US ports slam planned budget cut.
NORTH American ports have criticised a 10% cut in US dredging projects and an abandoning of federal funds for shortsea shipping contained within President Obama"s 2011 federal budget.
Under the fiscal 2011 budget request, the US Army Corps ? responsible for port and river dredging - would receive $4.9bn, down from the $5.4bn allocated this year. Nearly $800m of that amount is to pay for maintaining America"s deep-draught navigation channels.
The American Association of Port Authorities - representing 160 seaport authorities in the US, Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean - expressed its ?concern? over reduced funding for key programmes that ?help make the nation"s seaports more navigable, efficient and secure?.
The association also indicated concern over the Obama administration"s request to introduce a 25% cut in the federal Port Security Grant programme authorised by Congress.
AAPA president Kurt Nagle said: ?Competitive, secure, navigable seaports are vital to the US economy. Because development and maintenance of our federal navigation channels are critical for safe and secure access to America"s seaports.
?AAPA is greatly disappointed with the Obama Administration"s proposal to cut nearly 10% from last year"s congressionally-approved budget for the Corps of Engineers" Civil Works Program.?
Mr Nagle said that the proposed cuts run counter to Washington"s goals to create new US jobs and promote exports. He also drew attention to a 4.1% reduction in next year"s proposed Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund to pay for maintenance dredging.
In a proposal that industry payments for specific port related projects be ringfenced, Mr Nagle added: ?More importantly, importers and domestic shippers pay more than double this amount into the trust fund annually to pay for maintenance dredging. AAPA urges that the annual Harbor Maintenance Tax revenues that are collected specifically for maintenance dredging be fully used for this purpose only.?
The administration"s budget request provides no funds for the America"s Marine Highway Program, a US Department of Transportation initiative to support the setting up of shortsea shipping routes along US coastlines.
The plan was intended to reduce road congestion and to create ?secure, efficient alternate routes in cases of national emergency?.
The association adds: ?With regard to seaport security, the administration"s budget request calls for flat funding, although the $300m proposed would actually be a significant decrease in port security funding, since Congress provided an additional $150m last year for port security grants in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
?AAPA supports the authorised level of $400m for the Port Security Grant programme and urges Congress to continue to make port security a priority by providing this level in 2011.?
He concluded: ?Our nation"s economic health and security depend largely on how well we can ensure deep-draft shipping access to our seaports in order to support exports and protect our ports against terrorism.
?While this year"s budget request for seaport-related programmes is below what we had envisioned, we hope that the administration and Congress will recognise and agree to fund them at the levels required.?