Marine Highways Committee

 

MHC Member List

Almost eight years ago, then Maritime Administrator Bill Schubert asked that a meeting be held to develop and institute a short sea shipping cooperative program.  There was a positive enthusiasm shown by the attendees and the Short Sea Shipping Cooperative Program (SCOOP) was born.  That was then and the enthusiasm is a good memory! 

Over the past years, we saw a number of studies and initiatives by the cooperative that moved the ball forward for short sea shipping.  Members of the cooperative spent numerous hours at conferences and seminars describing the virtues of using our waterways to move our goods.  We displayed the booth we had constructed for such occasions and distributed professionally designed brochures.  The studies included both financial and practical issues of how to prepare the way for short sea shipping.  At one point, Sean Connaughton, as the sitting Maritime Administrator, coined the phrase “marine highway” so we had a new name for our concept.  We became known as the Marine Highway Cooperative (MHC).  Just this year, we saw the culmination of one of our more important efforts…the development of the marine highway calculator.  This tool is an easy to use calculator that anyone can utilize by plugging in numbers and they will get a read-out of the benefits of using the marine highway as part of a true intermodal movement.  We have made the calculator available free of charge to the public by having it on the cooperative’s web site, www.marinehighways.org. 

Several months ago, the officers were informed by MARAD that the administration could not continue participating in the MHC as the by-laws implied monetary support from MARAD and they are not able to provide further financial assistance; however, they expressed a desire to continue participation in some manner.  MARAD requested that we rewrite the by-laws or take some other action.  When the officers met to discuss the situation, our primary concern was to have an organization that would carry the idea of a marine highway forward and allow active participation by MARAD as well as its members.  Trying to go it alone, without MARAD participation was a non-starter; therefore, we decided that we had to keep MARAD engaged in some form.  One of the wiser heads in the group mentioned the Ship Operators Cooperative Program (SOCP) as a potential vehicle to hook the marine highway onto.  SOCP is a cooperative that has MARAD participation and a large private sector membership.  We approached the chairman of SOCP to ascertain what possibilities existed for a marine highway project and learned that a distinct committee focused solely on the marine highway was possible.  The fit is indeed a good one and board members are excited about the potential opportunities this presents.  SOCP operates under a committee system with members volunteering on various projects/committees (with participation permitted by those outside the SOCP membership).  SOCP has a treasury and funds are allocated according to the desires of the members participating on a committee.  SOCP members are very active on multiple issues and stay engaged on various professional subjects.

We discussed the potential merger in a bit more detail at a subsequent meeting with SOCP leadership.  In shifting from our current stand-alone organization, we wanted to be sure that our treasury (approximately $37,000) is kept intact and used only for marine highway purposes, as that is the reason the funds were accumulated from MARAD and the members.  We also wanted to ensure the current members of MHC had full participation within the SOCP structure and that the calculator developed would still be available for public benefit.  We have been satisfied on all counts.  At a recent SOCP meeting in early November, the SOCP members agreed to accept the MHC members into SOCP as a “Marine Highway Committee”, a fortuitous use of the same initials!  They also agreed the current MHC treasury could be shifted to SOCP and marked for use only by the Marine Highways Committee. 

Mark Yonge has accepted the position as the Marine Highway Committee initial Chairman and Richard Plant, who is the current Program Administrator of the Marine Highway Cooperative and Treasurer, has agreed to assist Mark in running the new SOCP committee.  There will be a continuity of operation as the cooperative becomes a committee of SOCP.  The SOCP also graciously made those of us in the Marine Highways Cooperative members of SOCP for calendar year 2012.  As a recipient of this letter, you are identified as one of those members.  We certainly encourage you to be an active member of the SOCP Marine Highway Committee.  (Note: At the conclusion of this period – ending December 31, 2011, you will have to consider whether or not you want to continue at the current SOCP membership rate, although non-members of SOCP are able to participate in committee work but do not have a right to vote on business issues.)  MARAD has also enthusiastically expressed the desire to participate on the committee.  You should expect to receive a letter from SOCP regarding membership and participation within the MHC under SOCP so that you and your organization remains informed of actions being taken and opportunities afforded to you.

We believe this is a good outcome for us!  SOCP has a well regarded structure, MARAD participates, the Marine Highway Committee will develop its own operations and the marine highway will be introduced to members of SOCP who should be involved.  These developments will culminate on 31 December 2011 when the Marine Highway Cooperative dissolves and the funds are transferred over to the SOCP treasury for use at the direction of the Marine Highways Committee.

The officers, both current and those from the past, want to thank all for their efforts, participation in and guidance provided to the cooperative.  The recent economic climate has not been the best for development of new ideas although we can all be satisfied that we have kept the lighthouse burning for the marine highway.