Commerce Committee Advances Coast Guard Authorization

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, today thanked his colleagues on the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee for advancing the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2017, legislation introduced by Senator Sullivan.

“The men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard do an outstanding job protecting the homeland and responding to crises on a moment’s notice,” said Senator Sullivan. “I am honored to have the opportunity to lead this year’s Coast Guard Authorization, giving our Coast Guard the resources and training they need to complete the many diverse missions they are tasked with. The legislation also includes a number of provisions addressing the priorities and concerns of Alaskans, including relieving unnecessary burdens on fishermen and boat operators, exploring better ways to monitor illegal and unreported fishing, and advancing the Coast Guard’s ability to operate in the Arctic.”

Specifically, the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2017:

Protects and provides for vital assets:

  • Authorizing the Coast Guard to use multi-year contracts to procure three additional National Security Cutters.
  • Expressing that the Coast Guard must position assets to ensure it is positioned to respond to any incidents given the national security and economic significance of the Arctic, and requires the Coast Guard, in consultation with the Department of Defense, to report to Congress on progress being made in implementing the service’s Arctic Strategy, and provide an assessment on the placement of assets and cutters in light of these strategic objectives.
  • Ensuring regions continue to have Coast Guard coverage as vessels or aircraft are recapitalized.
  • Including an amendment sponsored by Senator Cantwell (D-WA) and Senator Sullivan requiring the Coast Guard to deliver a plan on extending the life of the Polar Star, and authorizing funding to execute the plan.
  • Requiring the examination of the feasibility of a Coast Guard ROTC program.

Provides regulatory relief:

  • Lessening the logbook requirements on charter fishing vessels, ferries, and certain passenger vessels by allowing the use of a wider variety of logbooks, including electronic records.
  • Requiring a delay of the compliance deadline for the Alternative Safety Compliance Program by three years, should the Coast Guard change course and issue final rules.
  • Reducing burdens on the cost of building new fishing vessels, and lessening regulatory burdens on fishermen and boaters.
  • Enhancing the role of the Commercial Fishing Safety Advisory Committee, which provides relevant stakeholders with increased influence in regulatory matters affecting them.
  • Permanently exempting fishing vessels from incidental discharge regulations.

Protects Alaskan resources and stimulates the economy:

  • Directing the Coast Guard to conduct persistent aircraft-based surveillance in monitoring illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
  • Requiring the Coast Guard to have tested the capability of oil spill vessel response plans in Alaskan waters and report to Congress on these capabilities.
  • Authorizing a land exchange to provide for permanent protection of a bird rookery, while providing potential economic development opportunities on Kodiak Island.
  • Giving the Coast Guard more flexibility in choosing which shipyards it uses to conduct vessel alterations and repairs, in an effort to allow more work to stay in Alaska.

The legislation also includes Senator Sullivan’s S. 171, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps Amendments and Hydrographic Services Improvement Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2017, which reauthorizes funding to update and maintain the nation’s nautical charts with an emphasis on the Arctic and facilitates the construction of a viable homeport for the NOAA research vessel Fairweather in Ketchikan.

The legislation, which now heads to the full Senate, authorizes increased funding to support the mission and needs of the U.S. Coast Guard through 2019.

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