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Maritime Administration Hosts Second Strategy Symposium

Acting Deputy Secretary of Transportation Victor Mendez championed the TIGER grants for their work in funding ports.

Acting Deputy Secretary of Transportation Victor Mendez championed the TIGER grants for their work in funding ports.

The Maritime Administration (MARAD) held its Second Maritime Strategy Symposium on May 6, at its headquarters in Washington, D.C. The first one was held in January, and both brought stakeholders together to discuss challenges and solutions to maritime issues. From the work at the symposiums, MARAD will work to develop a long-term national maritime strategy.

At the beginning of his talk, Acting Maritime Administrator Paul “Chip” Jaenichen said the first symposium hosted about 240 people and about 100 more online. Both symposiums were webcast live for viewers to watch via the Internet.

At the second symposium at the U.S. Department of Transportation Headquarters West Atrium, Gary Gallegos, chairman of the Marine Transportation System National Advisory Council (MTSNAC) and moderator for the panel discussions, opened the event. MTSNAC leads a coordinated approach with the private sector, as a non-federal body, to advise the secretary on marine transportation system issues. Its membership consists of leaders from 29 commercial transportation firms, port and water stakeholders, labor and federal, state and local public entities.

Gary Gallegos, chairman of the Marine Transportation System National Advisory Council (MTSNAC) and panel moderator; Gary Lee Moore, interim executive director for the Port of Los Angeles; Vanta E. Coda, executive director of Duluth Seaway Port Authority; Susan Monteverde, vice president for government relations for the American Association of Port Authorities; Curtis Whalen, executive director of the American Trucking Association, Intermodal Motor Carrier Conference; and Michael Vigneron, vice president of Atlantic Coast Division International Longshoremen’s Association.

To start the symposium, attendees heard from a group of speakers from the Maritime Administration and the Department of Transportation, then three panel discussions on the important stakeholders in the maritime strategy: ports, domestic shipping, and shipyards and shipbuilding.

Acting Maritime Administrator Paul “Chip” Janeichen discussed the need for a viable, long-term maritime strategy.

Before the panel discussions, Acting Deputy Secretary of Transportation Victor Mendez, reminded the attendees that the purpose of the symposium was to hear from them. Mendez said the timing of the symposium couldn’t be better, as one week prior, Anthony Foxx, Secretary of Transportation, submitted a proposal for the reauthorization of highway infrastructure and safety programs, called the Grow America Act, a four-year, $302 billion program. The bill includes $5 billion for four more years of the TIGER grant program, which through five rounds of grants, has directed $420 million to 33 port projects. Mendez said with another $600 million in TIGER grants ready for authorization, port projects should be very well represented. He added that a lot of port projects funded through the TIGER program, prior to that grant would have had a very difficult time securing DOT funding, because of the way it’s structured and the way its programs are structured.

In talking about the Grow America Act, Mendez said, “Sending that bill to Congress is a reflection of something we all feel very deeply and that is that the only way to fix America’s transportation infrastructure is if everyone puts their ideas on the table and has a very honest discussion about how we can find common ground and solutions,” Mendez said.

Congressman Rob Wittman (R-VA), co-chair of the Congressional Shipbuilding Caucus, who reiterated the need for port infrastructure improvements.

The next speaker Jaenichen reiterated the need for challenges and solutions.

“Opportunity is knocking for our industry, but even when opportunity knocks, you have to get moving and answer the door, and that’s what we’re here to do today,” Jaenichen said.

While championing the successes of the maritime industry, like increased port traffic since the recession and the largest number of vessels on order in a decade, the significant challenges to infrastructure will shape those issues for the future.

On the port side, Jaenichen noted that only a few ports are ready for post-Panamax ships, largely due to channel issues. A common challenge among all the maritime transportation sectors is the rising population, which is expected to grow by 80 million by 2050. The 30-year plan in development by MARAD, Jaenichen said, will prepare for that growing future.

After the symposium, MARAD would begin the work of developing the details of the national strategy, which Jaenichen said, would be much easier than implementing the individual actions in the strategy. He recognized that one strategy was not one-size-fits-all, and compromises will need to be made.

Next up for the morning speakers was Congressman Rob Wittman (R-VA), co-chair of the Congressional Shipbuilding Caucus, who also spoke about the need for port infrastructure improvements. Wittman said he is a supporter of water resources to support dredging projects and that Congress must stay on track with authorizations, like the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA). Otherwise projects and authorizations have to move forward on continuing resolutions, which often means uncertainty and starting and stopping in projects. “That means adopting those appropriations bills on time,” Wittman said. Although Wittman voted twice in August for Congress to stay behind until their work was done for that session, his colleagues, all but one, did not vote with him.

The first panel of the symposium addressed port issues. Gallegos lead the discussion with Gary Lee Moore, interim executive director for the Port of Los Angeles; Vanta E. Coda, executive director of Duluth Seaway Port Authority, the largest port area on the Great Lakes; Susan Monteverde, vice president for government relations for the American Association of Port Authorities; Curtis Whalen, executive director of the American Trucking Association, Intermodal Motor Carrier Conference; Michael Vigneron, vice president of Atlantic Coast Division International Longshoremen’s Association.

The panelists first identified important challenges in their areas of the industry, including funding and infrastructure challenges, congestion at ports, and the full use of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for its intended purpose. Monteverte also noted the need for better access “outside the gate” or outside of ports and the need for port access to be a part of a new national freight plan. Coda also reiterated the need for multimodal approaches and better connecting of the marine assests to land-side infrastructure. Moore also identified competition from Canadian and Mexican ports, as an important issue, especially on the West Coast.

The next two panels addressed shipyards and domestic shipping. The afternoon speakers included Anthony Foxx, secretary of transportation, and Bill Cooper, president of the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas, a non-profit trade association promoting and supporting the LNG industry.

After lunch, attendees returned for breakout session on the three panel discussions, to facilitate the exchange of ideas, identify concerns, opportunities and issues facing the domestic maritime industry.

Following the symposium, MARAD has begun the work developing new policies to keep America’s sealift capability robust, protect long-term economic interests, and maintain the strategic asset of the U.S. Merchant Marine. MARAD said the strategy will ensure that the domestic element of the Marine Transportation System is modern and capable of meeting the demands of the future.

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