White House Opens Public Comment Period Seeking to Harmonize Shipping Regulations
- The White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) is soliciting public comment on ways to reduce regulatory costs and restrictions on the U.S. maritime industry.
- For maritime industry stakeholders, the government's interest in harmonizing the numerous regulatory schemes impacting the industry is long overdue, and the announcement appears to be a positive sign for maritime industry members intending to leverage technology to improve service.
- Comments from maritime industry stakeholders are due on or before July 16, 2018.
The White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) is soliciting public comment on ways to reduce regulatory costs and restrictions on the American maritime industry. OIRA's announcement on May 16, 2018, is predicated on President Donald Trump's Executive Order 13771 for "Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs." The announcement requests information and comment (RFI) from maritime industry stakeholders, which are due on or before July 16, 2018, or 60 days from the date of the announcement.
The stated purpose of OIRA's announcement is to request information "from members of the public on maritime regulations promulgated by agencies of the Federal government" to "identify existing rules that are inefficient, obsolete, unnecessary, redundant, or otherwise not justified." The announcement identifies the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), Maritime Administration (MARAD), U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Labor (DOL), Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) as sources of regulations to be addressed in the public comment.
OIRA appears particularly interested in regulatory reform for "cargo or passenger vessels," though its announcement states that it also welcomes comments regarding other areas of the maritime industry. OIRA directs stakeholders to provide comments including the following information:
- supporting data and cost information
- citations to specific sections of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) that should be repealed, replaced or modified
- industry professional experiences highlighting regulatory redundancy, inefficiencies and outdated requirements
- impacts of regulations on small and medium maritime industry businesses
- opportunities for increased regulatory cooperation between the United States, Canada and Mexico to relieve regulatory burden on the maritime industry
The announcement reveals OIRA's primary targets for reform, identifying specific questions OIRA plans to address during its review of maritime regulations. Among the most prevalent topics are 1) unnecessary or ineffective manning and reporting requirements, 2) overlapping regulations concerning the same maritime activity, 3) identification of rules and regulations failing to achieve their stated purpose, 4) agencies' unnecessary collection of information, and 5) reduction of agency regulatory costs and the streamlining of regulatory oversight. OIRA intends to make submissions publicly available on its website following completion of the submission period.
Takeaways and Considerations
OIRA's announcement is indicative of the current administration's efforts to reduce agency oversight. For maritime industry stakeholders, the government's interest in harmonizing the numerous regulatory schemes impacting the industry is long overdue. Based on the specific questions included in OIRA's announcement, it is apparent that the government intends to scrutinize regulations that are viewed as hindering industry technological development. One particularly encouraging question requests that stakeholders identify regulations "preventing or creating barriers to the adoption of new, innovative technologies in the maritime industry."
The announcement appears to be a positive sign for maritime industry members intending to leverage technology to improve service. As greater numbers of stakeholders explore the utilization of technology, including port automation, e-bills of lading and crewless vessels, the current regulatory web will present roadblocks to their implementation and progress. Removal of regulatory barriers and streamlining maritime industry regulations at this stage should benefit a wide range of industry professionals and foster a strong future for maritime industry stakeholders in the U.S.
Moreover, this effort appears to be in line with other ongoing regulatory streamlining efforts, such as the Trump Administration's "One Federal Decision" effort for environmental reviews; the American Infrastructure Initiative, which includes regulatory streamlining for infrastructure projects; and the REINS Act, which is pending in Congress and would require congressional approval for regulations costing $100 million or more.
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