Sunday, June 28, 2015

S 1611 Introduced – FY 2016 CG Authorization

Two weeks ago Sen. Thune (R,SD) introduced S 1611, the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2015. This is the Senate version of the annual authorization bill. Unlike the House version (HR 1987 which passed in the House last month) there are two sections in this bill that will effect maritime transportation of hazardous chemicals. They deal with fishing vessels and with enforcement of hazardous material transportation law.

Fishing Vessels

Section 303 of the bill would amend 46 USC 3702, addressing the carriage of liquid bulk dangerous cargoes by fishing vessels. It would add a new paragraph (c) to that section that would generally exempt fishing or fish tender vessels from the provisions of 46 USC Chapter 37 when those vessels are “engaged only in the fishing industry” {new §3702(c)(1)}. That exemption would not apply if “the vessel is carrying flammable or combustible liquid cargoes in bulk” {new §3702(c)(2)}.


Section 304 would add a new section to 49 USC Chapter 51, Transportation of Hazardous Materials. The new §5129 would require the Secretary of Transportation and the DHS Secretary to “establish policies and practices to ensure that the authorities set forth in this chapter are enforced in the same manner and to the same extent, and the civil and criminal penalties are assessed or recommended in the same manner and to the same extent”.

Markup Hearing

The bill was marked up by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on June 25th. A number of amendments were offered and accepted by voice vote, but only one may be of specific interest to readers of this blog. The amendment was offered by Sen. Peters (D,MI) and Sen. Johnson (R,WI) and would require a report to Congress on the assessment of the effectiveness of the oil spill response activities specific to the Great Lakes.

The bill was adopted by the Committee by voice vote.

Moving Forward

This bill will move to the full Senate, probably after the summer recess. There is a good chance that the bill will be considered as expeditiously as the House version was. The two versions would then be reconciled in Conference.

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