Keeping It Steady As She Goes: Coast Guard Living Up To Its Three Expectations – Transport | #conferences2021 | #cybersecurity | #conference


With President Joe Biden’s 100th-day milestone approaching
on April 30, 2021, the U.S. Coast Guard is holding a steady course
on its expectations, including those related to environmental
stewardship, innovation and cybersecurity. (See Holland &
Knight Transportation Blog, “Steady as She Goes: Three Expectations for the
Coast Guard in 2021,” Jan. 9, 2021.) In fact, emerging
commercial opportunities in areas involving renewable energy,
innovative and novel technologies, and alternate marine fuels have
already come to surface in the first few months of the Biden
Administration. In addition, pending bills on Capitol Hill with a
maritime nexus will merit further engagement for stakeholders
seeking to help shape future legislation while ensuring regulatory
compliance.

1. Environmental Stewardship

As predicted, the tide has turned regarding the United
States’ stance on sustainability and environmental matters.
These issues now sit at the forefront of the Biden
Administration’s agenda, and besides infrastructure
discussions, net-zero emissions has emerged as a dominant topic in
the president’s first 100 days. On his first day, President
Biden reentered the United States in the Paris
Agreement and then issued an Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at
Home and Abroad. He next laid forth a $2 trillion plan for
improving the nation’s infrastructure and shifting to greener
energy over the next eight years, with $621 billion set for the
transportation sector – including ports. Most recently, the White House announced that President Biden
intends to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50 percent
to 52 percent – when compared to 2005 levels – by 2030. Relevant to
the shipping sector, around 3 percent of all CO2 emissions
worldwide are attributable to maritime shipping, and to its credit,
the international shipping sector was the first sector to develop a
globally binding climate agreement with the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI), and the
sector continues to employ a wide variety of technologies to continue
to enhance operational efficiency. Now, President Biden has committed the U.S. to reducing emissions from
international shipping by working with countries in the
International Maritime Organization (IMO) to adopt a goal of
achieving zero emissions from international shipping by 2050.

There is, however, no silver bullet to reaching industry and
government zero-emission goals. For example, Special Presidential
Envoy for Climate John Kerry recently announced that while the United States will
join the international effort to achieve zero emissions by 2050 in
the global shipping industry, the necessary technologies to
decarbonize shipping need investment and they need to be scaled up.
In fact, it remains likely that a combination of solutions and
technologies must be developed in a phased approach. To develop
novel zero emissions technology, however, the industry needs
meaningful governmental investment. In support, several leading
shipping organizations recently submitted a joint paper to the IMO proposing a
$5 billion research and development fund to
accelerate efforts using market-based mechanisms (MBMs) as a fair
and viable policy option to transition to the new fuels and
technologies needed to phase-out GHG emissions in the marine
sector, further adding that the “decarbonisation of
international shipping will depend on out-of-sector stakeholders
developing market-available zero-carbon technologies and
fuels” requiring “leadership and a properly coordinated
approach.”

Thus, such approaches will spur novel marine uses, which will
necessarily continue to involve relevant U.S. Coast Guard offices
with oversight of design and engineering standards. It also
provides an opportunity for the U.S. to take a leadership role
domestically and at the IMO on clean energy technologies and
initiatives, in particular as the pathways toward GHG emissions
from ships need more tangible data, metrics and proven solutions.
To this end, the U.S. will join discussions on action needed to
support the Paris Agreement goals and the UN Framework Convention
on Climate Change at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the
Parties (COP26
summit) in Glasgow, Scotland, in November 2021. Furthermore,
the U.S. Department of Energy announced that the U.S. will also co-lead a
new research project with Denmark focused on decarbonizing
international shipping. Reduction of GHG emissions from ships is
also on the agenda at the IMO Marine Environment
Protection Committee (MEPC) 76 session this June, and those
meetings will be worth monitoring since sustainable climate and
environmental goals must be based on rules and regulations imposed
by the IMO and applicable worldwide in order to ensure a level
playing field in compliance and enforcement, issues that fall under
the Coast Guard’s rubric.

Additionally, U.S. offshore wind development is moving at
breakneck speed with potential development expanding from the East
Coast to the West Coast and Gulf of Mexico. As offshore wind
permits are granted and new vessels are built to meet capacity
demands, the Coast Guard will remain integral to U.S. offshore wind
projects as a cooperating agency related to safe navigation and
access routes, and through its oversight of vessels subject to
Coast Guard regulations that support renewable energy
installations. This additional industry activity could increase the
burden on Coast Guard Headquarters’ units and field offices in
areas such as field regulations, modernizing access routes and
approvals of novel technologies. To ease some burden on discreet
issues outside their legacy expertise, the Coast Guard could look
to input from the National Navigation Safety Advisory Committee (NNAVSAC), National Offshore Safety Advisory
Committee (NOSAC) and other industry bodies or subject
matter experts for insight. Moreover, if novel vessel designs are
developed to meet both capacity demands and zero emission goals,
this could provide opportunities for industry stakeholders with
relevant experience and capabilities to help shape future
regulatory frameworks.

2. Innovation

Innovation in the marine sector is as much about the potential
for American leadership as it is about meeting aspirational goals.
Discussions around innovation have permeated both President
Biden’s presidency and the Coast Guard (as a regulator and user
of emerging technologies), in particular as it relates to emerging
alternate fuels for shipboard propulsion and advanced autonomy in
the marine sector. In terms of innovative marine solutions, the
U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s
Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation recently
held a hearing on “Practical Steps Toward a Carbon-Free Maritime
Industry: Updates on Fuels, Ports, and Technology,” which
emphasized the urgency of developing a U.S. market for innovative
alternate fuel solutions and signaled the importance of integrating
alternate fuels, such as liquefied natural gas, hydrogen or biofuels, into the possible solutions needed
to reach emission reduction goals. Again, the Coast Guard has a
role in regulatory oversight of emerging and novel vessel
propulsion design and engineering, and will thus remain a critical
player in U.S. innovation.

Another area of innovation that has progressed over the
administration’s first 100 days is the continued emergence of
advanced autonomy. While the regulatory agenda item Identifying Barriers to Autonomous Vessels
remains in the pre-rule stage, U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Richard
Timme (Assistant Commandant for Prevention Policy) acknowledged at
the recent 6th Biennial Marine Transportation System
Innovative Science and Technology Conference: Advancing the
Marine Transportation System through Automation and Autonomous
Technologies
that the Coast Guard has received nearly 400
comments to its Request for Information on Integration of
Automated and Autonomous Commercial Vessels and Vessel Technologies
into the Maritime Transportation System. The review and outcome
of those comments will take some time, although there is
undoubtedly more to come in this space. In particular, the Coast
Guard awaits the updated results from the regulatory scoping
exercise for the use of Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) at
the IMO Marine Safety Committee (MSC) 103 in May. In the meantime,
commercial developers continue to explore possibilities with
augmented navigation and advanced autonomy under the existing legal
regime.

Furthermore, the Coast Guard recently announced in the Federal Register its
intention to enter cooperative research and development agreements
(CRADA) with companies to evaluate a detect and avoid (DAA) system
to determine its potential use in a maritime environment to enable
the Coast Guard to safely fly small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS)
beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS). The Coast Guard intends to
conduct flight testing and evaluations of sUAS under a wide variety
of simulated but realistic and relevant real-world maritime
operational scenarios, such as law enforcement, search and rescue,
and maritime environmental responses. Comments, as well as synopses
of proposals regarding future CRADAs, must reach the Coast Guard on
or before May 27, 2021. (Author’s note: It remains encouraging
to see the Coast Guard’s further development of advanced
autonomy as recommended by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS)
report titled Levering Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard
Missions: A Strategic Imperative, to which the author served as
a contributor.)

3. Cybersecurity

In this administration, maritime cybersecurity remains topical,
and will likely continue to remain of vital importance. In the
first 100 days, the only notable Coast Guard cybersecurity update
comes in the form of minor additions to their Vessel Cyber Risk Management Work Instruction
(CVC-WI-027(2)) on Feb. 18, 2021. That update specifies that
vessel owners and operators who are required to maintain a Vessel
Security Plan (VSP) have until Dec. 31, 2021, to implement measures
to mitigate cyber-related vulnerabilities. Additionally, owners and
operators have until Dec. 31, 2021, to address cybersecurity
vulnerabilities within their Vessel Security Assessment (VSA).
Cybersecurity in the maritime sector will only continue to grow in
importance as part of overall and continuing infrastructure, port
and vessel cyber threats, and maritime stakeholders should
consider how they can achieve end-to-end cyber resilience.

The first 100 days of the Biden Administration have certainly
provided guideposts to what the maritime sector should expect going
forward, and the fact that the international shipping has
specifically been included on the administration’s agenda is
worth noting. In particular, areas involving the environment,
sustainability and innovation may offer interested stakeholders
opportunities for investment, grants and development of novel
business cases. This is all the more relevant as the U.S. seems
willing to seek leadership roles on the international stage and
perhaps take steps to close the gap with European counterparts in
these spaces through increased investment and industry support. To
find out more about how these issues could affect your company,
whether based domestically or internationally, contact the author,
who will continue to work with stakeholders to shape relevant
processes for the future.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.



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