While American ports are a cornerstone of the U.S. economy, outdated infrastructure and the COVID-19 pandemic have strained their capacity and jeopardized global supply chains. According to the 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure Report issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), in 2018, America’s ports supported more than 30 million jobs and approximately 26% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
However, the ASCE report warns that ports face extensive challenges modernizing infrastructure and maintaining essential facilities under threat from sea level rise and other climate challenges.
Only four U.S. ports are among the top 50 busiest ports in the world and no U.S. port is in the top 10. Many U.S. ports also have bridge or depth limitations that restrict their ability to receive the larger, post-Panamax vessels that are the future of ocean shipping. Further, the surge of cargo coming off larger vessels can also strain outdated landside infrastructure. As a result, more container traffic flows through a smaller number of U.S. ports with the offshore and onshore capacity to handle the largest vessels and their cargo. Taken together, America’s underfunded port and waterway infrastructure has real costs for its households, economy, and global competitiveness.
Recognizing the critical role American ports play in the global economy, President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal includes an unprecedented $17 billion to improve infrastructure at coastal ports, inland ports and waterways, and land ports of entry along the border. These resources will deliver near-term assistance and make long-term investments to strengthen supply chain resiliency. Along the way, these investments will create good paying jobs and help America outcompete China. Together, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal is the single largest federal investment in the history of U.S. ports.
Last week, the Biden-Harris Administration announced a set of concrete steps to accelerate investment in the ports, waterways, and freight networks. These goals and timelines will mobilize federal agencies and lay the foundation for successful implementation of the historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal. This action plan will increase federal flexibilities for port grants; accelerate port infrastructure grant awards; announce new construction projects for coastal navigation, inland waterways, and land ports of entry; and launch the first round of expanded port infrastructure grants funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal.
The actions announced by the Administration are as follows:
Support creative solutions to current supply chain disruptions by allowing for flexibility in port grants: The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) will allow port authorities across the country to redirect project cost savings toward tackling supply chain challenges. The Biden-Harris Administration will continue to look for additional flexibilities and other solutions to support infrastructure needs in the goods movement supply chain.
Alleviate congestion at the Port of Savannah by funding the Georgia Port Authority pop-up container yards project: With this policy change, the Georgia Port Authority will be able to reallocate more than $8 million to convert existing inland facilities into five pop-up container yards in both Georgia and North Carolina. Under the plan, the Port of Savannah will transfer containers via rail and truck further inland so that they can be closer to their final destination, which will make available valuable real estate closer to the port.
The effort will free up more dock space and speed goods flow in and out of the Port of Savannah, which leads the nation in containerized agricultural exports.
Launch programs to modernize ports and marine highways with more than $240 million in grant funding within the next 45 days: The Port Infrastructure Development Grant program is the first and only federal grant program wholly dedicated to investments in port infrastructure.
DOT will award $230 million in funding for this program and $13 million for the Marine Highway Program to support waterborne freight service.
Identify projects for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers construction at coastal ports and inland waterways within the next 60 days: This plan will provide a roadmap for more than $4 billion in funding to repair outdated infrastructure and to deepen harbors for larger cargo ships.
Prioritize key ports of entry for modernization and expansion within the next 90 days: This plan will identify $3.4 billion in investments to upgrade obsolete inspection facilities and allow more efficient international trade through the northern and southern borders.
Open competition for the first round of port infrastructure grants funded through the bipartisan infrastructure deal within 90 days: DOT will announce more than $475 million in additional funding for port and marine highway infrastructure.
Additional freight investments
In addition to making the largest federal investment in American port infrastructure and freight networks in history, President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal will invest in transformative, shovel-worthy projects that revitalize other critical elements of America’s transportation infrastructure and supply chains. This includes an additional $110 billion to repair roads and bridges and support major transformational projects. These resources, if smartly deployed, can meaningfully improve supply chains and goods movement. To help states and other grantees direct federal resources to transportation supply chain needs, the Biden-Harris Administration will:
Develop a comprehensive freight movement playbook to states: DOT will publish a playbook for states on how to use grant and loan programs across the Department to support goods movement and help alleviate freight bottlenecks. This playbook will highlight the policies, funding and financing available to strengthen the supply chain. Under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, states will receive more than $50 billion per year in federal-aid highway funding, much of which can be used to repair and modernize existing infrastructure to improve the performance of freight corridors.
Incorporate the best worldwide freight planning practices into state freight plans: DOT will develop and issue revised guidance on State Freight Plans that incorporates best worldwide freight planning practices. The BID strengthens the freight plans that states are currently required to produce to include supply chain cargo flows, an inventory of commercial ports, the impacts of e-commerce on freight infrastructure, and an assessment of truck parking facilities.
Improved plans will help states direct resources to their greatest economic development needs.
Data sharing to support supply chains
Digital infrastructure also plays a key role in facilitating supply chains. The goods movement chain is almost entirely privately operated and spans shipping lines, terminal operators, railroads, truckers, warehouses, and beneficial cargo owners. These different actors have each made great strides in digitizing their own internal operations, but they do not always exchange data with each other. This lack of data exchange causes delays and inefficiencies as cargo moves from one part of the supply chain to another, driving up costs and increasing fragility.
To further strengthen resiliency and leverage digitization of the supply chain, the Administration will:
Call for new data standards for goods movement. DOT will work with the Federal Maritime Commission to publish a request for information on standardized data exchange requirements for goods movement in the transportation supply chain. Standardized data are an important first step to ensure interoperability among actors in the supply chain and greater transparency, resiliency, fluidity, competition, and efficiency across the supply chain.
Source: The White House