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Ports

The future of America's ports, the future of American freight

During the past few months, I have been extraordinarily fortunate to visit several of America's ports with both President Obama and Vice President Biden. Yesterday, when Vice President Biden and I visited America's Central Port in Granite City, Illinois, we were both fortunate to be joined by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and--in particular--by a favorite son of Illinois and a favorite of the U.S. Department of Transportation, former Secretary Ray LaHood.

Being joined by former Secretary LaHood at America's Central Port is special because he is one of only a few people who know how good a job I have--in fact, he has said more than once that being Secretary was the best job of his three decades in public service. It's also special because he knows as well as anyone how important America's interior ports are to the future of our nation's economy.

Yesterday, we all had the chance to see America's Central Port, including the construction underway at the new South Harbor. When it’s finished, the project will connect four interstate highways and major rail lines so that businesses can move their goods faster from the factory to the river and then down the river to market.

Maritime Administration helping green the Port of Honolulu

The U.S. maritime industry continues to become greener each day as federal agencies, research centers, and ports work to reduce the industry's impact on our environment. Industry stakeholders understand how green business practices can significantly improve their bottom line while also helping ensure healthier waterways and port communities as well as a healthier workplace for maritime workers.

That’s why the Maritime Administration is partnering with the Department of Energy (DOE) and Sandia National Laboratories to explore the potential cost savings and emissions reductions through the use of hydrogen fuel cells to provide electrical power to ships at berths. This approach has the potential to offer a double bonus--first, allowing vessel operators to shut down diesel engines while in port, and second, using hydrogen fuel cells instead of carbon-based electrical power sources...

Photo of hydrogen fuel-cell unit in Honolulu

National Maritime Symposium a good first step

Yesterday, we concluded the Maritime Administration's first National Maritime Strategy Symposium, and we're pleased that it included so many leaders who work every day providing for the economic and national security of our nation’s waterways.

The U.S.-Flag commercial fleet, crewed by U.S. merchant mariners, provides safe, reliable, and environmentally-responsible transport of cargo to support economic activity –both domestically and internationally. Maritime trade is a critical part of our country’s economy.

That’s why the three day symposium was so important. More than 250 people representing shippers, operators, labor, academics, and government agencies participated in roundtable discussions, panel sessions and presentations, all focused on developing a national maritime strategy.

Photo of merchant mariner aboard US-Flag Maersk Illinois

Poland Street Wharf a welcome addition to Port of New Orleans

Here at the Department of Transportation, a critical part of our mission is to improve our transportation system and help grow our national economy. For the Maritime Administration (MARAD), that means using all of the resources we have available to develop our nation’s ports.

It might surprise you to know these resources include assets other than grant funding, but a couple of weeks ago, I was in New Orleans to participate in the official land transfer of the Poland Street Wharf to the Port of New Orleans.

Photo of Poland Street Wharf

Panama Canal Expansion – The Future of Maritime Commerce

Last week, DOT’s Maritime Administration released the first of a comprehensive, multi-phase study forecasting the impact that the Panama Canal expansion will have on U.S. ports and our overall transportation system.

A key aspect to the study is an evaluation of our ports’ general “readiness” to handle the increased traffic that the widened canal will bring, both in cargo volume and vessel size.

For decades, the size of the Panama Canal has been a constraint on the maritime industry, which has been building ships that significantly exceed the canal's navigable dimensions, limiting direct international trade options, most especially for East and Gulf Coast ports of the United States.

Photograph of a container ship at Port of Baltimore   

From Concept to Completion: The M-580 Green Trade Corridor

Most of you are familiar with the high cost of congestion and its impact on our nation’s roadways, our economic competitiveness, the environment, and the time commuters needlessly lose stuck in traffic each year.  According to the Texas Transportation Institute, the total financial cost of congestion in 2011 was $121 billion. Of that total, about $27 billion worth was wasted time and diesel fuel from trucks moving goods on the system. 

So what to do?

I’ll tell you what Northern California has done. Just recently, I joined Congressman Jerry McNerney and other state and local officials at the Port of Stockton for the dedication of M-580, an important Marine Highway project known as the “California Green Trade Corridor.”

Photo of marine corridor with port

Maritime Industry Charges Into the Future

The economic recovery continues to offer new opportunities for the U.S. maritime industry and the U.S.-flag fleet, and I am excited that our nation’s international shipping community has capitalized on these opportunities and is poised to expand even further.  Recently, at the inaugural Tradewinds Jones Act Forum, I discussed the changes affecting the coastwise U.S.-flag maritime industry -- also known as the Jones Act fleet.

Since its enactment, the Jones Act continues to ensure a level playing field for U.S. vessels moving cargo within the nation. The Act keeps skilled American mariners employed aboard American ships by requiring that products moved between U.S. ports be carried by U.S. vessels manned by U.S. crews.  More recently, the Jones Act has been a catalyst for growth in the maritime industry and also our economy.

Photo of Chip Jaenichen

President Obama tours the Port of Jacksonville

Strong infrastructure is a key ingredient to a thriving economy

It was my distinct pleasure to tour the Port of Jacksonville, Florida, yesterday with President Obama. There, the President spoke with port officials about a challenge I saw firsthand as Mayor of Charlotte:

"The businesses of tomorrow will not locate near old roads, outdated ports -- they’re going to go to places where the ports are good, the roads are good, the rail lines are good, you’ve got high-speed Internet, you’ve got high-tech schools, trained workers, systems that move air traffic and auto traffic faster."

Photo by Pete Souza of President Obama and Secretary Foxx touring the Port of Jacksonville

President Obama and this Department want to make sure that America's communities have what it takes to compete effectively in the 21st century global economy, and we want to put people to work right now helping them do exactly that.

You can read the President's remarks and watch video from Jacksonville at whitehouse.gov.

Official White House photo of Secretary Foxx talking with President Obama aboard Air Force One enroute to Jacksonville

Maritime industry sees bottom line value in going green

This Administration has been a strong supporter of marine transportation as an environmentally friendly alternative to road and rail when shipping goods throughout America. And the U.S. maritime industry is becoming even more environmentally-friendly each day. More and more shipyards and ports have made investments to reduce their footprint.

Yesterday I toured the Port of New Bedford, Massachusetts, and was excited to see its efforts to reduce vessel emissions.

Photo of Chip Jaenichen (in suit) touring the Port of New Bedford by boat

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