Brownwater News, February 2019

Chao, port groups applaud Trump on infrastructure

The Department of Transportation and the nation’s port groups were quick to comment on President Trump’s views of the State of the Union (SOTU) on Feb. 5.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao noted that the president “issued a bipartisan call to repair and restore America’s aging infrastructure.” Chao said that America’s economic and job growth in the past two years was spurred by the country’s transportation sector, “but aging and insufficient infrastructure threatens to impede future growth.”

“To keep pace with the needs of a growing economy, this administration is committed to improvements that address all facets of infrastructure, from the needs of rural America to the opportunities of innovative technology,” Chao said. “We look forward to working across the aisle toward cooperative solutions this year.”

Kurt Nagle, president and CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities, said he was “pleased that the president asked Congress to address issues of concern to the U.S. seaport industry.”

Nagle said Trump called for “a great rebuilding of America’s crumbling infrastructure, for securing America’s borders and international ports of entry, including those at seaports, and for negotiating new trade treaties with countries like China that would end unfair trade practices.”

Also commenting at the conclusion of the president’s speech was Elaine Nessle, executive director of the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors (CAGTC). She urged the administration and Congress to “unite in the coming months on infrastructure, a bipartisan bright spot.”

Nessle said that infrastructure investment is “a bipartisan issue at its core. For too many years, federal freight infrastructure investment has lagged while our population and national economy grow. This financial burden cannot be shouldered by states, localities and the private sector alone.”

The coalition urged the adoption of a “freight-focused multimodal competitive grant program” that includes a “national strategy that guides long-term planning.”

Nessle added that any infrastructure proposal should include federal funding that leverages “private participation and provides transportation planners with the largest toolbox of financing options possible to move freight projects forward quickly and efficiently. Private-sector funding will not replace or diminish the need for federal resources, but in many instances can be used to augment system expansion.”

Nation’s ports seek more funding for security

The nation’s ports have identified nearly $4 billion in port and supply chain security needs over the next 10 years, according to a new report from the American Association of Port Authorities.

The AAPA’s latest report in its “The State of Freight” series recommends refocusing the Port Security Grant Program to better meet the security infrastructure needs of publicly owned commercial seaports and related maritime operations.

Kurt Nagle, president and CEO of the AAPA, said about $3 billion was needed for maintenance and upgrades to port security equipment and systems, and $1.27 billion for tackling cybersecurity and other security threats.

Nagle added that Port Security Grant Program appropriations need to increase “fourfold to $400 million a year, but the ratio of grant funds going to ports needs to at least double to 50 percent to properly mitigate for security threats.”

The need for more port funding was the focus of comments Feb. 13 by AAPA Chairman William Friedman, president and CEO of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority, at a hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

“It is a critical time for making needed federal investments in the nation’s port-related infrastructure,” Friedman said. “Rising freight volumes on all three coasts and the Great Lakes means we must upgrade our waterside and landside infrastructure to accommodate larger ships and the accompanying freight volume and passenger surges.”

Friedman reminded the committee that highways “are important to our freight network, but ports are multimodal facilitators, meaning trains, trucks, ships and barges all need access to them.”

Seaway tops 40 million tons of cargo in 2018

Cargo transiting the St. Lawrence Seaway during the 2018 navigation season totaled 40.9 million metric tons, the highest amount since 2007, the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. said. The total for 2017 was 38.3 million tons.

Much of the increase in tonnage last year was due to grain shipments, which at 12.2 million tons was the best on record since 2000. Grain came through with 10.2 million tons in 2017.

“We are very pleased with the results recorded over the past year,” said Terence Bowles, the Seaway agency’s president and CEO. “After completing the first year with hands-free mooring installed at all of our high-lift locks, it is gratifying to see that our efforts to boost system efficiency and heighten our competitive position are bearing strong results.”

Coming in second among the commodities handled by the Seaway last year was dry bulk at 10.7 million tons, up from 10.4 million tons in 2017. Iron ore was third with 7.4 million tons, down from 8.2 million tons in 2017.

Lakers’ cargo volume drops 2 percent in 2018

The Lake Carriers’ Association reported that U.S.-flag Great Lakes freighters carried 83.7 million tons of cargo in the 2018 navigation season, a decrease of 2.3 percent from 2017. The group said the year ended strongly, however, with 8.5 million tons carried in December, an increase of 17.5 percent over December 2017.

Driving the surge was a 16 percent increase in iron ore cargoes, which reached 46 million tons. Limestone and coal cargoes also registered increases of 31 and 19.5 percent, respectively.

AAPA hosts anti-trafficking webinar

In recognition of National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) hosted a webinar to educate and support the port industry’s anti-trafficking efforts.

Among the speakers was Julie Abraham, director of the Department of Transportation’s Office of International Transportation and Trade. Kurt Nagle, president and CEO of the AAPA, said that Abraham encouraged the audience to sign the Transportation Leaders Against Human Trafficking pledge and to participate in future advisory committee meetings.

Another speaker, Mi Yung Park, government relations director at The A21 Campaign, directed participants to learn more about global action against human trafficking at

The Department of Transportation also offers counter-trafficking resources, such as common indicators of human trafficking and employee awareness training, the AAPA said.

Inland waterways board to meet Feb. 28

The Inland Waterways Users Board has scheduled its next meeting for Feb. 28 at the Texas A&M Special Events Center in Galveston.

Ken Lichtman, executive director of the board, said that on the preceding day there will be a site visit to the Colorado River Locks near Matagorda, Texas. Information notebooks for the board meeting were scheduled to be sent out no later than the week of Feb. 18, Lichtman said.

For more information, contact Mark Pointon at (703) 428-6438.

By Professional Mariner Staff