Chairman Webster Statement from Hearing on FY24 Maritime Transportation Programs Budget Request
Opening remarks, as prepared, of Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Daniel Webster (R-FL) from today’s hearing entitled, “Review of Fiscal Year 2024 Budget Request for Federal Maritime Transportation Programs, and Implementation of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022”:
Today, we convene to review the fiscal year 2024 budget requests for federal maritime transportation programs administered by the Maritime Administration, the Federal Maritime Commission, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. I’d like to welcome our witnesses – Rear Admiral Ann Phillips, Administrator of the Maritime Administration, and the Honorable Dan Maffei, Chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission.
MARAD serves as the agency within the Department of Transportation responsible for promoting the U.S. Merchant Marine and the domestic maritime industry. In this pursuit, they are responsible for the administration of programs that serve to strengthen national security and ensure a more efficient maritime transportation system.
This subcommittee shares jurisdiction of MARAD with the House Armed Services Committee, with us overseeing the non-national security aspects of the merchant marine. This includes the Port Infrastructure Development Program, also known as PIDP, that provides grants for coastal seaports, inland river ports, and Great Lakes ports infrastructure to improve the safety, efficiency, and reliability of the movement of goods.
The President’s budget request for FY24 includes $230 million for this program, which is in addition to the $450 million in advanced appropriations the program received through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
Though this program is intended to help optimize and improve port operations, I am concerned with the program’s ability to fully realize this goal due to language Congress has routinely included in the program’s authorization that prohibits the use of funds for automated cargo handling equipment. I am also concerned that MARAD has included this policy in the notice of funding opportunity for the United States Marine Highway Grant Program, which has no legislative requirement specifying this prohibition.
It is unfortunate that we have drastically limited the impact these programs can have due to this policy, and I look forward to hearing from MARAD on the role automation plays in improving port operations and our Nation’s supply chains.
Additionally, MARAD oversees the permitting process for deep water ports, its sole permitting program. Current applicants have experienced very long delays in the processing of their applications and in fact, all five pending applications are stalled due to MARAD’s convoluted process. I hope that we can work with MARAD to ensure that these applications are processed in a timely fashion as is directed under law.
We also have FMC here with us today to discuss the work being done to implement provisions from the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022, also known as OSRA. FMC is an independent agency responsible for the regulation of ocean-borne transportation in the foreign commerce of the U.S.
The supply chain crisis that emerged following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic led to massive increases in ocean shipping costs, long cargo wait times at ports, and an imbalance in maritime trade flows leading to the frequent export of empty containers from the U.S. rather than moving inland to be filled with domestically produced goods. Congress in response passed the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 to help address many of these challenges facing U.S. exporters.
I applaud FMC for working expeditiously to implement the many provisions included in this law, unlike the United States Coast Guard that often fails to carry out the legislative directives of this Subcommittee. I look forward to hearing from Chairman Maffei today on FMC’s progress in implementing OSRA.
Lastly, I would like to note that though they are not here in person to testify, we also received written testimony from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration regarding their marine debris programs. NOAA is responsible for providing support to oil spill response and marine debris prevention, removal, research, response coordination, monitoring, and detection.
I thank NOAA for providing us their written testimony and I thank our witnesses for being here today. I look forward to hearing their testimony.
Click here for more information from today’s hearing, including video and witness testimony.