The U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill to extend spending levels for the Coast Guard and reauthorize the Maritime Administration.
Congressman Rick Larsen (D-Wa) led the passage of the Coast Guard bill in early December. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) and Rep. John Mica (R-FL), was signed into law by President Obama on December 20.
"This bill gives the Guard the resources they need to provide security and safety on our coasts,” Larsen said in a press release. “In a coastal state like Washington, a strong economy needs a safe and secure maritime environment. This bill will help the Coast Guard and maritime industry thrive.”
The Coast Guard plans to purchase 180 Response Boat-Mediums with the allocated funds. According to the release, these boats are used for search and rescue, safety and security operations. Some of the fleet is being constructed by Kvichak Marine Industries in Larsen's home state of Washington.
"This legislation will create jobs in the vital shipbuilding industry by taking steps towards improving our icebreaker fleet and finishing the program of record for the Response Boat-Medium," Larsen said.
The House-Senate agreement prohibits the decommissioning of the two icebreakers that the previous House-passed bill supported.
“Maintaining an icebreaker fleet protects American commerce and our national security, and creates hundreds of jobs in Northwest Washington. We should not cede this important region to international competitors,” he continued.
Larsen says that the bill will help protect the environment as well. Title VI of this legislation reauthorizes the Marine Debris Research, Reduction and Prevention Act.
"More and more marine debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami continues to wash up on the shores of Pacific Coast states," Larsen said. "It is important that we reauthorize the Marine Debris Act to ensure that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has the authority it needs to work with the states to address this serious threat."
According to the fact sheet, the bill's reauthorization of the Maritime Administration as the U.S. Department of Transportation's arm of waterborne transportation is an important move. The Maritime Administration is charged with shipping, shipbuilding, port operations, vessel operations, national security, environment, and maintaining the health of the merchant marine. The Maritime Administration is allocated $295.8 million in 2013 for its national security duties.
The bill states that the Administration shall promote the U.S. maritime industry while providing environmental and technical assistance for new marine technologies.
According to the release, Washington shipbuilders will benefit from the reauthorization because it works to integrate waterborne transportation with the full transportation system.