Success for Great Lakes maritime transportation in fiscal year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act

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The following article was released by the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force, a coalition of which American Maritime Officers is a member.

CLEVELAND, OHIO - Thanks to the efforts of the Great Lakes Congressional Delegation, major milestones were reached with the passage of the James M. Inhofe National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2023.

The bipartisan, bicameral legislation authorized $350 million for the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) acquisition of a new heavy Great Lakes icebreaker and proposes a Great Lakes-icebreaking performance standard instead of the USCG's current tiered waterway standard that is limited to only reporting on four small connecting Great Lakes waterways and not the open Lakes themselves. In addition, the Government Accountability Office will be tasked with studying the effectiveness of the USCG's icebreaking mission on the Great Lakes and resources needed to improve the facilitation of the winter maritime supply chain. Over the past ten years, the lack of adequate icebreaking on the Great Lakes has caused the loss of over 10,000 jobs and $2 billion to the economy. In addition, ice jam flooding in the Great Lakes region has become extreme due to more frequent polar vortexes.

"This is a big win for the Fourth Sea Coast. Finally, there is recognition that the USCG is not adequately resourced to facilitate critical winter navigation on the Great Lakes. The North American economy and our national security are dependent on the raw materials, like iron ore, that need to move effectively to maintain the nation's steel production," stated Jim Weakley, president of the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force.

Another key piece in the legislation was the reauthorization of the new large navigational lock in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Due to inflation and other economic factors, the construction cost of the new lock nearly tripled, requiring Congress to add language increasing the authorized amount. The importance of the new lock project cannot be overstated with eighty million tons of cargo, valued at $6 billion and supporting 123,000 jobs passing through the vital piece of infrastructure each year. It is clear that everyone in government recognizes the importance of the new lock and the economic benefits associated with its construction.

We applaud all the efforts the Great Lakes Congressional Delegation put forth to get these key provisions included in the National Defense Authorization Act.

About the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force

The Great Lakes Maritime Task Force, with nearly 80 members, is the largest coalition to speak for the Great Lakes Navigation System. Advocating for domestic and international shipping, its members represent labor and management from U.S.-flag vessel operators, shipboard and longshore unions, port authorities, cargo shippers, terminal operators, shipyards, and other Great Lakes interests. The Great Lakes commercial maritime industry supports more than 147,000 American jobs in eight Great Lakes states and generates more than $25 billion in economic activity.

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