On Dec. 19, 2007, President George W. Bush signed into law the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which contains provisions establishing a formal marine highway program within the federal government. Under the new law, marine highway or "short sea" transportation refers to the carriage by vessel of cargo in containers, loaded on the vessel by cranes or by means of wheeled technology.
Specifically, the new law requires the establishment of a program and the designation of transportation projects to mitigate landside congestion. The program will encourage the development and expansion of vessels, shippers, port and landside infrastructure, and marine transportation strategies by state and local governments. Water transportation routes will be designated as extensions of the surface transportation system to focus public and private efforts to use the waterways to relieve landside congestion along coastal corridors. A project may be so designated if it offers a waterborne alternative to available landside transportation services using vessels and provides transportation services for passengers, freight or both.
For designated transportation projects, the federal government will promote the use of waterborne transportation services as well as coordinate the development of landside facilities and infrastructure with ports, state departments of transportation, localities, other public agencies, and the private sector. In addition, the federal government will develop strategies to encourage the use of "short sea" transportation for transportation of passengers and cargo.
Federal entities are encouraged to transport federally-owned or -generated cargo via waterborne transportation when
practical or available. Other shippers
and other participants in transportation logistics shall be consulted to develop proposals for short-term incentives to encourage the use of "short sea" transportation.
A federal board will be established to identify and seek solutions to impediments hindering effective use of "short sea" transportation. Members of the board will include representatives from the U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other federal, state, and local governmental entities as well as private sector entities.
Research on "short sea" transportation will be pursued regarding the environmental and transportation benefits to be derived from "short sea" transportation alternatives for other forms of transportation. Research areas will include technology, vessel design, and other improvements that would reduce emissions, increase fuel economy, and lower costs of "short sea" transportation and increase the efficiency of intermodal transfers; and solutions to impediments to "short sea" transportation projects designated.