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WRDA, Coast Guard and MARAD authorizations included in NDAA

December 18, 2022   Marine Log

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WRDA has been tagged onto NDAA

Image: USACE


As we reported earlier, the massive National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2023 (NDAA), now awaiting President Biden’s signature, serves as a legislative vehicle for a number of non-defense authorizations, with the Coast Guard authorization, Maritime Administration, and Water Resources Development (WRDA) authorization being tacked onto it.


Maritime trade associations seemed to like most of what they found in the 4,408 pages of the legislation.


“SCA applauds the passage of the FY23 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which represents a critical investment into our national defense and domestic security,” said Matthew Paxton, President of the Shipbuilders Council of America (SCA). “The $4.7 billion increase authorized in the Navy’s shipbuilding account. as well as provisions that support our U.S. Coast Guard and fund opportunities for the expansion of the U.S. shipyard industrial base and workforce development, demonstrates that Congress recognizes the industry’s capacity and readiness to support the Navy fleet.”


However, while the SCA says the FY23 NDAA is a positive step toward national defense assets, it notes that the shipyard industry has been challenged by volatile fleet mix numbers and projected ship repair workloads for the Navy.


“The single most critical factor in the capacity of the shipbuilding and repair industrial base today is people,” noted Paxton. “The most effective mechanism to ensure that the industrial base is stable and resilient is through a consistent demand signal and a recognition that the cost of doing business has changed.


“The U.S. new construction and repair shipyards that provide 650,000 American jobs with direct economic impact in every Congressional district in the nation will meet a demand signal that is clear, consistent and predictable. Shipyards are not incentivized today to invest in facilities in an unpredictable environment with routine shifts in fleet size and mix. Moreover, once these skilled people are lost. as production lines are stopped and started, it is more and more difficult to replace them.”



The Waterways Council notes that WRDA 2022, which remains on a biennial schedule in Congress, authorizes 33 Chief’s Reports and includes a policy provision that makes permanent the 65% general revenues/35% Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF) cost-share for lock and dam construction and major rehabilitation projects, a win for Waterways Council, Inc. (WCI) and its members. 65%/35% was established in WRDA 2020 as the cost-sharing formula that was set to expire in 2031, at which time the cost-share would return to the former formula of a 50%/50% split between the general fund and IWTF. The 65%/35% ratio would allow IWTF dollars to help finance more projects than under the 50%/50% cost-share.


In addition to removing the cost-share sunset provision, WRDA 2022 provided flexibility to manage the Houston Ship Channel Barge Lanes. Originally authorized at 12 feet, these barge lanes have presented navigation challenges for mariners on that part of the system. Through working with both committees and the Corps, WCI successfully included language in WRDA 2022 that will allow the Corps to dredge these channels to a depth deemed safe for navigation.


“Waterways Council, Inc. thanks the House and Senate for passing WRDA 2022 and appreciates its continued support of the biennial process for this important legislation,” said Tracy Zea, WCI President and CEO. “This final version comes months after negotiations to reconcile House- and Senate- passed versions, and WCI thanks the chairs and ranking members, as well as all committee members for their dedication to passing WRDA. The removal of the sunset provision is critical to the nation to ensure continued reliability of our inland waterways as a transportation conduit, moving products all Americans rely on.”



The American Waterways Operators (AWO) says that the NDAA includes a number of significant provisions that represent major victories for it and its coalition partners, including the American Maritime Partnership and Waterways Council, Inc., on top industry priorities. Among other provisions, the legislation:


  • Significantly tightens the Jones Act waiver process, eliminating the use of blanket waivers and requiring the determination that a waiver is necessary in the interest of national defense to be made by the President, not the Secretary of Homeland Security;
  • Allows ATBs with automated engine rooms to retain previously approved crewing levels, reversing a Coast Guard interpretation that required these vessels to carry additional engineers;
  • Eliminates language passed by the House earlier this year that would have impeded the flexibility of vessel owners to use emergency response resources not listed in their vessel response plans;
  • Eliminates language passed by the House earlier this year that would have impeded the flexibility of vessel owners to use emergency response resources not listed in their vessel response plans;
  • Requires the Coast Guard to study the creation of a credentialed mariner database;
  • Permanently changes the cost share for inland waterways infrastructure projects to 65% general Treasury-35% Inland Waterways Trust Fund; and,
  • Establishes a Corps of Engineers regional dredging pilot program sought by AWO to give the Corps more flexibility to respond quickly to changing river conditions requiring emergency dredging.

The bill also contains new regulations to prevent and respond to sexual assault and harassment aboard commercial vessels. AWO says that it provided extensive input to ensure the new requirements are both effective and practical, but comments that “while the final language represents a significant improvement over earlier drafts, additional advocacy will be needed in the 118th Congress to address ongoing industry concerns about surveillance equipment requirements for oceangoing vessels with accommodations for more than 10 crewmembers.”