Comments from the Executive Director

The 2017 Navigation Season for the international flag fleets trading in the U.S. Great Lakes was quite successful and hence the Agent members of USGLSA were busy as well.

Indeed, Ship Calls reported by USGLSA Agents were the highest since 2006. Weather conditions at the opening of the Season were good and a solid season ensued. Then, with a severe cold snap at the end of December and into January until the mid-month closing of locks, ice conditions did quickly set in and began to present some operational challenges on board and shore side. However, joint U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard ice breaking operations were well coordinated so that assets and personnel were prepared and positioned to do the excellent job they did. Our appreciation to those dedicated teams and their tireless work when called upon.

Higher water levels in the Lakes contributed to full cargo shipments although as is often the case, good news for one is maybe not so much for someone else. Water levels reportedly contributed to damage of some shore line properties around the Lakes. In cooperation with local communities and U.S. Coast Guard, vessels voluntarily reduced speeds in rivers and channels in many locations to help alleviate the situation whenever possible and safe.

Also, there are divisive disagreements over procedures and the governance of the important Coast Guard Great Lakes Pilotage Advisory Committee (GLPAC). USGLSA has joined with other affected groups to continue to urge U.S Coast Guard to seek to reform these matters internally if at all possible; the sooner the better. In addition to seeking to change arcane methodology and excessive discretionary boundaries, USCG needs to better control the seemingly unending financial and operational demands of the pilots as costs for the service continue to skyrocket in the last few years. To fail to change the process of management of Lakes pilotage as currently conducted, we believe, creates a dangerous economic threat to the long term vitality of the international flag trades in the Lakes and thereby the economies of the Regions in the U.S. they serve. There is empirical evidence suggesting that observation, but of course, it is disregarded by the pilots. The observation also may be partly masked by present robust activity, but no thanks to increasing pilotage expenses. Safe and effective operation of the system can be achieved through a more balanced administration of the service under existing regulatory authority but more may ultimately prove to be needed. Serious reform can and must be embraced. All of this to manage the activities of approximately 45 mariners which make up the entire pool of U.S. pilots available in the Great Lakes. Makes one wonder.

USGLSA, in part through its participation as a member of the National Organization of Maritime Organizations (NAMO), joined with government agencies including Customs and Border Protection, (CBP – expedited clearance protocols, manning and growing passenger service in the Lakes), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA¬≠ Disaster responses and navigational matters), U.S. Coast Guard (USCG – Port Management, Cyber Security Challenges and Ballast Water Management), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE – Dredging and other infrastructure improvements). Also, USGLSA worked through alliances with other individual maritime organizations including American Great Lakes Ports Association, Shipping Federation of Canada and Green Marine on issues touching on the operations of USGLSA Agent’s client/principals.

Organizationally, a very important agent member of USGLSA, Henning Christiansen of C&M Shipping/Chicago has informed us of his decision to retire at the end of the 2017 Season. Henning served as President of USGLSA for many years and has served the industry with great distinction. We wish you all the best, Henning.

Looking to the 2018 Navigation Season, preliminary indications are that it should be another reasonably rewarding year. Let’s hope we can make progress on some of the issues which still need to be resolved to help improve the competitiveness of our Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway System which our USGLSA agents will remain ready to serve.

Finally, a note of personal thanks to each of the USGLSA agents and their respective organizations for their support of my activities during the year. Acting in the role to report and advocate on behalf of the member agents and their vessel operator clients continues to be a distinct professional privilege. Also, special thanks to Joan Roback, our business administrator and keeper of the books and records to be sure all is always in order and to Warren Marwedel for his always valuable legal wisdom and advice.

–Stuart H. Theis

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 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.