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AAPA Port Members Testify On Exporting Challenges
Achieving Goal to Double U.S. Exports is Reliant on Freight Transportation Priorities, Policies, Funding
Members of the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) testified today at a U.S. Senate Finance subcommittee hearing that the most significant constraint faced by seaports for increasing U.S. exports is the capacity and efficiency of the nation's freight transportation infrastructure.
In his State of the Union address in January, President Obama set a national goal of doubling exports over the next five years to help support the creation of 2 million American jobs. In seeking testimony from port executives, the Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs and Global Competitiveness wanted to know if U.S. seaports are ready for the challenge.
Stating simply that U.S. seaports are ready, the deputy managing director for the Port of Seattle's Seaport Division, Phil Lutes, noted that limiting factors in the larger supply chain currently inhibit U.S. exports from reaching overseas markets. "Even with an economic rebound, U.S. ports in general, and West Coast container ports in particular, have ample capacity for both imports and exports," he said. "The real issues are enhancing efficient infrastructure throughout our trade corridors, dealing with the current (container) equipment shortage, general promotion of our products abroad and antiquated tax policies that discriminate against certain ports and cargoes."
Port of Portland (Ore.) Executive Director Bill Wyatt said that he applauds "the focused, integrated attention" that the National Export Initiative will provide in revitalizing the economy and creating jobs. He emphasized that the challenges ahead to achieve this goal lie in improving the condition of the country's highways, bridges, railroads, vessel navigation and marine terminal infrastructure, and in reforming policies that currently under-prioritize funding and tax incentives for enhancing freight infrastructure.
Larry Paulson, executive director for the Vancouver, Wash., port authority, explained that the nation's current exports, and the future of export growth, are reliant on rail development and freight transportation funding. He identified a number of policy and funding reforms that would eliminate inefficiencies and improve port competitiveness, including implementing a national strategic freight policy, increasing the priority and funding for land- and water-side freight transportation, streamlining the permitting process for port and freight projects, and strengthening trade agreements with global trading partners.
Echoing his port executive colleagues, Oregon International Port of Coos Bay Executive Director Jeff Bishop-whose port is located along the southern Oregon coast-added that a key question the subcommittee should be asking is whether cargo gateway capacity can be added in rural areas. He said the major U.S. West Coast gateways are located in the major population centers, which are served by established freight transportation modes. But to develop gateways in less populated areas, new infrastructure is required. The federal government must determine how to fund new infrastructure, which infrastructure should get the highest priority and how to ensure the additional gateway capacity complements existing gateways.
In testimony to Congress, through position papers and working with key policymakers, business and community leaders, AAPA and its member ports are pursuing a comprehensive platform of priorities for surface transportation reauthorization that address goods movement and support the growing demands of international trade.
According to AAPA President Kurt Nagle, improving access to seaport facilities is critical for the efficient movement of cargo, for reducing traffic congestion and emissions, and overall quality of life. "If the U.S. is to meet trade demands and address goals like the Obama Administration's initiative to double exports in the next five years, there must be significant federal investments in freight transportation infrastructure, including seaports and the land- and water-side connections to America's ports," he said. "Exports ranging from cars to coal and foodstuffs to fashion depend on our nation's seaports to reach their markets."