America’s Marine Highway’s enhancement wins praise from AAPA

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Posted January 14, 2020

$7.5 million in USDOT funds awarded to nine marine highway projects

When the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) announced this week that that it is awarding a total of $7.5 million to nine U.S. marine highway projects, The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), was among the first to applaud.

And little wonder.

While the mega ports dedicated to container throughput get most of the attention in business media sites like ours, America’s Marine Highway Program will fund the vital enhancement of services in the states of Florida, South Carolina, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Oregon, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

Five of the nine AMH programs awarded grants involve AAPA-member ports. They are:

*The Baton Rouge-New Orleans Shuttle (awarded $1,040,000). Sponsored by SEACOR AMH, the grant will be used to purchase six purpose-built barges and lease one towboat. The vessels will be used to increase the capacity of the Port Allen to New Orleans container shuttle and help stimulate the U.S. shipbuilding industry on America’s inland waterways.

*Lake Erie Shuttle (awarded $1,101,735). Sponsored by Michigan's Port of Monroe, the grant will be used to support the Lake Erie Shuttle Service, including the purchase and installation of a crawler crane and the training associated with its use.

*Port of Morrow Barge Service Expansion (awarded $1,623,200). Sponsored by the Port of Morrow, on the Columbia River in Oregon, the grant will be used to support the expansion of barge services between the Port of Morrow and the AAPA-member ports in Portland (OR), Vancouver (WA) and Longview (WA). The expansion will include enhancement of two marine terminals that will ultimately allow the Port of Morrow greater access to the region, increasing the economic potential in this rural area.

*Houston Gateway and Gulf Container on Barge Central Node (awarded $180,000). Sponsored by the Port of Houston Authority, the grant will support the development of an Operational Plan. The planning efforts and outcomes from this study will provide the necessary data to establish a business case to support shipping container movements by barge between Port Houston terminals.

James River Expansion Project (awarded $189,840). Sponsored by The Port of Virginia, the grant will be used to purchase equipment in support of the existing James River Expansion Project. The equipment will help The Port of Virginia’s Richmond Marine Terminal provide a more efficient barge service operation to current and potential customers.

In addition to its America’s Marine Highways Program advocacy, AAPA supports MARAD through:

Harbor Maintenance Tax exemptions for specific U.S. port-to-port cargo;
Federal funding to support the return of transshipment cargo service to U.S. mainland ports;
Use of the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Improvement Program to fund projects for marine highway services; Incentives for maritime cargo shippers (e.g., green tax credit).

The cargo activities through America’s deep-draft ports in 2018 represented 26 percent of U.S. GDP, supported employment of nearly 31 million American jobs, and generated $378 billion in local, state and federal taxes.

Furthermore, it is well worth noting that the final FY’20 spending bill signed by the president last month means that MARAD’s America’s Marine Highways (AMH) Program received $9.775 million in funding, which was nearly $3 million more than it had received for FY’19.

Global logistics managers will no doubt join AAPA in recognizing this major stride made toward improving our transportation infrastructure.