Let’s Not Forget to Modernize Seaports

Apr 6, 2012

When I say “infrastructure” roads, bridges, and maybe airports probably pop into your head, but don't forget seaports. They move most goods in and out of the United States and support millions of jobs. This week, Jerry Bridges, chairman of the board of the American Association of Port Authorities, wrote about the funding issues ports are facing:

Although our nation's ports are dynamic, vibrant centers of trade and commerce, they rely on partnerships. U.S. seaports and their marine terminal partners anticipate investing about $8 billion annually over the next five years to maintain and improve their infrastructure.

Unfortunately, the federal government isn't adequately matching this commitment with investments in connecting land- and waterside infrastructure to effectively handle increased cargo volumes. This lack of federal foresight could create inefficiencies in moving cargo to and from ports, causing time delays, cost increases, reduced international competitiveness for U.S. exports and product shortages for consumers.

Despite there being a federal Harbor Maintenance Tax on seaport cargo that raises 100 percent of the cost for periodically dredging America's harbors and channels to their authorized dimensions, only about half of that money is being appropriated for its intended purpose, resulting in serious dredging needs being neglected.

Bridges makes an important point. With the Panama Canal undergoing expansion and increasing U.S. exports, the need for modern ports to move goods is critical to the economy. In another op-ed, Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, noted that as of this moment the U.S. only has "six ports deep enough to handle the new larger ships that will pass" through the canal.

Bridges urges Congress to “pass a Surface Transportation bill that results in more funding for port, freight and landside infrastructure.”

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