Wicker Champions Gulf Priorities in Coast Guard Bill

Legislation Includes Education Grant Opportunities, Safety Provisions

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., today praised the Senate’s passage of a measure to reauthorize and support the Coast Guard’s mission to defend the country on land, sea, and in the air. The legislation, H.R. 4188, includes several provisions authored by Wicker that focus on increasing grant opportunities for the Coast Guard Academy, improving the fishing vessel certification process, and updating carriage requirements for vessel survival crafts. Wicker is a senior member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, which oversees the Coast Guard.

“This bill aims to support the national security efforts of Coast Guard members to protect America’s coastline, waterways, and ports, as well as perform security operations around the globe,” Wicker said. “It also backs their search-and-rescue missions here at home, which were responsible for saving the lives of hundreds of Mississippians after Hurricane Katrina made landfall 10 years ago. I am pleased that the legislation includes a significant regulatory reform for vessels operating nationwide, particularly in the Gulf of Mexico. Eliminating this red-tape could potentially save taxpayers and small businesses millions of dollars.”

The bill was passed unanimously by the Senate and the House. It now awaits President Obama’s signature to become law.

H.R. 4188 authorizes $9.1 billion in funding over the next two years for the Coast Guard and Federal Maritime Commission. It will help enable the service branch to modernize its fleets, bring its regulations in line with modern practices, and make changes to procurement standards.

Wicker sponsored the following key provisions:

Increasing Education Research Grant Opportunities: The Coast Guard Academy is now eligible to receive federal, state, and other education research grant opportunities currently available for other federal service academies. The Coast Guard Academy was not previously eligible for these grants.

Improving Fishing Vessel Certification: This provision provides an alternative safety compliance program for vessels from 50 feet to 79 feet in length, serving as an exemption for costly certification requirements for those vessels. The Government Accountability Office will be required to provide a report to Congress within a year about regional trends with regard to marine casualties for vessels over 79 feet that operate beyond three miles.

Updating Survival Craft Requirements: This provision will restore the Coast Guard’s risk-based regulatory system. These regulations would only impact passenger vessels that are built or undergo a major conversion after January 1, 2016, and operate in cold waters.