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AAPA concerned over slashed port funding in President Trump’s FY21 budget

AAPA concerned over slashed port funding in President Trump’s FY21 budget
Jaxport was allocated US$35.5m in the President's FY21 budget

The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) has voiced its concerns that, under President Trump’s fiscal 2021 (FY21) budget, all port-related programmes will receive significantly less than in FY20 appropriations.

One project proposed for the chopping block is the US Department of Transportation (USDOT)’s Port Intermodal Infrastructure Program (PIIP), which began as the Port Infrastructure Development Grants programme in FY19.

By the end of this fiscal year, the PIIP will have awarded more than US$500m grants to improve the safety, efficiency, and reliability of multimodal movement through the US’ seaports.

If the President’s budgets were implemented the Department of Homeland Security’s Port Security Grants Program (PSGP) would also be eliminated – congress last funded the PSGP at US$100m.

Chris Connor, AAPA president and CEO, said: “We’re very apprehensive about the President’s fiscal 2021 budget.

“Adequate federal investments into US port-related infrastructure, on the landside and the waterside, are crucial for the safe, efficient movement of goods so the nation can remain globally competitive, and this budget doesn’t get us there.”#

In a 2016 survey, AAPA found that US ports and their private-sector partners planned to spend approximately US$31bn a year throughout 2020 provided infrastructure outside the ports’ jurisdiction would support those investments.

Connor added: “Activities at US seaports account for more than a quarter of the nation’s economy, support over 31m American jobs and generate more than US$376bn a year in federal, state and local tax revenue.

“It’s vital the federal government uphold its end of the partnership with ports to ensure the country as a 21st century goods movement in place.”

President Trump has also proposed cutting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s budget by 31%, thus slashing the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) grants by 89% over FY20 enacted levels.

The AAPA noted that the DERA grants have been helpful in decreasing port-related diesel emissions in near-port communities and have helped ports to make investments in clean diesel equipment, resulting in reduced air emissions.

However the President’s FY21 budget for the US Army Corps of Engineers coastal navigation programme would rise 10%, led by a 20% increase in construction funding, compared to his FY20 request.

While AAPA acknowledged this increase, it noted that the amount is still nearly 40% less than FY20’s appropriated level.

Connor said: “We live in an interconnected world, and overseas trade, 99% of which moves through ports, is absolutely vital to our economy.

“Federal investments into port-related infrastructure, security and environmental programmes pay huge dividends in terms of economic growth, good American jobs and supporting activities that generate sizable tax revenues.”

Included within the US Army Corps of Engineers 2020 work plan is critical funding for infrastructure projects in Louisiana such as deepening the Mississippi river to 50 ft.

House republican Whip Steve Scalise said: “After years of hard work, I’m very glad that the Corps included over US$160m for critical infrastructure projects in Louisiana, including US485m to deepen the lower Mississippi to 50 ft.

“As home to the mouth of the Mississippi river, this is excellent news for Southeast Louisiana and our ability to move more commerce through the Port of New Orleans.”

A deeper Mississippi river channel will benefit ocean carriers, shippers, growers and manufacturers and will help the port’s competitiveness in the global economy.

Jennifer Carpenter, president and CEO of the American Waterways Operators, said: “The industry’s ability to provide for the people of Louisiana and the nation requires that vital waterways like the Mississippi river be maintained at the level necessary to support the uninterrupted flow of commercial traffic.”

Meanwhile the federal government allocated US$93m to the next phase of deepening the Jacksonville shipping channel to 47 ft from its current depth of 40 ft.

It is a milestone for the project and means that the government has now fully funded its portion of deepening through Jaxport’s Blount Island Marine Terminal.

Of the total US$93m investment, US$57.6m is included in the US Army Corps of Engineers’ fiscal year 2020 work plan and an additional US$35.5m is allocated in the President’s FY2021.

Jacksonville mayor Lenny Curry said: “This is a significant win for Jacksonville and as I have said before, the continued support from our state and federal partners demonstrates the strength of Jaxport’s future.

“We are grateful for the continued growth under the leadership of CEO Eric Green. Jaxport is Florida’s number one container port and as we continue to expand its capabilities, we know we will see even more jobs and economic growth.”

This is the first time Jaxport has ever received funding in the President’s budget which Green said “speaks volumes about the significance of this project to the southeast US and the nation”.

Upon completion of the deepening project the SSA Jacksonville Container Terminal at Blount Island will have a vessel turning basin and the ability to simultaneously accommodate two post-Panamax vessels.

In November 2019, the USDOT awarded Jaxport a US$20m grant to enable the facility to accommodate more containers on an expanded footprint.

The federal government, the state of Florida, Jaxport and port tenant SSA Jacksonville have contributed or pledged a combined total of more than US$394m toward the cost of the US$484m deepening project to date.

Harbour deepening has been divided into four segments, contracts A-D, which make up the full length of the 13-mile federally authorised project.

The current funding model covers the project’s first 11 miles through Blount Island (contracts A, B and C).

Contractors for the US Army Corps of Engineers are scheduled to complete the first 5.5 m in spring 2020, marking the halfway point for the project.

Harbour deepening began in February 2018 and is anticipated to be complete in 2023, two years ahead of its original schedule, based on continued funding from all partners.

The 47 ft depth will help Jaxport to accommodate more cargo aboard the larger ships calling at the facility from destinations throughout Asia and other world markets through both the Panama and Suez canals.

AAPA will work with congress on behalf of its members to meet and exceed FY20 appropriation levels for fiscal 2021 funding of all port-related programmes.