Maritime projects continue shaping Rhode Island's economic future (BLOG)

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The following is the text of a blog by Maritime Administrator Paul "Chip" Jaenichen:

(WASHINGTON) — When I visit Rhode Island, one of the first things I notice is its extensive water resources available for tourism, sports and commerce, not to mention the ability to move people from one place to another. Next, I think about the  dynamic men and women working on and near the water in the maritime industries and businesses including ship construction and repair that support the state’s long-term economic prosperity. Boasting over 400 miles of coastline, it’s easy to see why maritime is a central part of the “Ocean State’s” heritage as well as the key to its economic future. 

I saw this firsthand last week when I joined Sen. Jack Reed and Gov. Gina Raimondo, along with other state and local officials, to christen the Port of Providence’s latest asset, a new crane barge christened Sandy C. Funded, in part, by a $10.5 million Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant, Sandy C, along with two high-performance mobile cranes delivered in 2013, are literally transforming the port into a modern marine cargo center. 

A $22.3 million TIGER grant also figured prominently in the redevelopment of the Port of Davisville in Quonset, R.I., which I also visited. That port just experienced its sixth consecutive record-breaking year for automobiles imported by ship. That grant, awarded in 2010, significantly contributed to the port’s success by supporting the purchase of a mobile harbor crane as well as terminal, road and rail improvements needed to increase the efficiency of the port and ability to handle higher volumes of freight and project cargo such as electrical power-generating windmills. 

Port projects like these are precisely what the Obama administration had in mind when TIGER was created — transformative infrastructure projects that not only help shape this country’s future, but also open the floodgates of opportunity across this nation. Since 2009, DOT’s TIGER Program has provided nearly $4.6 billion to 381 projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico — 43 of those grants totaling nearly $524 million have been awarded to our nation’s ports and other maritime projects, representing 11.4 percent of total TIGER funds awarded.

Ports are not the only maritime enterprise working to create good-paying jobs and new opportunities for the citizens of Rhode Island. While there, I had an opportunity to visit Newport Shipyard, where $744,990 in funding is being provided by MarAd’s Small Shipyard Grant Program to help their workforce modernize operations, improve efficiency, and reap the benefits of increased production capabilities. Since 2009, this administration has provided more than $164 million to assist 150 U.S. shipyards, including nearly $4 million to other Rhode Island shipyards, like Senesco Marine in North Kingstown and Blount Boats in Warren. During my visit, I also spent time at Senesco Marine and was able to witness firsthand the impact of these grants and the permanent jobs that are created.
Building on collaboration and public private partnerships, state and local officials are aggressively working to modernize maritime infrastructure while creating sustainable jobs. I can attest to the fact that boosting port capability and shipyard efficiencies creates long-lasting economic engines that benefit the local and regional economies for decades. The citizens of Rhode Island recognize the value of the state’s strategically located ports, its historic maritime industry partners, and that an investment in maritime is an investment in their future.

By Professional Mariner Staff