Welcome to the USGLSA Website

Welcome to the web site of the United States Great Lakes Shipping Association. I hope you will find this to be a source of information about our organization as well as have it serve as a useful informational tool for our membership and other interested parties.

Comments from the Executive Director

Spring 2018

The locks are open, weather conditions have improved and with special thanks to the always robust, joint and successful ice breaking mission of U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard teams and strategically deployed assets, the 2018 Navigation Season is well underway for the domestic and international flag fleets on our Great Lakes and in the St. Lawrence Seaway System. Best wishes to all the fleets, to the dedicated mariners aboard and to the shore side groups who provide the vital support and services to move the landed cargo efficiently to its ultimate destination.

While prospects appear reasonably bright for another healthy Navigation Season, uncertainties do exist which may have some effect, including matters as to tariffs on certain import materials important to the trades as well as continuing talks over NAFTA.

Since last reporting in this place, we have had some further developments on the subject of pilotage. 1) In the seemingly endless process of litigation with the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. pilots, the Plaintiff vessel owner/operator group with which USGLSA participates and supports, received some positive news in a U.S. Federal Court decision in what we call our 2016 Rate Case litigation. In that decision, the Court ruled that certain actions taken in the establishment of the 2016 Final Rule covering rates were “arbitrary and capricious” meaning the published rate level was in error, violating administrative law standards for lawful rate making. Those violations resulted in vessel owners and operators having paid pilotage rates far in excess of what has now been determined to be lawfully justified. In making the decision, however, the Judge declined to determine any remedy, but rather required the parties to submit further briefs suggesting what the remedy should be. In light of the errors found by the court to have been committed by USCG in establishing the rate, the vessel owner/operators were deeply disappointed when the Judge finally decided to remand the remedy action back for USCG to settle. In other words, the party which committed the violation, USCG, is now in charge of the remedy. In the meantime, of course, the Lakes pilots have been and remain unjustly enriched by funds they have collected through what we now know was, in part, an unlawful rate making process. The full exact amount is still being determined, but based on current information, such amount will be considerable.

2) A second subject of pilotage related litigation now exists involving a lawsuit that pilots have brought against the USCG concerning the Final Rule in the 2017 Ratemaking process. It involves a) an attack on the application of the new weighting factor which USCG revised after the process during the 2016 Rate Making and b) a determination that pilots should have unrestricted legal expenses reimbursed through the rate base. Regrettably, but by clear necessity, the vessel owner/operator group joined and supported by USGLSA, has intervened in the matter to protect its interests.

3) Other pilotage related subjects include:

• A continuance this Season, in some ports, of the practice of pilots ordering tugs during benign weather and port conditions.

• Two vacancies on the Great Lakes Pilotage Advisory Committee (GLPAC) are in the process of being filled. The application period recently closed and appointments are targeted for September 30, 2018.

Most all of the above represents a continuation of the long series of unfortunate, controversial and confrontational episodes with pilots which we have identified numerous times in this space. There has to be a better way. In that connection, I want to call to your attention to a fine new work recently published by the Conference of Great Lakes and St Lawrence Governors and Premiers which addresses Lakes/Seaway pilotage and examines various alternatives to providing this so vital service in a safe, but more responsible and cost effective manner. The objective of the publication for now is to identify problem areas and present options only as possible reforms for the administration of pilotage on the Lakes. I highly recommend your reading this most enlightening and thoughtful work. For convenience, you can find a copy of this document on this website under the “Items of Interest” tab on this Home Page.

Some briefer final notes:

USGLSA held its Annual Meeting of Members in Chicago in March this year, which was well attended. Honored guests were USCG Sector Lake Michigan Officers - CAPT Tom Stuhlreyer, Commander - Sector Lake Michigan, CDR Zeita Merchant - Marne Safety Officer – Chicago and CDR Robert Webb - Prevention Department Head - Sector Lake Michigan.

The proposed Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA) has had some recent setbacks, but remains alive and sponsors have not given up. VIDA is a very constructive piece of legislation which is designed to simplify regulatory authority especially on the Lakes by charging the USCG with sole authority over ballast water management where duplication of authority with other agencies such as EPA is now present. Additionally, VIDA would also pre-empt individual Lakes States from asserting their own sometimes conflicting laws and regulations, so that vessels calling on Lakes ports would not have to deal with different filing and compliance standards in different States. Recently, an attempt to get the VIDA bill to the floor of the Senate failed, but supporters remain committed as does USGLSA.

Questions and comments are always welcome.


Stuart H. Theis, Executive Director
United States Great Lakes Shipping Association
Cleveland, Ohio
440/357-9104 (Phone)
440/357-9105 (Fax)
Exec.Director@usglsa.org (e-mail)
www.usglsa.org (web)

Reference Links

Stuart Theis

Mr. Theis, who has served as Executive Director since April 2007, is an attorney and businessman with prior associations at Cleveland, Ohio based M. A. Hanna Company and Oglebay Norton Company. At Hanna, he held a variety of legal/operational positions including Corporate Vice President with responsibilities for Hanna's Great Lakes/St Lawrence Seaway and Ocean Marine vessel and dock operations in the U. S. and Canada. While at Oglebay Norton, Mr. Theis served as President of the Company's Great Lakes fleet and dock operations. Mr. Theis is a member of the American Bureau of Shipping and has recently served as a member on two U. S. Coast Guard Advisory Committees, the Great Lakes Pilotage Advisory Committee and the National Maritime Security Advisory Committee.