Superior Economic roundup: lawsuits and dredging
Posted on: July 13, 2016

Two major headlines from Great Lakes and Superior shipping this week:

Dredging to begin in Duluth, MN – Superior, WI harbour

On July 7, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced via press release that their contractors would begin dredging portions of the Duluth-Superior Harbour this month. Dredging is excavation work typically done to gather bottom sediments and dispose of them in another location.The dredging is expected to last from July to mid-November of this year.

The Corps stated that the dredging is to be done to clear a federal navigation channel an keep it clear for commercial shipping traffic. The dredged material will be placed in two different locations (Interstate Island and 21st Avenue Embayment) per a habitat restoration design by the St. Louis River Area of Concern Remedial Action Plan (RAP).

Regarding the operation, the Corps conclude that: “placement of the dredge material will create optimal water depths and flows to promote the growth of aquatic vegetation in support of a healthy benthic community and robust fishery.”

The dredging work will be carried out by two firms: Marine Tech of Duluth, MN ($1.4 mil contract) and Roen Salvage of Sturgeon Bay, WI ($1.25 mil contract).

To see the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers press release, click here.

Shipping companies suing U.S. Coast Guard over rate hike

After the U.S. Coast Guard increased ship pilot rates on the Great Lakes, foreign and domestic shipping companies are filing a lawsuit against them over the rate hike.

U.S. Coast Guard public affairs officer Katie Braynard told Wisconsin Public Radio that the rate increase was introduced to add more pilots and reduce safety risks due to fatigue. She also stated that the National Transportation Safety Board recommended the measures.

There are currently 37 ship pilots on the Great Lakes, and the Coast Guard is aiming to gain another 17 pilots [it wasn’t specified if the 37 were Americans only, or Americans and Canadians]. Western Great Lakes Pilots Association President John Swartout believes rate increases were necessary to provide adequate training and compensation for the pilots. However, the companies believe they have been exploited by pilotage fees which have increased substantially in the last decade.

The lawsuit against the U.S. Coast Guard reads:

“Much of this increase has occurred in the last two navigation seasons. In comments submitted to the Coast Guard docket that led to the Final Rule, the Shipping Federation of Canada, a Plaintiff herein, observed that pilotage is now one of the largest single cost items for foreign-flag vessels that enter the St. Lawrence Seaway/Great Lakes System.”

In response, Swartout pointed out that “Great Lakes had the highest work load and among the lowest pay of any pilots in the country.We couldn’t keep people and we couldn’t attract people.”

He told WPR that [American] ship pilots work about 90 days without a scheduled day off, and get paid an average of $140 000 per year to guide ships safely into Great Lakes ports. The U.S. Coast Guard has set targets for pilots to receive more than double that amount each year, which would make compensation competitive with what Canadian ship pilots earn.

The lawsuit aims to stop the rate increase, and are requesting the agency drop this year’s rates by 20%.

To see the Wisconsin Public Radio article, click here.

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