Shutdown Hits Coast Guard Academy, NOAA and MARAD

Written by Maritime First

…As US, helping rescue 24 fishing crew on grounded Pacific ship***

An estimated ten percent of the U.S. Coast Guard’s employees have been furloughed due to the partial government shutdown, and most of those who remain working face uncertainty about their next paycheck. About 160 of the 260 staff at the U.S.

Coast Guard Academy are among those who are off work until the shutdown ends, and students are set to return for the next semester on Sunday.  

Most of the 100 personnel still on duty at the Academy are faculty members, and classes will be held as scheduled, according to the school. However, groundskeepers, maintenance workers and some athletic coaches will not be on hand. Winter sports will continue, but other athletic events could be canceled. 

“The lapse in funding will impact the ability for cadets to receive academic support services, participate in outreach activities and some athletic events,” the Academy said in an advisory. 

The shutdown also affects more than half the staff at the Maritime Administration, which prepared to cease all activities in the Committee on Marine Transportation Systems, the Office of Policy and Plans, and the Office of Maritime Education and Training, among others. MARAD continues all its essential operations for the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, the Maritime Security Program, the NRDF and Ready Reserve, and the Ship Disposal Program.

At the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the shutdown has hit important licensing and research functions. Most NOAA research activities are suspended, and Alaska Public Radio reports that many of the NOAA officials who conduct required permitting for the Alaskan trawl fisheries are furloughed and unavailable. (Even if willing, NOAA employees who are furloughed may not voluntarily perform their ordinary duties without pay, according to the agency’s HR office.) At least one large catcher-processor is tied to the pier in Dutch Harbor until the shutdown ends or another permitting solution is found. 

The Democratic Party takes control of the House of Representatives on Thursday, and among its first acts, it is set to pass spending bills to restore all federal funding at current levels. However, these measures will not likely pass the Republican-controlled Senate, which has signaled in advance that it will not vote in favor of legislation that the president will not sign. President Donald Trump has promised a lengthy shutdown until Congress appropriates $5 billion for the construction of a wall at the southern border; as the Democratic leadership’s plan only includes $1.3 billion for general border security, the White House has described it as a “non-starter.” 

In the meantime, a large fishing ship ran aground on a remote Pacific atoll early Thursday, and the U.S. Coast Guard said it was helping coordinate the rescue of its 24 crew members.

The 308-foot (94-meter) Chinese-flagged Ou Ya Leng No. 6 ran aground on uninhabited Taka Atoll in the Marshall Islands, Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew West said. He said a Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules plane had arrived in the area and made contact with the crew, who remained aboard and were using emergency generator power.

West said earlier reports the crew had left the ship and made it ashore on a lifeboat were incorrect. He said the Hercules had circled the area but there was nowhere suitable nearby for it to land.

Two fishing vessels should arrive Friday to help rescue the crew, West said, adding that the Marshall Islands had also sent a patrol craft. There were no reports of injuries or pollution, according to the Coast Guard.

West said it wasn’t clear what caused the accident, the crew’s nationalities, or the status of the ship’s cargo and fuel. The fish carrier targets squid in the west and central Pacific Ocean, according to the Coast Guard.

Taka Atoll, also known as Toke Atoll, is part of the Ratak Chain and is not far from Utirik Atoll, which is inhabited by about 400 people. The Marshall Islands is home to about 60,000 people and has close ties to the U.S. under a Compact of Free Association.

West said that decisions about how to deal with the stricken ship would likely be made by the Marshall Islands government as it had grounded in the nation’s territorial waters.

He said that communications with the region were difficult and that the situation remained fluid. The area was experiencing 11-foot (3.3-meter) -high seas and winds of 25 miles (40 kilometers) per hour, with conditions forecast to deteriorate, according to the Coast Guard.

The Hercules came from Wake Island, where the crew was previously involved in helping with a vessel that caught fire while carrying cars from Japan to Hawaii. Sixteen crew members were rescued from the Sincerity Ace vessel, while four others were listed as unresponsive and one remained missing.

Maritime Executive with additional report from Fox News

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