Wicker: Coast Guard Bill Signed Into Law

Legislation Includes Gulf Priorities, Grant Opportunities, Safety Provisions

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., today said he was pleased to see that the “Coast Guard Reauthorization Act of 2015” has been signed into law by President Obama. The measure reauthorizes and supports the Coast Guard’s mission to defend the country on land, sea, and in the air. Wicker is a senior member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, which oversees the Coast Guard.

“I am pleased to see that this legislation has now been enacted into law,” Wicker said. “This bill includes significant reform for vessels, specifically ones operating in the Gulf of Mexico, which will help save taxpayers millions of dollars. It will also provide support for the Coast Guard to protect America’s coastline, waterways, and ports, as well as execute security operations around the world.”

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. The bill 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.

Highlights included by Wicker in the bill:

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 from 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. The updated survival craft regulations would only impact passenger vessels that are built or undergo a major conversion after January 1, 2016, and operate in cold waters.