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US ports will suffer under new budget, warns AAPA

February 6 - The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) has expressed disappointment over President Barack Obama's 2016 fiscal budget, and warns of the potential ramifications these measures will have on US federal ports - particularly concerning

Kurt Nagle, AAPA's president and ceo explained: "We're pleased to see and support the increased funding requested for surface transportation infrastructure, but deeply troubled by the proposed cuts to maintenance and modernisation of federal navigation channels, the critical waterside infrastructure that connect our ports and nation to the world marketplace."

The President's budget includes a USD478 billion, six-year surface transportation reauthorisation proposal, to be paid for with transition revenue from business tax reform. These measures would pay for repairs to existing roads and bridges, and for new investments in highways, freight networks, and bus, subway, rapid transit, light rail and passenger rail systems. The AAPA stated that it is pleased to see a significant focus on freight networks in this proposal.

The budget also seeks to boost private investment in infrastructure through a Rebuild America Partnership, which would see the formation of a national infrastructure bank to leverage private and public capital to support projects of national and regional significance. 

"These potential benefits to landside freight transportation, however, could be heavily for naught if the budget's proposed cuts to waterside infrastructure programmes are adopted," warned Nagle. "If we can't get the goods efficiently and competitively into and out of our country through seaports and waterside navigation channels, American manufacturers won't be able to receive the materials and/or components they need, and they as well as U.S. farmers, won't be able to competitively export their products globally. In addition, US retailers and consumers will suffer."

AAPA highlighted that the proposed budget would reduce the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' funding from the USD2.33 billion appropriated last year to USD1.95 billion for fiscal year 2016.  

With the President's Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT)-related budget request remaining unchanged from last year, the HMT funding targets and formulas for equitable distribution established in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014 were far from met. WRRDA set a funding target for fiscal 2016 of USD1.32 billion. The USD915 million requested by the Obama equates to only 47 percent of the estimated calendar year 2015 HMT revenue of $1.93 billion. Additionally, the President's request is 16 percent less than the USD1.1 billion appropriated by Congress for fiscal 2015.

The President's budget request for the Corps' coastal navigation construction program also dropped for fiscal 2016 to USD81 million - a decline of more than 16 percent and its lowest level in more than a decade.

"The Corps of Engineers' budget proposal falls well short of the waterside maintenance and modernization needs of this country," Nagle revealed. "Our nation is at a critical point in maintaining our international competitiveness, and implementation of the FY2016 budget request would result in trade-related infrastructure losing further ground at a time when we are already behind many of our competitors."

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