Robert Berry, vice president of International Shipbreaking LLC at the Port of Brownsville, said his appointment to the Marine Transportation System National Advisory Council could be good for the port and the region.
The 30-year industry veteran’s appointment to the council by U.S. Maritime Administration Administrator Paul N. Jaenichen was announced July 11. His nomination was supported by letters from U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, and Brownsville port Director and CEO Eddie Campirano.
“Our community has a voice in me that is able to get in front of pretty important people, and people that determine a lot of what happens — for instance, funding for port operations and things like that,” Berry said.
“That comes from a lot of different places: Homeland Security and the Army Corps of Engineers. A lot of programs come out of the (U.S. Department of Transportation).”
It’s his first time on the council, which advises the head of MARAD and the secretary of transportation on matters related to marine transportation — marine highways, for instance, as an alternative to overland highway shipping.
“They’re trying to come up with ways, and are looking for advice from people in the industry, to advise them on how to make it work and work better,” Berry said. “It’s working in some places and not so well in others.”
The council will also address port funding and development in addition to other topics, he said.
Berry said he’s acquainted with many of the other newly appointed council members and plans to discuss — especially with ship owners and operators — new European Union regulations on ship recycling that aim to “develop responsible ship owners.”
International Shipbreaking, a subsidiary of EMR USA certified by MARAD and the Navy, has applied to become an E.U.-certified recycler, he said.
“They’re going to demand that European ship owners and operators recycle their vessels in a responsible manner, and that includes recycling with one of those certified recyclers,” Berry said. “I think it’s a very good thing for the world community.”
He noted that the industry is in one of its periodic down cycles due to low scrap metal prices, this time primarily because of China’s flagging economy and weak exports, but said the news isn’t all bad.
“We’re lucky in that Mexico has a fairly good economy, and the U.S. economy is not really good but not really bad either — kind of chugging along,” Berry said.
The last big contract International Shipbreaking was awarded was for the decommissioned USS Ranger, which arrived one year ago and is about 50 percent dismantled, he said. The upshot is that recyclers aren’t necessary idle when prices are low, Berry said.
“We’re bidding on the USS Independence,” he said. “The (Request for Proposals) is on the street.”
At least when it comes to decommissioned MARAD and Navy ships marked for dismantling, metal prices aren’t an issue since the government hews to its schedule no matter what metal prices are doing, he said.
“MARAD and the Navy both, they have these vessels that they’re are going to dispose of,” Berry said. “The steel price determines whether they get money for them or they have to pay to have them dismantled. It just changes the flow of the money.”
Source: Brownsville Herald. 15 July 2016