Sean T. Connaughton wants a national port strategy
that embraces intermodal transport of goods
As Maritime Administrator, Sean T. Connaughton deals with
some of the more vexing issues affecting the nation’s trade and
national security. Most goods are transported through the country’s
10 mega-ports that have the infrastructure to handle the huge cargo
vessels carrying much of today’s international trade.
Already burgeoning and congested, the mega-ports anticipate growth
of 200-300 percent during the next 15 years. Some are expanding
and improving their efficiency. But few are supported by the road
and rail systems requisite for that level of growth, and the acreage
and funding for expansion are problematic.
“It’s no good if all we do is move the bottleneck off the pier and down
the road a bit,” Connaughton said.
He wants a national port strategy devised by all stakeholders that
encompasses the many modes of transportation involved in moving
goods across the country.
As chief of the Maritime Administration (MARAD), a unit of the
Department of Transportation, Connaughton runs several programs created to provide sealift for troops and
materiel during national emergencies. Two of them are in decline, and Connaughton is struggling to stave off
additional reductions to the Maritime Security Program, which pays annual stipends to ship owners who make
their vessels available for sealift missions.
A Coast Guard veteran and maritime attorney, Connaughton previously was chairman-at-large of the
Prince William, Va., Board of County Supervisors. He wants to foster increases in short-sea shipping and
says future U.S. military forces will increasingly rely on commercial transportation. He discussed these and
related issues with Editor in Chief Richard C. Barnard. Excerpts follow.
What do you hope to accomplish over the next
couple of years?
CONNAUGHTON: We want to make some fundamental
shifts in what MARAD does as an agency. Our organization has to meet the new challenges to the industry and
the U.S. transportation system. That means working to
address issues on congestion, particularly in our ports
and the shore-side transportation links to those ports.
The second priority is to deal with safety, security
and environmental requirements that are developing at
the local, state, national and international level. We’re
continuing to work on national security issues because
MARAD has a very big role in that arena. We’re trying
to expand the use of some of our national security
assets to make them available during national emergencies not driven by a conflict.
After Hurricane Katrina, MARAD vessels helped
reopen the Port of New Orleans. Our vessels became
barracks for the responders. One was an emergency
operation center for the city. We also used our assets to