In the past two years, the United States has learned the issues facing seaports and the maritime industry are some of the same issues with which the entire country is grappling. Because supply chains are so critically important to the economic health of the nation, seaports – a key player in supply chains – are in the media more now than ever. Even more, representatives of seaports and the maritime industry are regularly getting a “seat at the table” with federal policymakers.
Just ahead of the New Year’s commencement, President Biden invited AAPA President and CEO Chris Connor to attend his Supply Chain Task Force and CEOs meeting. The group of supply chain experts discussed, among other things, the extraordinary efforts by the nation’s seaports to enhance freight mobility and ease congestion, while handling record volume ahead of the holiday season. This invitation from the President of the United States is indicative of the crucial importance seaports and maritime partners are playing in the function of America’s global economy.
In a January 19 testimony to the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Border Security, Facilitation, and Operations, Connor also discussed the unprecedented requirements seaports sought throughout the COVID-19 global pandemic, as well as the continuing role and importance of ports as gateways to commerce and a first line of defense against potential threats.
AAPA has worked double time to promote seaports’ and maritime partners’ most AAPA Amplifies Voices of Ports to White House, Congress By AAPA Government Relations Teamurgent issues and has had features in several prominent media, including an exclusive piece for The Hill titled, “On the Supply Chain and Freight Fluidity: Enforcement, Not Reformation.” This piece argues that new regulations curtailing freight fluidity charges do not serve the public interest and that a strengthened Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) will effectively regulate the U.S. international ocean transportation system for the benefit of U.S. exporters, importers and consumers. It also discusses supplemental appropriations in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) – formerly known as, and sometimes still called the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) – and how these appropriations will both aid freight movement and be utilized to create a more fluid and resilient port system, including improvements to intermodal connectivity.
The time to bolster supply chains is now, and AAPA has every intention of amplifying the voices of seaports and maritime industry representatives in the interest of encouraging efficiency, speed, safety and reliability. With more to report in the supply chain universe through the year, there will be much to discuss. Until then, here are some key talking points from the Federal meetings in early 2022:
- U.S. ports have made extraordinary efforts to enhance freight mobility and ease congestion, while handling record volume, prior to and during this past holiday season.
- America’s seaports are investing $31 billion in port infrastructure every year with plans to spend $163 billion between 2021-2025 to improve port facilities.
- Thanks to longer operating hours, Federal action, and especially the tireless efforts of U.S. port workers, record volume is moving through U.S. ports every month.
- The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) includes some significant funding for ports – about $5.225 billion of port-specific funding – though further and sustained funding are both sorely needed and a crucial step in repositioning America’s competitive posture in global trade.
- In the immediate term, America’s ports need $40 billion in waterside and landside investment just to meet the new floor of trade volumes – what the system is experiencing now. In the longer term, this dollar figure will grow, and AAPA’s estimate says port waterside and landside investments need more than $66 billion to meet growing trade volumes over the next decade.
- U.S. ports are ready to build $49.7 billion worth of green infrastructure projects over the next decade, but federal investment is required.
- The movement of freight from ports is improving due to extraordinary, collaborative efforts between all supply chain participants, coupled with creative solutions to ease congestion.
- Lessons learned during these recent supply chain challenges, like the effectiveness of incentives – for example, those put into place by terminal operators – have come about thanks to the great efforts and collaboration of people in the supply chain.
- Off-port property, like pop-up container yards, are a crucial element in accelerating freight movement.
- The mandate calling for an Office of Multimodal Freight Infrastructure will hopefully allow AAPA and ports to work with that office and its service as a strategic, nonpartisan and geographically agnostic body to help develop smart and actionable direction and policy recommendations for the future.