4/5/2017: Connecticut Maritime Association’s 2017 Shipping Conference – Remarks from Vice Adm. Charles Ray, deputy commandant for operations

Editor’s note: In March, senior Coast Guard leaders had the opportunity to give remarks on various topics during the Connecticut Maritime Association’s Shipping 2017 conference and expo in Stamford, Connecticut.

For those of you who were unable to attend, Maritime Commons is providing a condensed version of each set of remarks in a four-part series. These remarks are not ‘as delivered’ but provide a condensed version of the panel highlights in the ‘panel-conversational’ style.

 Third in the series is a keynote address by Vice Admiral Charles Ray, deputy commandant for operations. In his remarks, Ray talks about the ever-changing maritime environment and how Coast Guard regulations will continue to protect the environment but also support the Marine Transportation System.

Thank you to the Connecticut Maritime Association for inviting me. It is an honor to be here among maritime industry leaders from around the world.

The theme of this conference is “Capitalizing on a Changing Industry.” When we talk of change, I am sure it is no surprise to those of you in this room that these are interesting times for any agency of the Federal Government. However, I want to reassure you that the United States Coast Guard remains focused, as we have for 226 years, on ensuring the safety, security and stewardship of maritime trade and global shipping, and on addressing head on the challenges of global governance.

The Coast Guard has been around for 226 years and has a broad array of authorities and capabilities, so much so, that it is sometimes a challenge to summarize what we stand for. So, I just want to narrow it down to three primary missions: national security, border security and economic security.

We are a unique instrument of national security. We are at all times an Armed Force, and this year we have been present, literally, on all seven continents. In fact, the Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star just [recently] returned from Antarctica. We are the only branch of the US Armed Forces that has broad law enforcement authorities and a portfolio of more than 60 bi-lateral agreements that extend our jurisdiction around the globe. Our broad military and law enforcement authority provide a capability for the protection of the nation that is unique in the world.

We use these same authorities to provide our contributions to border security. A significant portion of our border security work starts 1,500 miles south of our borders as we attack the illicit pathways of Transnational Criminal Organizations. In 2016 alone, a banner year by any measure, we interdicted 200 metric tons of contraband and thousands of illegal migrants.

Finally and certainly not any less significant, we are focused on ensuring economic security of our Marine Transportation System, whether from physical or cyber threats. That is why the chance to be with you here today is so important to our service.

We understand the significance of the global shipping industry to our economy and remain dedicated to common sense regulations; we understand the shipping industry and will enable your industry to the maximum extent allowed by law.

We understand that $4.5 trillion of economic activity, 13 million jobs and 95 percent of our exports depend on the Marine Transportation System.

We take very seriously our duty to safeguard over 300 ports and 3,700 terminals, maintain navigation systems for the 25,000 miles of waterways and 1,000 harbor channels.

As dynamic as this industry is, there are constant challenges that we must address moving forward just as you have been; regardless of what role you serve in this industry; as we look forward over the next decade, we expect there will be a demand to increase the capacity of the Marine Transportation System. At the same time there will be a global requirement to continually reduce the environmental impact of the global shipping industry. During all this, the complexity of this industry will increase. The Coast Guard is addressing these challenges in a number of different areas.

To start, the Coast Guard must look for ways to increase the readiness of our people and our assets in the face of expected upturn in US energy production. We understand the cyclical nature of this segment and know that we cannot rest. So, we are refining the way we work with third parties who conduct inspections on behalf of the Coast Guard. We are also modernizing our human capital management processes in terms of recruitment, retention, training and assignment of marine inspectors.

The Coast Guard will also address the regulation governing offshore energy exploration so we maintain currency with the technologies and marine practices. You can also expect continued tight strategic and tactical coordination with the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement on operations on the Outer Continental Shelf, including continued work on Safety Management Systems for vessels working there. This is important work and, as a matter of fact, when I leave here tonight, I’m heading to New Orleans to visit platforms on the OCS.

Our next focus is to work toward a modernized navigation system. I’m not suggesting we want to do away with steel buoys. Rather, it’s about improving mariner situational awareness through technology. You can expect to see increased deployment of electronic and virtual aids to navigation to complement existing aids as well as increased services from our Navigation Center, including policy clarification on the use of electronic charts and carriage of paper charts for non-SOLAS vessels, and refinements to our vessel traffic systems.

Subchapter M Towing Vessel Regulations remain a focal point. Staff from headquarters, districts, sectors and the Center of Expertise will continue to work the policy, process and training to ensure a smooth roll out to transition the towing fleet to inspected status.

The emphasis on reducing the industry’s overall environmental footprint will only increase in the future. The Coast Guard is committed to maintaining a level playing field and will consistently enforce standards to remove the economic incentive of non-compliance. Just as we have in years past, expect the Coast Guard to pay close attention to MARPOL Annex I enforcement; we will also export our training to several nations to strengthen international enforcement.

Ballast Water Treatment Systems are certainly very much in our current wheel house, and now that we have three type approved systems, the work of the day involves careful review of extension requests. We will continue to work with IMO to refine G8 type approval guidelines so most alternate management systems can achieve US type approval.

Cyber risk management in a complex global maritime industry

Cyber risk management is an issue on which we continue to work with industry and we appreciate your cooperation and leadership.

In 2016, we made great progress in raising awareness of the operational risks associated with cyber systems in the Marine Transportation System and built momentum toward deploying effective regimes and tools. The US Congress held its first ever hearing on cyber risk management in our ports and the International Association of Classification Societies made cyber risk management a cornerstone for their agenda.

This year we may see enactment of H.R. 3878 addressing strengthening cyber security in our ports. We will remain focused on providing policy and training to reduce cyber risk and you should expect to see guidance on simplified voluntary reporting of cyber incidents and continued engagement by our Captains of the Port.

As for LNG operations, we are closely tracking the evolution of the LNG in the global shipping industry. A couple of months ago I was in Houston at our Liquefied Gas Carrier Center of Excellence and met with industry leaders and accompanied our folks there on an inspection. Opportunities abound and we are dedicated to staying abreast of industry on this complex issue.

In closing, the Coast Guard remains on course with regards to our multiple security duties. We fully realize what is at stake. In addition to the financial and business aspects of this complex industry, we are vigilant that the sea is unforgiving, just as it has been since our forefathers went to sea in sailing ships. We recently completed the public hearings regarding the ongoing investigation into the loss of the El Faro and her crew. We expect the report of investigation will be complete in the spring and we should all seek to learn from this tragedy to reduce the risks as much as possible. Regardless of technology, our Marine Transportation System still relies on sailors to go sea. It is the Coast Guard’s sworn duty to do all we can to protect them.

Thank you for your attention.

Semper Paratus.

If you’d like to continue this discussion on Maritime Commons, leave questions or thoughts in the comments below or tweet them to @maritimecommons using #USCGCMA2017

In addition to this post, please be sure to view the entire series from the Connecticut Shipping Association Shipping 2017 conference.

This blog is not a replacement or substitute for the formal posting of regulations and updates or existing processes for receiving formal feedback of the same. Links provided on this blog will direct the reader to official source documents, such as the Federal Register, Homeport and the Code of Federal Regulations. These documents remain the official source for regulatory information published by the Coast Guard.

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