In a letter to Obama, a bipartisan group of 18 senators urges him to support “a robust shipbuilding budget and policies.”
Along with expanding construction of commercial vessels, the letter calls for additional shipbuilding funds to help the
Navy reach its goal of a 313-ship fleet. Here, workers at Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, Norfolk, Va., complete the
final hull welds of the Virginia-class submarine New Mexico May 18.
taxation, Evans said. Bills were introduced in the last
Congress by Rep. Jim McDermott and Sen. Maria
Cantwell, both D-Wash., to allow the shippers to bring
that income back if it was invested in domestic ship
construction. That proposal went nowhere then, but
could be included in the stimulus package as a way to
create employment in shipyards or on American vessels, Evans said.
The chairman of the tax-writing Senate Finance
Committee, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., told reporters
in December that he wanted to use the economic
recovery package to provide tax incentives for energy
and infrastructure development. Baucus’ counterpart,
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles
Rangel, D-N. Y., also expressed his intention to support
Obama’s agenda with tax policies. Neither specifically
mentioned maritime interests, however.
Domestic shippers also are hoping for some relief
from what they consider “double taxation” on the
Harbor Maintenance Fee. Under current rules, cargo
brought into a U.S. port in international trade pays the
maintenance fee. But if that cargo is loaded aboard an
American-flagged vessel for transport to another U.S.
port, the fee is applied again.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., introduced legislation last session to prevent that second fee, and could try again this year.
Although the Democrats are expected to move aggressively on environmental and energy issues, some of K&L’s
experts suggested that the maritime industry, particularly
short-sea shippers who operate barges on the rivers and
canals in the Midwest and Southeast, could benefit by
showing that they can improve energy efficiency and help
the environment by taking trucks off the highways.
They also pointed out that the expected focus on
energy independence could result in greater demand
for U.S.-built shuttle tankers and vessels to support
offshore production. That would be nullified, however,
if the Democrats reinstate the recently loosened ban on
One issue with which the industry does not expect to
see action from Congress is the regulation of ballast water
discharge in domestic waters. That issue now comes under
the Clean Water Act and has created concerns about pollution and invasive species emitted in the discharge.
Because Congress has not been willing to impose a federal pre-emption, the industry fears it will have to deal with
more than 30 different state and local rules. ■