Shoreside infrastructure a growing focus for MarAd
A reorganization of the U.S. Maritime Administration will result in the agency looking at the impact of the shipping industry far beyond the waterfront, said Maritime Administrator Sean Connaughton.
A reorganization of the agency to be completed this spring will result in a dozen individuals stationed around the country who will be concerned with port and infrastructure development, Connaughton said at Shipping 2007, the annual conference of the Connecticut Maritime Administration, in Stamford, Conn.
Ports congestion is not only a local problem, he said, but also one of importance to the national economy. Increasingly, this requires looking at ways to eliminate bottlenecks at sites distant from ocean seaports, as far inland as Chicago, he said.
Congestion is a problem both because many ports are major population centers and because of the explosive growth in trade, which some say will double in 15 years, while others say it could triple or more.
Connaughton noted that in addition to the growth in containerized traffic, many ports are likely to see boosts in crude oil, natural gas, and even coal as utilities seek cleaner-burning coal from abroad.
He cited the “heartland corridor” project to increase clearances in tunnels in the Appalachian Mountains so that doublestack container trains can move more directly from Hampton Roads to Chicago as the sort of inland projects in which MarAd might increasingly have an interest.
Connaughton said the reorganization of MarAd, the first in several decades, would focus the agency on four areas:
* Infrastructure and port development.
* National security, including maintenance of the ready reserve fleet and maritime security program.
* Maritime promotion, through programs such as cargo preference, Title XI financing for new ships, and support for maritime academies.
* Compliance with safety, security and environmental laws. He noted, that MarAd is a shipowner itself, and must comply with these rules and might be able to help businesses because of its first-hand experience in having to comply with the same regulations.
Connaughton said that short-sea shipping, which MarAd is promoting as the Maritime Highway, may be able to play a role in reducing highway congestion.
He cited plans by shipping agency T. Parker Host to operate a barge line between Richmond and Norfolk, Va. The “James River Barge Line” would help reduce congestion on Interstate 64 between the two cities. MarAd is considering a request for seed money for the project.