Oberstarand Abraham Named Great Lakes Legislators of the Year05/05:
Minnesota Congressman James L. Oberstar and Michigan Senator Spencer Abraham were named Great Lakes Legislators of the Year by the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force at a breakfast in Washington on April 28. Below are the news releases GLMTF issued to announce these awards:
Rep. James L. Oberstar
Washington, DC---Minnesota Congressman James L. Oberstar has been named Great Lakes House Legislator of the Year by the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force, a coalition of labor and management representing virtually every facet of Great Lakes shipping. The award recognizes Rep. Oberstars unwaivering commitment to domestic and international waterborne commerce on the Great Lakes during his 25-year career in the House of Representatives.
The Great Lakes Maritime Task Force presented the award to Congressman Oberstar at a gathering in Washington on April 28. "Our coalition has decided to honor a House and Senate member of the Great Lakes delegation on an annual basis, and there was never any question that Jim Oberstar had to be the first recipient in the House," said GLMTF President John D. Baker. "He is Mr. Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway in the House." Baker, who is also President of the ILAs Great Lakes District Council, added that Congressman Oberstar "commands the respect of every member of the House, regardless of party affiliation. When Jim Oberstar speaks, people listen."
George J. Ryan, Third Vice President of GLMTF and President of Lake Carriers Association, credited Oberstar with several major accomplishments in just the past few years. "When it looked like the icebreaker MACKINAW was going to be retired without an adequate replacement being assigned to the Great Lakes, Jim Oberstar went to bat for our region and not only kept the MACKINAW in service, but began the process of securing a new icebreaker to replace her. Because of Jims commitment to Great Lakes shipping and the iron ore miners and steelworkers who depend on those cargos our ships deliver during periods of ice cover, the House of Representatives has earmarked $128 million to build a new heavy icebreaker for the Great Lakes in FY2001. We still must win appropriation of those funds, but with Congressman Oberstar on watch, we know well reach our goal."
Ryan further noted that Congressman Oberstar played a leading role in blocking a proposed Navigational Assistance Tax (NAT) that would have imposed user charges for Aids to Navigation and icebreaking on the Great Lakes and other U.S. waterways. "Thanks to Jim Oberstar, the House has approved legislation declaring these essential Coast Guard services shall continue to be funded from general revenues."
The presentation ceremony also recognized Congressman Oberstars allegiance with American labor. "Jim Oberstar has always fought to make sure that domestic waterborne commerce creates jobs for American mariners and business opportunities for American ship operators by supporting the Jones Act," said Daniel L. Smith, 2nd Vice President of GLMTF and Vice President of American Maritime Officers. "The Jones Acts requirement that cargo moving between U.S. ports be carried in vessels that are U.S-owned, U.S.-built and U.S.-crewed is the cornerstone of American maritime policy and has produced a U.S.-Flag Great Lakes fleet second to none. No maritime nation, not even those that subsidize their national flag fleets, can boast of vessels as efficient as those flying the American flag on the Great Lakes."
While domestic cargo movement dominates the Great Lakes, Congressman Oberstar has long kept a watchful eye on the St. Lawrence Seaway to ensure that international commerce remains a key element of Great Lakes shipping. "Jim Oberstar is committed to the Seaway and its future," said John D. Baker. "He is constantly looking for ways to increase the efficiency of the Seaway so that the public ports in our region can fulfill their promise of importing and exporting goods that benefit our region."
In an important new initiative, Congressman Oberstar, along with Pennsylvania Congressman Borski, has introduced legislation to again fund operational and maintenance dredging of the nations deepdraft ports and waterways from general revenues. "This bill recognizes that a system of efficient ports and waterways benefits all Americans," said George J. Ryan. "Nationwide the Jones Act trades routinely top 1 billion tons. Virtually all our imports and exports move over water. The Harbor Services User Fee the administration wants to impose on waterborne commerce will so raise the cost of Great Lakes shipping that more than a little cargo will be diverted to the railroads and Canadian ports. This nation funded O&M dredging from general revenues until 1986 and thats the way it should be again. The Great Lakes Maritime Task Force pledges its full support in Jims campaign to return to a system that built the worlds finest system of ports and waterways."
Senator Spencer Abraham
Washington, DC---Michigan Senator Spencer Abraham has been named Great Lakes Senator of the Year by the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force, a coalition of labor and management representing virtually every facet of Great Lakes shipping. The award recognizes Senator Abrahams emergence as the voice of Great Lakes shipping in the Senate during his first term of office.
The Great Lakes Maritime Task Force presented the award to Senator Abraham at a gathering in Washington on April 28. "No one is more deserving of this award," said GLMTF President John D. Baker. "The administration proposed two new taxes on waterborne commerce last year, but with Spencer Abraham on watch in the Senate, both proposals were resoundingly rejected."
The taxes in question, the Navigational Assistance Tax (NAT) and the Harbor Services User Fee, would have dramatically increased the cost of moving cargo to and from Michigans many Great Lakes ports. "Spencer Abraham knows whats good for Great Lakes shipping is good for Michigan," declared Baker, President of the ILAs Great Lakes District Council. "Michigan has 39 deepdraft ports on the Great Lakes, eight more than the other seven Great Lakes states combined. These new and increased taxes would have hurt Michigans iron ore mining industry, the utilities that receive coal via the Lakes, the many limestone quarries and the international cargo moving through Detroit. The efficiency and thus the continued viability of these major employers depends on low cost and safe transportation on the Great Lakes."
George J. Ryan, Third Vice President of GLMTF and President of the Lake Carriers Association, further emphasized Sen. Abrahams role in defeating these proposals. "As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, Spencer Abraham was on the front line in the battle against the NAT. The icebreaking portion of this tax would have added $0.63 to the cost of moving a ton of iron ore from Marquette to the Rouge steel plant or coal from Superior, Wisconsin, to St. Clair at the beginning and end of the shipping season. Senator Abraham opposed this tax not only because of its negative impacts on Michigan industry, but because Coast Guard icebreakers have a dual mission of icebreaking in the Detroit and St. Clair rivers to minimize the potential for flooding."
Abrahams opposition to the proposed Harbor Services User Fee was another major accomplishment figuring in his selection as Great Lakes Senator of the Year. This tax would have increased the cost of shipping iron ore and coal on the Great Lakes by $0.20 a ton or more. This tax would have cost just one Michigan customer, Detroit Edison, more than $1.6 million in 1998 had it become law.
Another reason Abraham was selected for this honor was his staunch support of U.S.-Flag shipping and the Jones Act on the Great Lakes. The Jones Act requires that cargo moving between U.S. ports be carried in vessels that are U.S.-owned, -built and -crewed. "There have been proposals to allow foreign ships into our domestic trades, but Senator Abraham set the record straight concerning the Great Lakes," said Daniel L. Smith, 2nd Vice President of GLMTF and Vice President of American Maritime Officers. "He broadcast the message that the Lakes Jones Act fleet is the pacesetter for the dry-bulk trades. No other maritime nation, not even those that subsidize their national flag fleets, can boast of vessels as efficient and safe as those flying the American flag on the Great Lakes."
GLMTF also applauded Senator Abraham for his commitment to the Great Lakes environment. Recognizing the importance of Michigans recreational and fishing industries, Senator Abraham authored language directing the U.S. Coast Guard to ensure compliance with a policy that limits vessel washdown of di minimis amounts of non-toxic cargo residue to those waters where there is no conceivable impact on spawning or fishing.
Founded in 1992, the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force is dedicated to promoting domestic and international shipping on the Great Lakes. Its membership represents both labor and management from ship operators, shipboard unions, longshoremen, Great Lakes shipyards, dredging companies and others involved in waterborne commerce. The Michigan-based members of GLMTF are the Great Lakes office of the Seafarers International Union; Lake Michigan Car Ferry Service; Lake Michigan Contractors; Luedtke Engineering Company; Nicholson Terminal & Dock Co.; Michigan Maritime Trades Port Council; and Pere Marquette Shipping Company. GLMTF is considered one of the leading advocates of the Jones Act and other U.S. Cabotage laws which reserve domestic waterborne commerce to vessels that are U.S.-owned, -built and -crewed.
Visit the Lake Carriers' Association for complete details