Friday, May 9, 2014

Former chief counsel again comments on STORIS export at MARAD symposium

On Tuesday, May 6, the U.S. Maritime Administration held an event called National Maritime Strategy Symposium II. This was held at the U.S. DOT Headquarters.

The purpose of the public MARAD/MTSNAC meeting was to identify domestic maritime opportunities that can be incorporated into a National Maritime Strategy to guide public and private Marine Transportation activities into the future. The results of this second symposium will be considered along with those from the January 2014 symposium to help shape the National Maritime Strategy being developed by MARAD.

A description of the event, it’s goals and discussion points is here:

At the Tuesday MARAD symposium, former MARAD Chief Counsel Denise Rucker Krepp addressed issues related to shipbreaking, including the deplorable conditions in overseas scrapyards like the operations at Bangladesh, profiled in the May issue of National Geographic magazine, the posts of which were shared here on April 23.

And once again, as she did at the March 12 U.S. Coast Guard Shipping Coordinating Committee Meeting, Ms. Krepp spoke of the illegal sale and export of STORIS for breaking in a Mexican shipyard. This was discussed within the context of ensuring that U.S.-flagged vessels are responsibly dismantled and recycled in U.S. facilities. This protocol helps guarantee that hazardous materials are properly contained and disposed of following the high standards established through U.S. Federal Law rather than being exported to a lesser-developed country with less effective environmental regulation. It also ensures that the associated jobs that are created through the domestic scrapping programs aren’t outsourced to foreign scrapping facilities like those in Bangladesh, where worker and environmental safety considerations are nil. U.S. ships are commonly reflagged to facilitate this kind of export. There is no indication that STORIS was reflagged for export, but as a U.S. government vessel, there are other considerations.

For the sake of brevity, Ms. Krepp’s comments and context regarding STORIS are as follows:

“…The U.S. domestic recycling facility encourages MARAD to promote the use of domestic recycling facilities in lieu of those in Bangladesh and similar countries. U.S government vessels should be scrapped in the U.S. It's the law. Section 3502 of the 2009 Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act requires all U.S. government vessels to be scrapped at U.S. metal recycling facilities. See

Sadly, the law isn't being followed consistently. Last fall, the General Services Administration allowed the USCG STORIS to be exported from the Suisun Bay fleet to Mexico for scrapping. FOIA’d documents since released, show that despite warnings to the Environmental Protection Agency, General Services Administration (GSA), and the Coast Guard prior to releasing the vessel, no federal agency, including MARAD, was willing to stop its departure. A group of dedicated maritime preservationists had tried to work with the Coast Guard and GSA to turn the STORIS into a museum ship, but they weren't successful.

The Maritime Administration also allows commercial flag ships to leave the U.S. registry to be scrapped abroad. It's easy. The owner merely submits paperwork to MARAD for processing.  The 2010 and 2011 Annual MARAD highlights the significant number of vessels that reflagged simply to be scrapped in India and China.  See  Each time MARAD signed off on the paperwork, people in Louisiana, Texas, and elsewhere lost job opportunities…”

While Ms. Krepp has a professional obligation and primary consideration for her representation of the domestic ship recycling facilities operated by EMR/Southern Recycling, her acknowledgement of the efforts to preserve STORIS for use as a maritime museum are appreciated. As a former U.S. Coast Guard officer, Ms. Krepp would understand and appreciate the importance of STORIS and her history. These comments read into the record for the event are a permanent official recognition of the complicity of the U.S. Coast Guard, General Services Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency (as well as MARAD, as physical custodians of the ship following her decommissioning) in allowing STORIS to be exported. It was also Ms. Krepp that has pointed out that the excessing and sale of STORIS was illegal under 40 U.S.C. 548 because the ship’s displacement exceeded 1,500 tons.  

The docket for the event is listed here:

I encourage you to take the time and read them.

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