The National Freight Advisory Committee yesterday unanimously approved a recommendation to pass legislation that will ensure that the Harbor Maintenance Tax is utilized for its intended purpose - to keep the nation's harbors and channels dredged and maintained at their maximum authorized depth for the safe shipping of commerce. The resolution was championed by Paul C. LaMarre III, Executive Director of the Port of Monroe, Michigan.
The Harbor Maintenance Tax is a user fee collected by the U.S. Government to ensure the adequate maintenance and operations of the national waterway infrastructure. In recent years, more fees have been collected than expended and the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund contains a surplus of $8.2 billion. At the same time, there is a growing backlog of dredging needs throughout the nation's harbors. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently reported that almost 30% of commercial vessel calls at U.S. ports are constrained due to inadequate channel depths. U.S. ports have expressed the need for a consistent dredging plan - which is managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The National Freight Advisory Committee was established as part of the surface transportation bill, MAP-21, "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century." MAP-21 established a national freight policy and called for the creation of a National Freight Strategic Plan. On May 30, 2013, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the creation of the National Freight Advisory Committee which is comprised of 47 voting members from outside the Department of Transportation. The purpose of the Committee is to provide advice and recommendations aimed at improving national freight transportation policies and programs. Members serve two-year terms and meet at least three times per year.
The recommendation made by the Committee will go to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to present to the Obama Administration. This recommendation is consistent with President Obama's goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2015.