More than 115 officers and representatives from U.S.-flag shipping companies, maritime labor unions and maritime organizations and associations visited 169 Congressional offices during the ninth annual Maritime Industry Congressional Sail-In. This was a record-setting event for the most offices visited during a Sail-In.
Industry leaders met to discuss the importance of the commercial shipping industry and America’s civilian merchant mariners to the nation’s economy, military and homeland security. The group highlighted programs and policies crucial to the Department of Defense, such as the Maritime Security Program, the Jones Act and U.S.-flag cargo preference shipping programs and that any emphasis on buying and hiring American should include ship American.
The Sail-In coincided with congressional negotiations on the Omnibus spending bill and the eventual passage and signing of the bill by the President on March 22. As the final bill contained legislative proposals supportive of the U.S. Maritime Industry, having industry representatives there to tout the value of the industry was particularly important. The bill includes needed appropriations for water resource projects, dredging, beach nourishment and coastal restoration.
The $1.3 trillion Omnibus includes:
- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works program receives funding of $6.8 billion, an increase of $789 million from the FY17 levels. This includes $3 billion for navigation projects and studies, with $1.4 billion from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and full use of revenues from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, and $1.9B for flood and storm damage reduction projects, an increase of $215M above FY17.
- The Investigations account would receive $123 million; Construction at $2.085 billion; Mississippi River and Tributaries at $425 million; Operation and Maintenance at $3.630 billion; and $200 million for Regulatory.
- The legislation includes specific instructions for evaluating studies and projects that would be eligible for the additional funding provided, as well as directions for new starts.
The Supplemental (signed into law February 9) includes:
- $89.3 billion in emergency disaster relief aid for the 2017 hurricanes, wildfires, and other natural disasters.
- $17.4 billion of this is for the Corps to make repairs to Corps infrastructure and to undertake dredging and other activities. Of this $17.4 billion, $15 billion is for repairing and rehabilitating flood and storm damage reduction projects (including shore protection projects), $135 million for investigations, $770 million for the Mississippi River and Tributaries Account (repairing facilities along the Mississippi River), $810 million for Flood Control, and $608 million derived from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for operations and maintenance navigation dredging projects.