This week Federal agency folks caught the bus to Baltimore to see a port. It was organized by Helen Brohl and staff of the Committee on the Marine Transportation System (CMTS) and facilitated by Frank Hamons and colleagues of the Maryland Port Administration. The civil servants from NTSB, ITA, OMB, MARAD, NOAA, USACE, USCG, EPA and perhaps other offices and agencies left Washington to see elments of the MTS first hand.
Terminal operations, a NOAA survey vessel, a Ready Reserve Force ship, an intermodal yard, and a tugboat tour of the cargo and quiche sides of the waterfront. They met with public and private sector people who keep the working port working.
From time to time one reads complaints about taxpayer money spent on public employee field trips and conference-going…as if it’s always a pleasure jaunt and never of professional value. I’m sure that this same-day hop, just an hour up the parkway, will spark no such carping. But that’s beside the point. It’s a fact that trips like this one to the Maryland port instill more understanding than does the reading of a report. Even one with lots of pictures. When one is in the field the senses absorb. The mind muses. The discussion flows.
Washington is paying much more attention than ever to ports, shipping, and our system of logistics. EPA regulates ballast water. The Corps maintains channels. TSA checks dock worker backgrounds. NOAA decides when the dredges can work. OSHA sets new container lift standards. The Senate ratifies standards to lower ship emissions. CBP scans cargo for radiation. OMB reviews regs and budgets. Fees are collected and new fee proposals abound.
Taking one day to take in the context for all of the above is a day and money well spent. Kudos to CMTS and the folks in the picture. Pbea