SUNY Maritime is facing a crisis. Its training vessel, the EMPIRE STATE VI will be decommissioned in 2019. Moreover, MARAD, which owns the vessel, has reportedly told SUNY that it will no longer pay for the 54-year-old ship’s maintenance; so, it is conceivable that the vessel will be taken out of service even sooner. SUNY has not identified a replacement vessel and certainly a new ship could not be built before the 2019 decommissioning date. Hence SUNY’s crisis: By 2019 (if an engineering casualty or USCG inspection does not advance the date), SUNY Maritime will have no training ship.
There are six state maritime schools with training ships, and all of those ships are owned by MARAD and loaned to the schools. Thus, when SUNY finds itself without a training ship, it should be a simple matter for the Secretary of Transportation to order one of the other state schools to share its ship with SUNY. Right?
Wrong. Incredibly, existing law, 46 U.S.C. § 51504(g)(2) prohibits the Secretary of Transportation from “requiring a State maritime academy to share its training vessel with another State maritime academy, except with the express consent of Congress.”
Given the ticking time bomb facing SUNY, the logical solution is to amend the statute to allow the Secretary of Transportation to require ship sharing. Someone obviously figured this out, and therefore when S.2829 was introduced in the Senate in April 2016, it included an amendment to 46 U.S.C. § 51504(g) that threw a life ring to SUNY:
SEC. 303. USE OF STATE ACADEMY TRAINING VESSELS.
Section 51504(g) of title 46, United States Code, is amended to read as follows:
“(g) Vessel Sharing.—The Secretary, after consulting with the affected State maritime academies, may implement a program requiring a State maritime academy to share its training vessel with another State maritime academy if the vessel of another State maritime academy—
“(1) is being used during a humanitarian assistance or disaster response activity;
“(2) is incapable of being maintained in good repair as required under section 51504(c) of title 46, United States Code;
“(3) requires maintenance or repair for an extended period;
“(4) is activated as a National Defense Reserve Fleet vessel pursuant to section 4405 of title 50, United States Code;
“(5) loses its United States Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection or its classification; or
“(6) does not comply with applicable environmental regulations.”.
That proposed amendment is eminently reasonable. Suppose one of the state school ships suffers an engineering casualty: While the other state schools might be reluctant to share their ship, common sense dictates that the Secretary of Transportation should be able to step in and say, “Excuse me, I own these ships, and I am ordering you to help out your sister school; and I would, and will, do the same if your school ever suffers a similar fate.” Who could possibly object to this proposed amendment?
We don’t know who objected, but between the time that S.2829 was first introduced in April 2016 and when it was voted on by the full Senate in June 2016, the ship sharing amendment was removed from the bill.
So here’s your legislative mystery: Figure out a logical reason for removing this provision. The only stakeholders that could care about this are the state maritime schools. But why would they want to remove this language?
We’ll have our answer in the next post. Post your answers in the comments. And follow the comments to this post. We may post hints.