Washington Waves
Washington Waves

MarAd Announces Additional $234 Million For Port Grants

Washington, D.C.—The Maritime Administration (MarAd) announced another $234.3 million has been added to boost the nation’s port infrastructure as President Joe Biden sharpens his focus on supply chain stresses and inflation.

 “I want every American to know that I’m taking inflation very seriously, and it’s my top domestic priority,” Biden said the following day.

MarAd’s announcement brings to $684.3 million the amount of grant funding available through the Port Infrastructure Development Program (PIDP), which the agency said is the most annual funding for that program in history.

MarAd said not only will the funding help improve supply chains and speed up the movement of goods, but ultimately it will make goods more affordable for Americans.

In February, MarAd issued a notice of funding opportunity announcing the availability of $450 million for PIDP.

Applications for the grants continue to be due by 11:59 p.m. EST on May 16.

“Previously submitted applications can be revisited due to the amendment following the increase in funding,” MarAd stated.

For more information on the eligible projects, visit MarAd’s website or contact Peter Simons at 202-366-8921 or PIDPgrants@dot.gov. 

Phillips Confirmed

By a vote of 75 to 22, the Senate easily confirmed retired Rear Adm. Ann C. Phillips as the first woman to serve as administrator of the Maritime Administration (MarAd).

Phillips told the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee during her confirmation hearing that her priorities if confirmed would include continuing the recapitalization of the strategic sealift fleet, implementing measures at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy to support a safe environment in which sexual assault and harassment are not tolerated and advancing the ongoing effort to address the academy’s infrastructure challenges.

In urging her confirmation, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), chair of the committee, cited Phillips’ 31-year career in the Navy that included serving in operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm and several leadership positions.

The American Maritime Partnership (AMP) congratulated Phillips on her confirmation.

AMP said Phillips will lead MarAd “at a time when maintaining a strong American maritime is even more critical than ever.”

“We look forward to working with Adm. Phillips to ensure our nation has the shipbuilding, sealift capacity and reliable movement of commerce that is essential to America’s security,” AMP President Ku’uhaku Park said.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), one of 22 Republicans to vote against Phillips’ confirmation, said she will be in charge of advancing critical port infrastructure projects to enhance the nation’s energy independence.

 “Her refusal to commit to approving these important energy projects and the Biden administration’s hostility to any new oil and gas projects that solidify our energy independence is why I voted no on her nomination,” Inhofe said.

Tanker Security Program

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told a House panel the Maritime Administration plans to begin receiving applications for the Tanker Security Program (TSP) by the end of the year.

“We agree, like the Jones Act, in general, that the Tanker Security Program, in particular, is a matter of economic and even national security,” Buttigieg said during a hearing on his agency’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2023.

Rep. John Rutherford (R-Fla.), who asked Buttigieg for an update on the program, welcomed the secretary’s report.

“Excellent, excellent,” said Rutherford, a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, which held the hearing.

“I think every month we delay this is a real challenge for our military,” the congressman said.

Rutherford described having the nation’s military depend on fuel delivered by foreign carriers as “unconscionable,” adding TSP was included in a major defense bill in 2021 and funded in 2022.

Buttigieg conceded the program has faced complexities in getting up and running.

“There are a lot of steps that have to happen here, but we are committed to going through those steps,” he said.

Buttigieg said TSP previously was provided $60 million to fund 10 tanker vessels, and the administration wants that level of funding to continue into fiscal year 2023.

Accelerating Permitting

The Biden administration released a new permitting action plan to strengthen and accelerate federal reviews and “make the most” of the historic investments provided by the months-old bipartisan infrastructure law.

“Long overdue improvements to our nation’s ports, airports, rail and roads will help ease inflationary pressures, create conditions for businesses to thrive and strengthen supply chains, which will ultimately lower costs for families,” stated a fact sheet released by the White House.

Key elements of the plan include accelerating smart permitting by early cross-agency coordination, establishing clear timeline goals and engaging in early outreach with states, tribes and local communities.

The administration already had been drawing criticisms for its approach so far on implementing the bipartisan infrastructure law, the National Environmental Policy Act and the One Federal Decision policy.

During an oversight hearing on the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, reminded CEQ Chair Brenda Mallory the bipartisan infrastructure law codified provisions to ensure projects were completed faster.

Fagan Nomination Advances  

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee advanced the nomination of Adm. Linda Fagan to serve as the next commandant of the Coast Guard.

Approved by voice vote, the nomination now goes to the full Senate, where she is expected to be confirmed easily.

“Adm. Fagan is a true leader. I’ll look forward to working with her on many of the challenges facing the Coast Guard,” committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) said.

“As we have noted at her consideration hearing, she will be the first woman to lead any branch of our U.S. armed forces.”

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), the committee’s ranking member, said he is looking forward to the Senate’s swift nomination of Fagan’s historic nomination.

Free Tariff Publication

The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) is seeking public comment on whether carrier tariffs should be available free of charge and if the definition of co-loading should be changed to apply only to less than container loads.

A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking filed by the FMC proposes a total of six major rule changes intended to ease requirements for engaging in commerce while increasing the transparency of business transactions.

According to the FMC, seven of the 10 leading ocean carriers serving the U.S. already post their tariffs free of charge on their websites.

The FMC said requiring universal free tariff publication would benefit the trade by providing more information to shippers on pricing when considering service options.

Changing the definition of co-loading to apply only to less than container loads would align the FMC regulations with current industry practices, the agency stated.

Comments should be submitted by June 9 and may be submitted by email to secretary@fmc.gov.

For additional information, contact William Cody at 202-523-5725.