher versus 2015 (1.02 percent). Total ship calls serviced by USGLSA members were also correspondingly a bit higher than 2015.
Pilotage rate making methodology and resulting rate levels continue to represent a serious financial burden and challenge to the international flag vessel operators served by USGLSA agents. As earlier reported in this place, the U.S. Coast Guard 2016 Pilotage Rate Making Final Rule was challenged in U.S. Federal Court by a coalition of operators and trade associations in which USGLSA continues to take an active role. While no final court decision on that matter to date which covers the 2016 season now ended, USCG decided to go ahead and propose more new pilotage rates for the upcoming 2017 Navigation Season which, if implemented, will be higher than the currently challenged 2016 levels. Despite pleas from industry to postpone/suspend the 2017 proceedings pending the outcome of the litigation over the many of the same issues challenged in the 2016 rate proceeding, USCG indicated that it will be publishing a Final Rule for 2017, creating a potential for unnecessary compounding of uncertainties.
Pilotage has become a major cost component in the Lakes/Seaway voyage cost for international flag vessel operators. While we support the idea of comprehensive reform of the current pilotage rate making methodology, we believe that the loss of ability to reference U.S. pilot compensation to compensation paid U.S. Lakes deck officers (primarily first mates) has been a singular contributing element in seeing pilot wages skyrocket as they have in recent years. USCG claims that such prior reference numbers are now unavailable, apparently having been declared “confidential” by parties to the collective bargaining agreements covering these wages. We will continue to urge that a more rigorous and determined effort be made to obtain this relevant domestic information (with reasonably protection of the nature of the data if necessary) and especially not to alternatively seek to employ other highly distinguishable benchmarks for pilotage in other geographical locations as has been sought by some.
USGLSA does indeed become involved in matters in addition to pilotage. Other developments over the last year in which USGLSA has been engaged have included its participation in the work to pass the Federal Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA) which would create a vastly more sensible means of regulating ballast water management. This legislation failed to be adopted during the most recent Session of Congress, but already in the current new Session, the bill has been reintroduced through the efforts of many determined groups including the American Waterways Operators. USGLSA actively supports these efforts and is already participating with many others in written communications to Congressional leadership regarding the reintroduction of the new VIDA bill.
Independently and often through its active membership participation in an organization called the National Association of Maritime Organizations (NAMO), USGLSA has followed and engaged in developments regarding:
• The now finalized “Strategy for the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Maritime Transportation System” created and published by the Conference of Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers. This document contains a powerful statement and platform for building the Lakes/Seaway Region and contains many specific areas and suggestions which should be of great use to business, legislative and regulatory leadership.
• Ballast water developments including the adoption of the IMO Ballast Water Management Convention after the requisite number of countries adopted the measures which is scheduled to become effective September 8, 2017. U.S Coast Guard will continue to enforce specific U.S. requirements which are generally more demanding. Very encouraging related news is that USCG has begun to issue type approvals for Ballast Water Management (BWM) Systems which will begin to provide confidence to shipyards and vessel operators seeking to install BWM Systems in existing and new build ships.
• Cyber Security awareness, management and defense remains a topic of serious importance to industry, business, law enforcement, military and the public at large. USCG is tasked with the maritime aspect which alone, appears to be a daunting challenge. Lots more still to come as USCG dives in to this.
• Continuing attention to dredging which is embodied in the most recent legislative version, the Water Resources Development Act of 2016. Through the efforts of many which USGLSA have supported directly and through NAMO, an albeit slow path of improvement seems to continue to allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge Great Lakes ports, harbors and rivers with funding despite the fierce competition which exists among regions for this vital service.
• Finally, an event to recall in the year 2016 was the 60th Anniversary of the establishment of USGLSA. To honor of that event, a brief history of our Association was prepared which remains posted on the USGLSA web site, www.usglsa.org. Those of us currently responsible for the heritage of this great organization remain committed to the operators which are served by USGLSA agents just as it was 60 years ago.
So far, warmer weather in the Lakes Regions looks like it may allow for a robust opening of the 2017 Navigation Season. Let’s hope so. USGLSA agents will be there, ready to serve.
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 has recently served as a member on two U. S. Coast Guard Advisory Committees, the Great Lakes Pilotage Advisory Committee and the National Maritime Security Advisory Committee.