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U.S. laker fleet to invest $75M in off-season operational upgrades

Great Lakes yards will be busy improving propulsion, ballast water systems
The following is the text of a press release issued by the Lake Carriers' Association:
(CLEVELAND) -- More than 1,200 boilermakers, welders, electricians and other skilled craftsmen will be hard at work this winter maintaining and modernizing U.S.-flag Great Lakes freighters when they lay up between late December and mid-January.

The major U.S.-flag operators will invest more than $75 million in their 56 vessels so the fleet will be ready to replenish stockpiles of iron ore, coal, cement, salt and limestone when shipping resumes next March. 

The work scheduled for this winter is as varied as the cargos the fleet carries. Eight vessels will be drydocked for the out-of-water survey of the hull the Coast Guard requires every 5 years. Huge concrete blocks are positioned in precise locations in the dry dock and the vessel gently settles on them as the water is pumped out of the chamber. Coast Guard inspectors then scour the hull for signs of any unusual wear and if any is found, order the steel replaced.

Although a study has determined that Great Lakes freighters produce 70 percent less emissions than trains and 90 percent less than trucks in moving a ton of cargo, that ratio will only get better with a number of main and auxiliary engine upgrades scheduled for this winter.

The industry’s commitment to reducing the potential that lakers’ ballast might spread a non-indigenous species introduced by an oceangoing vessel is evidenced by a number of vessels being fitted with high ballast water intakes. Traditionally vessels take on and discharge ballast water through seachests, as many as 18, located close to the bottom of the hull. High ballast water intakes not only reduce the potential that a fish or other living organism will be drawn in, they lessen the amount of sediment taken up with ballast water.

Other projects include renewal of steel in cargo holds, replacement of conveyor belts in unloading systems, upgrades of communication and navigation equipment, and overhauls of galleys.

The major shipyards on the Lakes are located in Sturgeon Bay and Superior, Wisconsin; Erie, Pennsylvania; and Toledo, Ohio. Smaller “top-side” repair operations are located in Cleveland, Ohio; Escanaba, Michigan; Buffalo, New York; and several cities in Michigan. It is estimated that a vessel generates $800,000 in economic activity in the community in which it is wintering.

Sub-freezing temperatures aren’t the only challenge facing Great Lakes shipyards and their craftsmen. Many vessels lay-up right after the locks at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, close on January 15, and get underway when the locks reopen on March 25. That leaves but nine weeks to prepare the vessels for 9-plus months of 24/7 operation.

For a few vessels, the winter lay-up is even shorter. The JOSEPH L. BLOCK, for example, often loads iron ore in Escanaba, Michigan, for deliverey to Indiana Harbor, Indiana, until the end of January and then opens that trade around March 10. 

Worn steel and other materials are recycled as much as possible, but in what might be something of a first, one job is going to help heat homes this winter. The entire wear deck on a barge is being replaced and the 75,000 board feet of oak lumber that must be removed will then fuel wood-burning furnaces.

When the fleet returns to service next spring, it will welcome a new 740-foot-long self-unloader. The as-yet unnamed barge is nearing completion at the shipyard in Erie, Pennsylvania. It will be able to carry nearly 38,000 tons of cargo each trip. Also joining the fleet will be an integrated tug/barge unit that previously worked the Gulf.

When the economy is strong, the U.S.-flag Lakes fleet will carry more than 115 million tons of cargo per year. Iron ore for steel production is the largest commodity – 50 million tons. Roughly half of the country’s steelmaking capacity is located in the Great Lakes basin. Cargos of coal for power generation and limestone and cement for the construction industry can collectively top 50 million tons. Other cargos include salt to de-ice wintry roads, sand for industrial production, and cereal grains.


Thursday, January 5, 2012
Last week, the International Spill Control Organization (ISCO) received a written confirmation that the Assembly of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has approved the award of full consultative status.  ISCO received provisional consultative status at IMO four years ago, and since this time, has been actively representing the international spill response community at meetings of the Marine Environment Protection Committee and the IMO OPRC-HNS Working Group.

David Usher, ISCO President and Chairman of Detroit-based ISCO member Marine Pollution Control, commented, “It’s an honor and pleasure to announce IMO’s granting of full consultative status to the International Spill Control Organization.  It was in 1984, after being successful in developing the Spill Control Association of America (SCAA), that we felt the need to be able to communicate the concerns of the international spill control community to the maritime environmental world through IMO.   My esteemed colleague, John McMurtrie, and I went forward with the idea of giving to the environmental communities of the world the knowledge of discovery and resolution of spills of consequence.  We are honored to bring to the world communities the constant development of positive answers to the deterrence and mitigation of polluting spills. 

In 1929, my father as a young man was considered a liquid junk man. Today doing what he did then would earn him the honorable recognition as an environmentalist. I close with that thought, which I’ve always felt is one of the best examples of “better things for better living.”

ISCO Secretary John McMurtrie added, “In the ISCO Newsletter of 17th December 2007, we announced that for the very first time, individual responders, spill response organizations, manufacturers and others responsible for the world’s capacity to respond to oil and chemical spills will have a voice at the International Maritime Organization. The recognition of ISCO means that, at long last, the professionals in the front line of spill combat operations will join with other organizations at IMO representing oil, shipping and environmental interests. The inclusion of those who provide the essential infrastructure for spill response fills a longstanding gap and will ensure a much better balance, allowing direct dialogue between IMO and the spill response community”. 

The transition from provisional to permanent observer status at IMO is an important milestone for ISCO. Recognition at IMO followed two years after ISCO’s re-launch at IOSC Miami in 2005. For interest readers a paper introducing ISCO’s re-launch is reprinted in Issue 314 of the ISCO Newsletter at

For more information, contact John McMurtrie, +44 1467 632282, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Jeff Taylor, +1 313-849-2333, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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U.S. Lakers' November Cargo Up 12 PCT

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

U.S.-flag Great Lakes freighters (“lakers”) carried 10 million tons of dry-bulk cargo in November, an increase of 2.4 percent compared to October, and an increase of 11.9 percent compared to a year ago.
The November float was also 3.8 percent above the month’s 5-year average. Iron ore cargos for the steel industry increased 14 percent compared to a year ago.  Limestone cargos for construction, steel production, and environmental applications jumped more than 20 percent, but coal was essentially unchanged from a year ago. Through November U.S.-flag cargos stand at 85 million tons, an increase of 4.6 percent compared to the same point in 2010.  Iron ore has increased 11 percent and limestone cargos are now 3 percent ahead of last year’s pace, but coal is down by 5.9 percent. Compared to the 5-year average for the January-November timeframe, U.S.-flag cargos are down 1.4 percent.
Lake Carriers’ Association represents 17 American companies that operate 56 U.S.-flag vessels on the Great Lakes that carry the raw materials that drive the nation’s economy: iron ore and fluxstone for the steel industry, aggregate and cement for the construction industry, coal for power generation....  Collectively, these vessels can transport more than 115 million tons of cargo per year when high water offsets lack of adequate dredging.  These cargos generate more than 103,000 jobs with an average wage of $47,000 in the United States.
More information is available at  

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House Unanimously Approves Pipeline Safety & Jobs Measure

Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Washington, DC – The House of Representatives today unanimously approved bipartisan legislation to enhance the nation’s pipeline safety programs, ensure the reliable transportation of energy products throughout the nation, and provide greater regulatory certainty that will help businesses create jobs.

The Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011 (H.R. 2845) was introduced in the House by Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-FL), and the legislation approved today is the result of the bipartisan, bicameral work of the House and Senate committees of jurisdiction.  The legislation now goes before the U.S. Senate for consideration.

“I applaud the passage of this important legislation by the full House of Representatives.  The overwhelming support this bill received today on the floor is a reflection of the bipartisan work that went into its development.  This legislation builds on our strong commitment to ensuring the continued safety of our nation’s pipeline system, strengthens current laws, fills the gaps in existing laws where necessary, and provides the regulatory certainty necessary for industry to make investments and create American jobs,” said Shuster.  “We have worked closely with our counterparts in the Senate and look forward to their prompt consideration of this measure.”

“Safety and jobs are our highest priorities, and this bipartisan measure will both strengthen federal pipeline safety programs and provide a common sense regulatory approach that will encourage – not stifle – job creation,” Mica said.  “This measure is supported by safety advocates and industry, and I urge the Senate to take this bill up as soon as possible.”

The Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011 authorizes funding for programs of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) through fiscal year 2015.  PHMSA oversees safety programs for the 2.3 million miles of natural gas, petroleum, and other hazardous liquid pipelines in the United States.

This system of pipelines – the largest in the world – serves as the arteries of the nation’s energy infrastructure, enabling the safe, efficient and economical movement of extraordinary quantities of energy products to industry and consumers, literally fueling the U.S. economy.  Since 1986, the volume of energy products transported through pipelines has increased by one-third, yet the number of reportable incidents has decreased by 28 percent.  Government and industry have taken steps to improve pipeline safety, and the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act ensures that we continue the nation’s commitment to making this safe form of transportation even safer.
Summary of the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011
  • Reauthorizes federal pipeline safety programs of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) through FY 2015
  • Provides regulatory certainty necessary for pipeline owners and operators to plan infrastructure investments and create jobs
  • Improves pipeline transportation – the safest and most cost-effective means to transport natural gas and hazardous liquid products – by strengthening enforcement of current laws and filling gaps in existing law where necessary
  • Ensures a balanced regulatory approach to improving safety that applies cost benefit principles
  • Addresses National Transportation Safety Board recommendations resulting from recent pipeline incidents
  • Protects and preserves Congressional authority by ensuring certain key rulemakings are not finalized until Congress has an opportunity to act
  • Supported by both pipeline industry and safety advocates

Click here to view legislative text.
SOURCE: Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

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