The MTS report, entitled “An Assessment of the United States Marine Transportation System (MTS),” was presented to Congress in September 1999 by Secretary of Transportation Rodney E. Slater, Maritime Administrator Clyde J. Hart Jr., U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. James M. Loy and members of the MTS Task Force after 18 months of development. The MTS Task Force included representatives from more than a dozen federal agencies along with representatives from the maritime industry. Slater called the report “the Blueprint for the 21st Century Marine Transportation System.” It outlined the challenges faced by the MTS and steps that need to be taken to meet those challenges and keep the United States competitive in the growing world economy. According to the report, the volume of domestic and international marine trade is expected to double in the next 20 years.
Graykowski emphasized this growth in his presentation to the International Transportation Symposium in Washington, D.C., in October. “We have projections of double, maybe tripled growth, expected to flow through U.S. seaports by the end of next decade,” he said. “The floodgate has already been opened. Last year we saw a 10 percent growth in international waterborne container traffic.”
A year after the report to Congress, the first recommendation of the task force, to create an MTS National Advisory Council (NAC) composed of non-federal stakeholders that would provide input on national issues and advise the Secretary of Transportation on the needs of MTS, has been accomplished. Chaired by Chuck Raymond, president and CEO of CSX Lines, the council has already identified the need for increasing public awareness of the MTS as its top priority and has begun working toward that project.
The advisory council also held a second round of regional dialogue sessions from May through June 2000 in Chicago; Memphis, Tenn.; Philadelphia; Jacksonville, Fla.; Seattle; Los Angeles/Long Beach; and Houston.
Other goals identified by the task force when the plan was announced included the creation of a Federal Interagency Committee (FIC) for MTS. The committee will serve as the national coordinating body for all federal agencies responsible for elements of the MTS. The report also recommended the formation of a third group to enhance coordination of local and regional MTS elements and to funnel information to the NAC and FIC. Graykowski emphasized that the formation of two national groups was necessary because “some MTS issues fall to federal agencies outside the Department of Transportation (DOT). The Interagency Committee will ensure that private sector recommendations are given proper consideration when responsibility lies with a non-DOT agency.
Graykowski also reviewed the several task force recommendations that local, regional and national groups can address. These recommendations included seeking solutions to the following issues: landside infrastructure inadequacies at many of the nation’s larger ports; the safety hazards and impediments to efficient port access caused by at-grade rail crossings on local streets serving older port facilities; the need to adopt a systematic approach to MTS safety and environmental protection; lack of a national coordinated approach to ports and waterways security, cargo theft, smuggling and terrorism; the need for increased and coordinated MTS-related research by government agencies, educational institutions and the private sector; development of reliable national trade and fleet forecasts to incorporate alternative scenarios of U.S. and world market trends, energy sources and internal U.S. demographic and economic regional shifts; and the establishment of information management systems and infrastructure supportive of the MTS such as better hydrographic and weather information; improved vessel, cargo and passenger tracking methods; and better waterway traffic management information for mariners and ports.
“Because America has always looked to the sea for wealth and security, we have embraced the MTS initiative as the most promising answer to an inescapable challenge,” Graykowski said. “MTS is America’s key to harnessing the tide of maritime trade instead of being swept away by it. Working together, we believe that government, industry and the scores of stakeholder groups representing our citizenry in the MTS process will meet the needs of all users. We will provide safe, efficient and environmentally responsible transportation for our citizens even as we embark upon the greatest trade boom in history.”
The complete MTS report, summaries of the regional dialogue sessions and other information is available at http://www.dot.gov/mts/.