American Shipping Juggernauts Seek Delivery on Presidential Promises

By: Chelsea Crews, Senior Articles Editor

Early last year, the American shipping sector noted with approval that the newly-elected President Trump’s cabinet boasted the deepest maritime background in decades (or, arguably, ever).  This, combined with the President’s focus on improving American infrastructure, gave observers hope that American ports would be a priority of the new administration.

Nearly a year later, the industry is largely still waiting to reap the benefits of both the administration’s deep bench of maritime experts and the political momentum on infrastructure in Washington.  This month, the Coalition for Efficient Ports, an organization made up of the top three ports in the US (NY/NJ, LA, and Long Beach), the two largest Marine Terminal Operators (Ports America and SSA Marine), the Agricultural Transportation Coalition, and big box retailers (RILA) implored the federal government to include America’s ports in any infrastructure package passed this year.

“[P]orts play a vital role for our economy, serving as the entryway to over 90 percent of America’s trade,” the letter, reproduced in full below, states.  “According to the American Association of Port Authorities, during 2015, U.S. ports supported 23 million jobs and generated more than $321 billion in tax revenue.  According to the Business Roundtable, underinvestment in ports results in increased prices and lost economic opportunity – as much as tens of billions of dollars every year.  In addition to their economic impact, U.S. ports play a strategic role in our national defense and emergency preparedness.  From Operation Enduring Freedom to recovery operations after Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, America’s ports help ensure the success of America’s military and emergency responders.

“Unfortunately, traditional federal infrastructure funding programs are generally not comprehensive enough to support the size and scale of the investments needed at U.S. ports.  Most port infrastructure investment is now made by private, state, and local sources—which means that investments often lack the necessary strategic and targeted approach that only thefederal government can provide.”

The letter, dated January 3, 2018, was sent to President Trump, Speaker Paul Ryan, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, and Sens. Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer.  The letter sent to the White House also copied Elaine Chao (Secretary of Transportation), Steven Mnuchin (Secretary of the Treasury), and Gary Cohn (Director of the National Economic Council).  While no one has responded directly to the Coalition’s requests to date, Congress is widely expected to begin work on an infrastructure package early this year.  We will be updating this story as it develops.

Coalition for More Efficient Ports – Letter to White House 1-3-18