Greetings to everyone as we look for a prosperous 2019. Our NACO Annual Meeting was held in Alexandria, VA and was a one-day business meeting. We had a great meeting that was very informative. We also had our Board member elections where all incumbents were reelected plus, we have a new Board member elected from Monterey, CA, Capt Joe Headley. We welcome Capt Headley to the Board and look forward to having someone from CA to help keep us informed on issues where NACO can help reduce regulatory and financial burdens on their fleets. The Board Officers election was also held, and the current Officers were reelected. I want to thank the Board for the confidence in our work.
NACO has had a productive year in reducing regulatory and financial impacts on the for-hire charter and headboat industry. Working with other passenger vessel and commercial fishing organizations we were able to finally gain a permanent exemption to the EPA NPDES requirements by supporting and helping to pass the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act. Now all commercial vessels less than 79’ are permanently exempt from obtaining EPA permits and will not be required to keep daily reports on discharges from your vessel. NACO has pushed for this exemption since 2006 with the help of our Board, our membership, and working with others we now have a successful conclusion on the issue.
NACO was also involved in the passage of the Modern Fish Act, the first real legislation that brings much attention to recreational fisheries and will hopefully lead to improved federal management of recreational fisheries. The Act requires the NMFS to conduct studies on future fishery allocation issues and IFQs/Catch Shares. Most of what the Act does applies to the Southeast and Gulf areas as most of the west coast and northeast are not affected by the legislation. The key part of the Act is the attention it brings to recreational fisheries for future management for all. In the Gulf of Mexico there has been a push to provide IFQs/Catch Shares to the for-hire sector. The proposed plan would provide a small number of several species to the for-hire vessels, similar to the commercial IFQ programs, that they could fish as they want. While on the face of the plan being able to have your own quota and fish anytime of the year without any seasons, the numbers of fish that would be provided are so small that after several years of working on the plan the small number of owners who pushed for it finally realized they would be better off having a fixed season, bag and size limits. The Gulf Council will be disbanding the advisory panels, at their request, and putting further discussions on IFQs/Catch Shares on hold until a new data system can be developed, implemented and compared to the current data program. This is another NACO accomplishment since we have been opposed to charter/headboat IFQs/Catch Shares from the beginning.
We had a presentation from Retired Capt Eric Christensen who now works for the Passenger Vessel Association, about recent USCG issues. He and Capt Ed Obrien, our USCG liaison, provided information on the work the USCG is doing on illegal charters, on USCG work during the Govt shutdown, and a quick review of the pending USCG Medical Manual which is in the comment stage. NACO will be providing comments on the new proposed Medical Manual but as of this writing it appears the Manual is reasonable.
The USCG has made several cases on illegal charters and will be making more as this is an ongoing issue. If you know of any illegal charter operation you should report that to your local USCG office. Safe and Legal operations can be adversely affected by illegal operations, not only by loss of business but any accident by illegal operations can come back to cause the USCG and NTSB to look at making regulatory changes that could affect us all. Info on the passenger vessel fire in St Petersburg last January was also presented. One person died as a result of that fire and the report shows the fire could have easily been prevented had the vessel owner followed required maintenance and fire and safety drills. One main engine ran hot due to no raw water coming in to cool it and the engine was never shut down which eventually caused the fiberglass exhaust tube to catch fire plus there was a plastic tube on the fuel tank to gauge how much fuel was in it that melted and caused the diesel fuel to ignite.
Another NACO accomplishment, working with many other organizations was the elimination of the Obama National Ocean Policy. President Trump has issued a new Executive Order that creates more reasonable uses of the Ocean Policy which are currently being put together. The new policy recommends and encourages active stakeholder involvement in all discussions of the new Ocean Policy. The new policy is less restrictive and will be a policy we can support and work with. The new Ocean Policy, just like the Obama policy, covers all areas including the Great Lakes so we will be looking to work with our Great Lakes partners on this and other issues coming.
Our Marine Insurance Partner, Charter Lakes, continues to offer one of the best marine insurance policies for our industry where you can select from a basic policy to a premier policy that provides for a deductible that is reduced every year and eventually to “0” when there are no claims. The Charter Lakes policy also pays for half of a haul out to secure your vessel in case of a named storm or other natural disaster. It also has a business loss provision where in case of a fire, collision, or other damage the policy pays for some business loss. The NACO Port Supply card provides discounts to NACO members at all West Marine stores and we have a fully compliant Drug Consortium with discounted rates.
Lastly, NACO has partnered with the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) to provide some financial help to the for-hire charter/headboat victims of Hurricane Michael. We are currently trying to raise money to provide to those in need. This is our first effort on this type of help, and we are looking to expand this effort to all parts of the country when a disaster strikes and causes damage to your business. The IGFA, American Sportfishing Association, Yamaha, Sportfishing Policy, Destin Charter Boat Association, Panama City Boatmen Association, Lake of the Ozarks Captains Association, and others have graciously contributed to the fund. We are still trying to find everyone in the affected area and still actively looking for donations. Any amount is appreciated so if you know of a company, organization, or individual who may be interested in helping with this fund please have them contact us. After this effort is done, we intend to build a fund for the next disaster where ever it may be. The for-hire charter/headboat industry is critical to keeping a working waterfront in all areas of our country. We must all work to ensure it remains viable.
Every NACO member is important as we strive to work for the benefit of everyone. The NACO Board works hard and your opinion matters to us. If you have an issue you would like for us to address, please provide it and we will get back with you and look forward to hearing from you. Periodically we ask that you act to contact your Federal Legislators as this is extremely important to our work on the Hill. Strength is in numbers and contacts from constituents are important to Legislators. With your continued support, we look forward to providing you, our members, continued regulatory relief, financial savings, and improved benefits!
We thank you for your continued support and look forward to hearing from you during the coming year.
Great news and an early Christmas present for all of us and the maritime industry. The news below was sent out by the American Waterways Operators who we have been in a coalition of maritime industry members with on the EPA NPDES issue working to gain this success for many years. The coalition is made up of over 300 diverse vessel owners and operators across the United States and along with NACO includes organizations such as the Sportfishing Association of California, the Passenger Vessel Association, and many commercial fishing organizations.
We provided you the info on the Senate passage of this USCG Act and now that the House has passed it we wait on the President to sign it. The most important part of this legislation is that all fishing vessels of ’79 or less will be exempt from the EPA NPDES permitting requirements eliminating a host of burdensome paper work and permit requirements and possible liability issues with any of those requirements. NACO has been working to gain this permanent exemption for our members since 2006. This has been a long and hard fought effort and I am very pleased we have been able to achieve this success for our membership.
Here is the info I received this morning from Jennifer Carpenter with the AWO. As future regulatory issues are proposed NACO will be involved in every step to ensure that all regulatory and financial burdens are kept at a minimum.
It’s been a long, tough fight, but your collective efforts over many years have paid off: last night, the House of Representatives passed by voice vote S. 140, the Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018, which includes the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act. The bill, which passed the Senate two weeks ago, now heads to the President’s desk for signature.
Passage of VIDA is a landmark achievement for the maritime industry. It increases certainty, reduces legal vulnerability for vessel owners and mariners, and paves the way for replacement of the Vessel General Permit and its hundred-plus state conditions imposed by more than two dozen states with a national framework for the regulation of ballast water and other vessel discharges jointly administered by EPA and the Coast Guard. VIDA also provides permanent regulatory relief for fishing vessels and vessels under 79 feet. The bill is the result of persistent grassroots advocacy by your organizations and companies; a diverse and united industry coalition; and bipartisan leadership and support from an array of friends and champions on Capitol Hill. It is a shared victory and win-win for maritime commerce and the marine environment. Thank you all so much for the support and hard work that made it possible.
To be sure, there is much work ahead, both for EPA and the Coast Guard as they work to develop the regulations and policies to implement VIDA, and for our industry in helping them do that promptly and well. We will need to work the regulatory process as diligently as we worked the legislative process, and our ability to join forces and leverage our collective capabilities and resources will continue to be crucial. I look forward to working with you on this next phase of our collective effort in the months and years ahead.
But, today, let me simply say thank you, and congratulations on a job well done! Best wishes to all of you, your families and friends for a wonderful holiday season.
NACO continues to work for our industry to ease legislative, regulatory, and financial burdens for all for hire charter boat owners and operators.