Elements of the 2007 federal budget could seriously hamper operations at U.S. ports, according to the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA). Bernard Groseclose, president and CEO of the South Carolina State Ports Authority and AAPA chairman, points out 99% of U.S. overseas cargo, valued at $2 trillion, passes through U.S. ports annually. Under-funding security and deep-draft channel maintenance could seriously hamper port operations and set off a corresponding ripple through the U.S. economy.
“It’s particularly troubling that channel maintenance is under-funded since the money to maintain the country’s federal navigation channels has been ‘prepaid’ by the users of the channels via payment of a harbor maintenance tax on imports and domestic cargo shipments,” says Groseclose.
Kurt Nagle, president and CEO of the AAPA, notes, “The federal share of the seaport facility security funding partnership needs to be increased, not reprogrammed and diluted.” Nagle is referring to a proposal to eliminate the Port Security Grant program and lump maritime security infrastructure needs together with trains, trucks, busses and public transit under the Targeted Infrastructure Protection (TIP) program.
In the five rounds of funding since 2002, the Port Security Grant program has provided U.S. ports with $708 million – one fifth of what the ports themselves said they needed for security. When the Port Security Grant program began, the U.S. Coast Guard estimated that port facilities would have to spend $5.4 billion over a 10-year period to comply with new regulations in accordance with the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (MTSA). Since September 11th, 2001, the grant program has made only $708 million available out of the nearly $3.8 billion requested for eligible port security expenses.
AAPA recommends annual funding at a $400 million level.