FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, February 5, 2013
CONTACT: Ian Koski at 202-224-4216
Senator Coons cosponsors bipartisan bill to support critical harbor and port maintenance
The Harbor Maintenance Act will support the Port of Wilmington and Delaware’s maritime industry
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) joined U.S. Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) in introducing bipartisan legislation on Monday to fund critical operations and maintenance of the nation’s harbors, including the Delaware River. The Harbor Maintenance Act of 2013 (S.218) would require funds in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund be spent for their intended purpose of maintenance and operations of federal ports, instead of being redirected to other uses.
“Maritime trade is one of Delaware’s oldest and most thriving industries, creating high-paying, good-quality jobs and fueling our local economy,” Senator Coons said. “The ports and harbors around the nation and here in Delaware are suffering, however, due to the lack of sufficient funds for maintenance and operations. The Harbor Maintenance Act will ensure that the taxes levied on shipping companies go right back to supporting the upkeep and repairs of our waterways to keep our maritime trade strong and our ports competitive.”
America’s ports and harbors support about 13 million jobs and account for $4 trillion in economic impacts. However, the Army Corps of Engineers estimates that the full depth of shipping channels at the nation’s 59 busiest ports are available less than 35 percent of the time, because they are inadequately maintained. The American Society of Civil Engineers' estimates that aging infrastructure at our marine ports and inland waterways threatens more than 1 million U.S. jobs.
With the scheduled expansion of the Panama Canal by 2015, the average size of cargo ships will increase significantly, creating even more of a need to invest in infrastructure at our nation's harbors and ports in order for them to remain competitive. As such, fully utilizing the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for its intended purpose — dredging — will be even more critical going forward. This is especially true for our East Coast ports, including the Port of Wilmington, which will see a significant increase in these Panamax cargo ships once the canal expansion is complete.
The Harbor Maintenance Tax and Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund were created in 1986 to fund operations and maintenance of federal ports and harbors. The tax is levied against the value of imports and domestic cargo arriving at U.S. ports that have federally maintained harbors and channels. The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund currently has a balance of more than $5.7 billion, but the fund is not being fully used to address critical maintenance needs of harbors and ports around the country.
Similar problems once faced the Highway Trust Fund and the Airports and Airways Trust Fund, but Congress enacted similar legislation to correct them.
Including Senator Coons, the Harbor Maintenance Act of 2013 has already received 28 bipartisan cosponsors. The legislation has been referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.