Brownwater News, January 2017

AAPA sends Trump port investment recommendations

Kurt Nagle, president and CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), spent the early days of the new year analyzing what impacts the new Trump administration’s policies may have on the nation’s seaports.

While the president-elect’s plan is to invest up to $1 trillion in U.S. infrastructure over 10 years, AAPA wants to make sure this plan presents opportunities for America’s ports.

“To that end, AAPA sent the Trump transition team its policy and funding recommendations for freight infrastructure, which include improving freight mobility, modernizing shipping channels, ensuring against seaport terrorism and building environmental resilience,” Nagle said.

Recommendations included securing America’s ports and waterside borders by increasing funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Port Security Grant Program to at least $100 million per year; directing grant funding to ports rather than other entities with very low commercial threats; and providing 500 additional Customs and Border Protection personnel to U.S. seaports to meet trade needs and ensure cargo is safe and moves efficiently.

Nagle said that in regard to improving the freight-handling capacity of the country’s roadways and waterways, with particular emphasis on connections with U.S. seaports, AAPA recommends planning and building multimodal projects; establishing an Office of Multimodal Freight Transportation within the Department of Transportation’s Office of the Secretary; funding for a “robust” ports program under the DOT administration to help ports plan for their 21st-century infrastructure needs; increasing investments for authorized Marine Highway projects to ensure transport alternatives alongside congested landside transport corridors; and increasing funding for transport infrastructure grants to $1.25 billion per year.

Looking ahead, Nagle said the AAPA also would urge the new president and Congress to “partner together on a comprehensive infrastructure package, including tax incentives and increased federal investments, which will close the gap on the significant unmet infrastructure needs in and around our seaports.”

Funding seaport-related infrastructure is “vital to optimize the supply chain and enhance America’s competitiveness,” Nagle said. While ports and their private-sector partners plan to invest $155 billion for infrastructure between 2016 and 2020, federal freight infrastructure investment plans appear nowhere close to that.

“AAPA believes that strategic investments in America’s transportation infrastructure will return huge dividends in terms of job creation, economic growth and tax return, so this will be the focus of the association’s 2017 advocacy agenda,” Nagle said.

WCI ends 2016 on a high note

The Waterways Council Inc. (WCI) ended its 2016 Capitol Currents on a high note, calling attention to back-to-back House and Senate passage of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, which included the Water Resources Development Act that restored the WRDA process to a regular biennial schedule.

Continuing to boast of the “big WIIN” for water resources programs, WCI also noted the final vote that finalized passage of a continuing resolution that will keep the federal government funded through April 28, 2017.

The National Waterways Conference said in November that it had seen “positive signs from Capitol Hill that we’ll see a final water resources bill before the 114th Congress adjourns.” The House passed the bill Dec. 8 and the Senate passed it Dec. 10.

“Unlike the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014, there were no unwarranted lock closures due to the threat of invasive species,” the WCI said in the Dec. 19 issue of Capitol Currents. “There was also a provision in the bill that said no inland waterways project can be deauthorized by the Army Corps of Engineers for not receiving construction funds until Olmsted (Locks and Dam Project) is off the books.

“The passage of this significantly important legislation is not only critical to the inland waterways, but to the entire nation. Returning water resources legislation to a biennial schedule instills confidence in the federal government while also keeping America competitive in foreign markets.”

With the help of the CR funds, the WCI said, the Corps will continue to operate slightly below fiscal year 2016 funding levels. An additional $4.1 billion was provided to address damage caused by recent natural disasters. Of that amount, the Corps will receive $1 billion for flood and coastal storm protection projects and dredging.

At the end of 2016, Michael Toohey, president and chief executive officer of the WCI, released a year-end report advising the membership that the board of directors had approved numerous appropriations and authorization goals.

Appropriations goals include full and intended execution by the Corps of Engineers of FY 2016 funds; an FY 2017 appropriation of the full amount supported by the diesel fuel tax for the Inland Waterways Trust Fund; an FY 2017 increase in overall Corps Civil Works operations and maintenance funding ($3.1 billion was allocated in FY 2016), including increased funding for the navigation mission ($2.3 billion was allocated in FY 2016), and funding in FY 2017 for the Navigation & Ecosystem Sustainability Program.

Authorization goals include opposition to new taxation, lockage fees or adverse changes in cost sharing for the inland waterways transportation system; the Calcasieu Lock in Louisiana; completing the Corps’ study and approval process on all inland waterways navigation projects without unreasonable delays; increasing the threshold of when a project is considered major rehabilitation; and supporting the American Waterways Operators’ “UnLock Our Jobs” coalition effort to control invasive species on the inland waterways system.

Port of Duluth reaches milestone

The Duluth Seaway Port Authority reports that the Great Lakes Fleet reached a milestone in 2016, celebrating 115 years transporting bulk cargoes on the Great Lakes.

Writing in its fall 2016 North Star Port newsletter, the port authority said the Cleveland- and Duluth-based Pittsburgh Steamship Co., formed in 1901 by the U.S. Steel Corp. (USS), brought together 112 vessels from six steamship companies into one line. It was the largest commercial fleet in the world at the time.

The Great Lakes Fleet, as it’s known today, was actually formed in 1967 when USS merged its two Great Lakes marine divisions. GLF now operates nine vessels, including three 1,000-footers, as a central player in Great Lakes shipping and the American steel industry.

By Professional Mariner Staff