Joint Subcommittee Studying Economic Incentives to Promote the Growth and Competitiveness of Virginia's Shipbuilding Industry
August 20, 2001, Richmond
At its August meeting, the joint subcommittee appointed to study economic incentives to promote Virginia's shipbuilding industry received information on a newly created apprenticeship program for shipyard workers and regulation of tributyltin (TBT).
Apprenticeship Program for Shipyard Workers
In 2001, the General Assembly passed legislation creating an apprenticeship program for shipyard workers at Tidewater Community College (Chapter 656; 2001). An Associate in Applied Science Degree will be conferred upon persons successfully completing the program. The primary objective of the program is to provide on-the-job and classroom training and education for current shipyard workers. As many shipyard employees lack the advanced skills necessary for career growth in the industry, an apprenticeship program could foster the building of such skills, which should increase career advancement opportunities.
Shipyard representatives have stated that the industry is plagued by employee turnover. It is believed that persons completing the apprenticeship program will be well positioned for a rewarding career in Virginia's shipyards. This should help the industry retain valuable and experienced workers.
The apprenticeship program was not funded in 2001. The joint subcommittee heard a proposal from staff that would provide funding for the program. The proposal calls for general fund appropriations of $68,380 in FY 2003 and $126,760 in FY 2004. These funding levels would support 30 students in FY 2003 and 60 students in FY 2004. All general funds appropriated would be expended on scholarships to shipyard workers enrolled in the apprenticeship program. Scholarship recipients must meet certain academic performance standards to retain their scholarships and are required to work in Virginia's shipyards upon graduation (See § 23-220.01). The joint subcommittee unanimously voted to request the Governor to include this initiative in his 2002-2004 biennial budget.
The joint subcommittee also heard from representatives of Tidewater Community College. The college is eagerly awaiting its first class of shipyard workers. In addition, the college is focusing its efforts on assisting the shipyard industry to recruit new shipyard workers and to retain current workers. The college was recently awarded a large grant from the Department of Labor. Part of the grant money can be used to provide customized course work for shipyard workers. It was noted that with additional funding from the Commonwealth, the college could hire more faculty to help market the apprenticeship program and assist the industry in recruiting and retaining valuable and experienced employees. Additional funding is also needed to modernize the college's machine lab.
Regulation of TBT
TBT and copper oxide are released into Virginia's waters from wash-down operations performed by Virginia's shipyards. TBT is very toxic to some marine organisms, even in very small concentrations. TBT is found in antifouling paints, which help prevent the build-up of organisms on a ship's hull. Before a ship's hull can be repaired, it must be cleaned with fresh water to remove marine salt, slime, and a top layer of antifouling paint. This removal of antifouling paint during wash-down operations is one way in which TBT is discharged into Virginia's waters.
In 1988, the State Water Control Board adopted a maximum TBT discharge standard of 50 ppt (parts per trillion). The discharge standard applies to high-pressure wash-down operations as this type of operation is used to remove paint from a ship's hull. The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) recently made the standard applicable to low-pressure wash-down operations as well.
At the time of adoption of the discharge standard, and even today, there is no known technology for meeting the standard. In 1999, the Commonwealth awarded $1,000,000 to the Center for Advanced Ship Repair and Maintenance (CASRM) to develop a treatment process for the removal of TBT from shipyard wastewaters. The Environmental Protection Agency has also provided funding for this project.
CASRM has developed a water treatment process that has at times met the 50 ppt discharge standard. However, at this juncture, CASRM has not developed a technology to consistently meet the standard.
Many of Virginia's shipyards are operating under compliance orders, which require them to meet the 50 ppt standard by December 31, 2002. At this time, it is uncertain whether or not the technology for meeting the standard will be developed by this date. If such technology is not developed, Virginia's shipyards may be prevented from performing repair work on hulls. This could significantly affect the economic viability of Virginia's shipyards.
At its next meet meeting, the joint subcommittee will consider legislative proposals for consideration by the 2002 Session of the General Assembly.