Seaports Magazine - Summer 2015 - (Page 20)
ONE YEAR LATER
The legislation, passed in May 2014, opened the door
to new infrastructure projects and potential job growth
Containers stacked at Boston Harbor.
By Nina Rao
hen the Water Resources
Reform and Development Act (WRRDA)
was signed in May 2014,
members of Congress from both sides of
the aisle and organizations from AAPA to
the Business Roundtable to the Seafarers
International Union applauded its passage
and lauded it almost more as a jobs engine
than as an infrastructure boon.
But WRRDA 2014 actually creates no
jobs at all; it only opens the door to job
creation - provided federal funds appear.
"There is a lot of opportunity for job creation in WRRDA," said Whit Remer, senior
manager of federal government relations for
the American Society of Civil Engineers. "It's
now up to Congress to appropriate for it. It's
easy to authorize; it's hard to appropriate."
In fact, for many projects, appropriations stall or never come through at all,
making it difficult to plan, and that's where
some ports have forged ahead on their own,
The MSC Judith at berth at Boston Harbor.
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increasing their own competitiveness and
creating jobs in the process.
"What you really have to realize is the
amount of (non-federal) investment going on
in getting ready for post-Panamax," Remer
said. "The ports invest and then keep their
fingers crossed" that they'll get some of the
money back from the federal government.
WRRDA 2014 authorizes 34 projects and
$12.3 billion in spending across the Corps'
business lines. Nine of these projects are in
navigation, but only four of the projects (Port
of Savannah, Jacksonville Harbor, Boston
Harbor and Freeport Harbor) have funds
appropriated in the federal budget for fiscal year 2015. So far, two (Port of Savannah
and Boston Harbor) have funds included in
the administration's budget request for fiscal
"There are far more needs than we
have funds for," said Jeff McKee, chief of
the navigation branch of the Army Corps
But there is a cost - in both dollars and
jobs - to not investing.
In its 2012 report, Failure to Act: The
Economic Impact of Current Investment
Trends in Airports, Inland Waterways, and
Marine Ports Infrastructure, the American
Society of Civil Engineers estimated that
738,000 jobs would be lost by 2020 if the U.S.
continued at current levels of investment in
its marine and inland waterways. By 2040,
the estimate is for 1.4 million jobs lost.
The loss of jobs would be both direct
and indirect, caused, for example, by the
increasing cost of imports due to inefficiencies at ports.
Boston Harbor got a taste of this type of
inefficiency in November 2014 when the
MSC Judith, a 1,065-foot, 8,000-TEU ship,
docked at Conley Container Terminal. The
MSC Judith is the biggest container ship ever
to call on Boston Harbor, and since Boston
Harbor is not yet big-ship ready, accepting
the Judith was a logistical challenge.
The containers had to be loaded in such
a way that the harbor's low-profile cranes
could unload them. The ship itself had to
ride the 9-foot tide to move in and out of
But the Massachusetts Port Authority is
working hard to get Conley Terminal bigship ready, and it is one of the lucky few in
WRRDA 2014 to be on track for federal
funds. This is thanks in large part to a high
benefit-to-cost ratio for the deepening of its
channel from 40 feet to 51 feet.
"The project definitely has a really high
net economic benefit," said Chris Morris,
senior project manager for maritime at the
Massachusetts Port Authority.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Seaports Magazine - Summer 2015
From the President’s Desk
A Paradigm Shift
U.S. Ports Benefit Economy
Port Education and Training Programs for the Next Generation
WRRDA One Year Later
Saltwater in His Veins
We Need to Invest in the Backbone of Our Economy
MARAD Programs Help Ports Stay Strong
Preparing the Port Leaders of Tomorrow
Index of Advertisers
Seaports Magazine - Summer 2015