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Senate confirms Phillips to lead Maritime Administration

Former Navy officer and climate specialist to replace Acting Administrator Lucinda Lessley

Ann Phillips served in the U.S. Navy for 31 years before retiring as a rear admiral. (Photo: Josh Bennett/U.S. Navy)

The Senate voted 75-22 on Tuesday to confirm Ann Phillips to lead the U.S. Maritime Administration as pressure builds to ensure historic levels of funding for port infrastructure are used to help speed cargo through supply chains.

After she is sworn in, Phillips will replace Lucinda Lessley, who has been serving as the agency’s acting administrator. Lessley was named to lead Marad after Administrator Mark Buzby stepped down in the wake of the U.S. Capitol riots in January 2021.

Phillips, who served 31 years on active duty in the U.S. Navy and retired as a rear admiral, most recently was the special assistant to the governor of Virginia for coastal adaptation and protection. She was praised by the White House when she was nominated in October as “a leader in the field of coastal resilience and climate impact on national security at the regional, national and international level.”

While some were critical that Phillips’ background seemed more suited for a position at the Environmental Protection Agency, her maritime and climate resilience experience could suit her well in an administration that has elevated environmental protection as a major consideration for infrastructure grant funding.

Marad announced on Monday $684 million in grant funding available for the agency’s Port Infrastructure Development Program (PIDP). That amount includes $234 million in FY22 appropriations that was added to the $450 million announced in February for PIDP grants, which were authorized by the infrastructure law signed in November.

“Under President Biden’s leadership, we are making a once-in-a-generation investment in our ports and intermodal infrastructure to move goods faster, strengthen supply chain resiliency, support economic vitality at both the national and regional levels, and address climate change and environmental justice impacts,” said Lessley.

The infrastructure law expanded the list of eligible projects to explicitly include those that reduce or eliminate port-related criteria pollutant or greenhouse gas emissions. Projects that improve the movement of goods to, through and around coastal, inland river and Great Lakes ports are all eligible for PIDP grants, according to Marad. Applications for the grants are due Monday.

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John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.