Apr 21 2016

Fischer & Booker Introduce MARAD Reauthorization Bill

Legislation Increases Fiscal Responsibility at Maritime Administration, Strengthens Sexual Assault Prevention Measures at Merchant Marine Academy

Senator Deb Fischer and Senator Cory Booker preside over a subcommittee hearing 
Yesterday, Wednesday, April 20, 2016, regarding the state of the maritime industry. 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, U.S. Senators Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) introduced legislation to reauthorize the Maritime Administration (MARAD) at the Department of Transportation. The bill, known as S. 2829 the Maritime Administration Authorization and Enhancement Act of 2017, recognizes the important role of America’s maritime transportation system and takes critical steps to improve the management of MARAD. 

Importantly, the bill also strengthens sexual assault prevention programs at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. Fischer and Booker serve as the chair and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security. 

Senator Fischer released the following statement:

“Productive maritime shipping plays a critical role in a healthy economy and ensures Nebraska’s producers and manufactures can effectively send their world-class products to the global market. I’m pleased to join Senator Booker to introduce this strong, bipartisan legislation. By working together, we can keep goods moving, strengthen our national security, and improve fiscal responsibility at the Maritime Administration. 

“Senator Booker and I also collaborated on meaningful provisions to enhance sexual assault prevention programs for midshipmen attending the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. Through these prevention and response efforts, we can provide a more secure experience for the men and women who will go on to serve our country.” 

Senator Booker released the following statement: 

“Our ports, vessels, and Merchant Marine forces are critical to our military preparedness, economic growth, and disaster relief efforts, so I was pleased to join Senator Fischer in introducing this bipartisan legislation which takes important steps to improve conditions for our nation’s maritime workforce.

“I’m also proud that this legislation includes provisions that will help the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy – one of the most specialized educational institutions in the country – to obtain a more diverse applicant pool, and provisions that proactively take steps to prevent sexual assault at the Academy. This will provide a healthier and more inclusive environment to train these men and women who serve our country.”

Key provisions of the Fischer-Booker MARAD reauthorization bill include:

Strengthening Sexual Assault Prevention and Response at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy

  • Midshipmen Sexual Assault Prevention Training: Ensures incoming midshipmen receive training on both sexual assault prevention and response as part of their orientation program. It also requires annual refresher training. 
  • Assault Victim Advocates: Compels the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) to designate and train volunteer sexual assault victim advocates. These advocates would help victims identify resources, understand their rights, and have access to assistance in navigating investigative, health, and recovery processes.
  • Sexual Assault Response Coordinator: USMMA would be required to employ a full-time sexual assault response coordinator at or near the campus, thereby ensuring a strong management structure for training and support activities.
  • 24/7 Victim Hotline Access: Guarantees access to a 24-hour hotline, which would allow sexual assault victims at USMMA to receive support services.
  • Enhanced Congressional Oversight: Strengthens oversight and reporting for the sexual harassment and sexual assault prevention and response program at USMMA.

Restoring Efficient Program Management at the U.S. Maritime Administration

  • National Security Vessel Management Flexibility: Allows the Department of Defense and the Department of Transportation (DOT) to extend (on a limited basis when in the national interest) the age restrictions for a vessel in the maritime security program. This would help ensure access to U.S.-flag vessels during times of national emergency.
  • Coordination Between State Maritime Academies and Vessel Sharing: Allows the DOT, under certain conditions, to require vessel sharing among state maritime academies. Vessel sharing would be limited to those academies receiving vessel funding and support from the DOT. It would facilitate training to aspiring mariners when another academy vessel fails, needs repair, or is involved in disaster response.
  • Additional Discretion to the U.S. Navy for High Speed Craft: Provides the secretary of the Navy flexibility to select the most effective classification society for high-speed craft, thus improving resource management.

Bolstering Recruitment and Standards for U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and State Maritime Academy Midshipmen

  • Bolsters Academy Class: Provides the DOT with 10 additional discretionary appointments at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. This would apply to cadets with unique characteristics, including prior military service, exceptional science and math accomplishment, and unrepresented geographic or demographic characteristics.
  • Strengthens Standards for Midshipmen: Requires students at state maritime academies who receive funding from the DOT to meet the necessary medical and physical standards to serve in the merchant marines.

Addressing Inspector General Recommendations to Improve Workforce Management

  • Standardizes MARAD Federal Workforce Training: Establishes a standardized training database and enhances workforce plans. It would also align training policies and systems at the Maritime Administration headquarters and field offices.
  • Federal Employee Drug & Alcohol Policy Compliance: Requires fleet managers receive training on DOT’s drug and alcohol policy to increase safety for employees working on or around vessels. 
Click here to view text of S. 2829, the legislation to 
reauthorize the Maritime Administration (MARAD)