Washington, stakeholders work to push maritime highway development
By ROXANA TIRON, Seapower Correspondent
Currently, 98 percent of all domestic freight moves on rail or by truck,
including port stops, according to
data from the Department of
Federal Highway Administration
research shows there currently are
10,500 trucks per day per mile on the
interstate highway system. But by
2035, that volume is expected to
double to 22,700 trucks, with the
most heavily used portions of the
system seeing upwards of 50,000
trucks per day.
Alternatively, one 15-barge tow
removes 1,050 tractor-trailers from
the highways. And with just a gallon of diesel fuel, a barge can move
one ton of cargo 576 miles, according to the Department of Transportation.
“Change is never easy, but this is a golden opportunity
to maximize the power and value of our marine transportation assets,” LaHood said in a July 23 address to the
Marine Transportation System National Advisory Council.
In the months following LaHood’s speech, Congress
gave the Marine Highway Program a boost by authorizing grants to encourage the private sector to embrace
The 2010 Defense Department Authorization Act provides new incentives for “short-sea shipping.” While it
gives the green light for grants, congressional appropriators followed suit by approving $15 million in the 2010
Transportation Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill.
The defense authorization act establishes short-sea
transportation grants that will allow MARAD to provide funds to start commercially viable marine highway ventures. The MARAD grants will fund up to 80
percent of a short sea-shipping project, on the condition that it is financially viable.
The 2010 Defense Department Authorization Act and other
budget moves approved for this fiscal year provide incentives for
■ The authorization act authorizes $60 million for the Title XI
Federal Ship Financing Program, a significant nod in favor of the
domestic maritime industry
■ MARAD grants will fund up to 80 percent of a short sea-shipping
project, on the condition that it is financially viable.
■ Congressional appropriators approved $5 million in loan guarantees to allow U.S. vessels and shipyards to obtain long-term
financing up to $80 million to grow and modernize the U.S. maritime industry.
The Obama administration and Congress are working with the U.S. shipping industry, ports and shipyards to gradually shift more of the
nation’s freight burden to the waterways to alleviate
growing congestion on highways and railways.
The Department of Transportation’s Maritime
Administration (MARAD) spearheads the nation’s
Marine Highway Program — now a critical part in
President Barack Obama’s focus on strengthening and
revitalizing the transportation sector. Transportation
Secretary Ray LaHood has called marine highway
Shipping and maritime experts see the heightened
emphasis on the Marine Highway Program as an evolution
rather than an immediate and comprehensive change.
While the benefits could be manifold, such as a revitalization of the U.S.-flag fleet, reduction in pollution,
ease of transportation during war or natural disasters
and congestion relief, the government first must provide incentives to the private sector to take advantage
of the waterways more often, experts said.