Marine Transportation System

Posts Tagged ‘MTSNAC’

Mile Markers on the Marine Highway

In Intermodal, Marine Highway, Surface Transportation Policy on December 18, 2009 at 12:42 pm

Since the notion of American marine highways helping to mitigate landside congestion took root early this decade–along with the call for Federal policy and program–voices have been heard to ask, “so, where is it?”   “What happened to those promised new short sea services?”  Why isn’t [big box retailer] using coastal shipping?

Cynics who habitually dismiss the competitiveness of U.S. flag shipping eagerly seize opportunity to validate their view.  Observers see their doubts re-enforced or just wonder if there is any there there.

Meanwhile, advocates are impatient for government to concur with the public benefits rationale by enacting major policy directives and funding game changing projects.  (There is also the understandable impatience of entrepreneurial risk takers whose initiatives could use a short term assist to help establish themselves in the market.)

I count among those seeking a decisive boost for new marine highway operations.  But expectations are tempered by the Washington experience.  To keep our sanity folks here learn to tolerate the tortoise pace of policy-craft.   We look for the smallish increments that represent progress, even as we look to accomplish greater things farther down the road.

So what  progress has been made?

Those are the highlights, added to by various research papers and reports.  It is worth noting that the above achievements are not the result of a well-funded, cohesive effort by a powerful maritime industry lobby.  (Indeed, one might argue that none of those modifiers apply, especially when compared to other transportation sectors.)  They largely were achieved by decision-makers coming to recognize the inherent advantages of domestic marine transportation, and with the encouragement of various labor, port, public agency and private sector advocates (as well as the Coastwise Coalition that I chair) who have validated that policy direction.

So what progress will we see in the coming year or two?

  • USDOT will announce the multimodal TIGER grants and we will learn if applicants whose projects would enhance new AMH services–such as Eco Transport (CA) and SeaBridge Freight (TX/FL)–are among the awardees.
  • MARAD will issue a final rule for the SST/AMH  program, designate AMH coastal and inland corridors, and call for projects.
  • USDOT will report to Congress on hindrances to AMH development and make recommendations, some of which may resemble recommendations made to the Secretary in 2009 by the Marine Transportation System National Advisory Council.
  • MARAD will issue a rule for the new grants program and, with the cooperation of the Secretary, will make every effort to award grants by October 2010.
  • President Obama’s FY 2011 budget will include a specific funding request for SST grants.
  • Congress will act on the legislation to exempt from the Harbor Maintenance Tax non-bulk cargo that moves between US ports and among Great Lakes ports.
  • Congress will consider new surface transportation policy that to some extent will recognize how AMH routes can benefit traditional users of congested land routes.

That’s what I see happening.    Pbea

MTSNAC Today…and Tomorrow?

In Federal Government on July 22, 2009 at 1:02 pm

The Marine Transportation System National Advisory Council was established in May 2000 to serve and advise the Secretary of Transportation.  Its public and private sector stakeholder members have, for the most part, served three year terms.  (This writer served a term on the council and remains involved.)

The MTSNAC was there in 2001 to provide guidance to the Secretary on the very practical considerations pertaining to cargo flow when the Feds stood up security measures and new law after the Towers fell.  It prepared instructive presentations on global logistics with the intent to explain a little understood system to Washington policy makers.   It produced recommendations for the Secretary as to how new government policies and private sector actions can result in greater efficiency to goods movement.

This year the future of MTSNAC is under consideration.  Will it be extended beyond 2009?  Will it be reconstituted with changes?  Will it be terminated?  Those are options that have been suggested by various parties at USDOT.  The thinking in the Secretary’s Office on this may become known this week when MTSNAC meets here in Washington.  Perhaps its last meeting.

This much is evident.  Goods movement and the global supply chain are playing increasingly significant roles in the U.S. economy and have exposed where our national transportation system, including the MTS, warrants improvement and high level attention.  As such the leadership of USDOT would continue to benefit by having an advisory panel whose members include the non-Federal agencies and industries that are stewards, service providers and users of the marine transportation system.   Pbea

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