Responding to Supply Chain Needs, USDOT Announces Maritime Grants

Port of Virginia
Port of Virginia by Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg New

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To continue its push to alleviate freight bottlenecks nationwide, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced a series of grants for commercial maritime operations and freight hubs along key parts of the supply chain.

In total, the Maritime Administration (MARAD) awarded nearly $13 million in grants for nine projects as part of the America’s Marine Highway Program.

This included a container and barge shuttle operation in North Carolina, which received about a $1 million grant for equipment upgrades. The project consists of a new crawler crane, two spreader bars and a forklift.

The agency explained the project aims to reduce traffic congestion in North Carolina and Virginia. Currently, containerized cargo headed to the Port of Virginia from Edenton, N.C., must be transported via truck, contributing to traffic volumes in the region.

“These investments through the America’s Marine Highway Program will help us move more goods, more quickly and more efficiently,” U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said in a statement on Dec. 10 accompanying the announcement of the grants.

The secretary emphasized, “In this moment of record demand for goods and shipping, this is an important piece of the administration’s port action plan to strengthen supply chains, modernize port operations and lower the cost of goods for American families.”

“America’s Marine Highway Program is an innovative program that encourages the use of America’s navigable waterways for the movement of freight and people as an alternative to land-based transportation,” added acting Maritime Administrator Lucinda Lessley. “The funding announced today advances our ongoing efforts to help new marine highway services begin operation and to improve existing services.”

Other grant recipients included a barge upgrade project across Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, a barge improvement project in Camden, N.J., and trailer-on-barge service enhancements between New York and New Jersey. Other recipients were for projects in Hawaii, Texas, Tennessee and Delaware.

The White House touted the announcement of the transportation grants. Press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Dec. 10, “These investments through the America’s Marine Highway Program will help us move more goods more quickly and more efficiently, and help our agricultural exports get goods to market.”

“The announcement follows the successful first step of the port action plan, which provided the Port of Savannah $8 million to set up container yards in Georgia and North Carolina, freeing up dock space and speeding up the flow of goods in and out of the port,” Psaki continued. “Three container sites are already in operation in Savannah, Statesboro and Atlanta, and are already supporting Georgia businesses such as Home Depot, Carter, and agricultural exporters.”

As part of the White House’s response to the national supply chain crisis, U.S. DOT announced it had cleared the Georgia Ports Authority to be able to utilize more than $8 million for inland facilities locally and in North Carolina. Specifically, the funding aims to convert existing facilities into five pop-up container yards. According to DOT, the five areas would be accessible via rail and truck to accommodate more than 500,000 containers over a year.

This move by DOT was part of a White House effort to provide near-term assistance across freight corridors.

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