MARAD Encourages Marine Transport Adding Programs to AMHP

expanding transport on Amercia's waterways
One project seeks to expand cargo on the Pacific Coast from Bellingham, Washington to South California (file photo)

Published Aug 20, 2021 1:33 PM by The Maritime Executive

To further encourage the use of America’s waterways for the movement of cargo and passengers, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) is expanding America’s Marine Highway Program (AMHP). Ranging from coastal ports to inland and the Great Lakes, MARAD designated six new Marine Highway Projects to provide alternative transportation methods to land-based transport as well as designating a new international Marine Highway Route.

“These new project designations will improve the movement of freight by water all around the nation, including along our coasts, on our inland waterways, and to Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands,” said Acting Maritime Administrator Lucinda Lessley. “Making better use of our inland waterways can boost America’s maritime industry and create jobs while cutting emissions and traffic congestion.”   

Focusing on the Pacific coast and transport between Washington state and southern California, MARAD designated the M-5 Coastal Connector. Tracing one of the most historic routes along the Pacific Coast, this project will support a service transporting goods on barges between Bellingham, Washington, Southern Oregon, and south to San Diego, California. The developers of the project are promoting it to support regional cargo operations and as an alternative to reduce truck traffic along Interstate 5.  

A second project is the first in the AMHP focusing on the transportation of large vessel modules and material-handling equipment in northern Wisconsin in the region along Lake Michigan. The goal is to divert transport in the region around Green Bay, Sturgeon Bay, Marinette/Menominee from the highways to the waterways.

Another project focuses on supporting the development of the offshore wind sector and other cargo movements from the New Jersey port of Raritan to various locations including New York City. This designation will support services accommodating Roll-on/Roll-off (Ro-Ro) barges carrying wheeled containers, ferries capable of carrying trucks, Lift-on/Lift-off (Lo-Lo) barges that can be used to support offshore wind-energy turbines, and other services. 

Inland, on the Missouri River, a container barge project for goods including agricultural commodities in containers seeks to expand the use of the river to transport to ocean ports along the Gulf. They believe it can help producers to reach international markets more competitively. 

In addition to the projects in the continental U.S., they are also designating a new route and project between Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. According to MARAD, service providers transporting freight utilize U.S. ports in Hawaii and the West Coast before making their way through Guam and the Northern Marianas. The Port of Guam operates as the only commercial seaport on the island and this project is designed to support the Mariana which is exploring the expansion of its maritime capacities for the shipping of inter-island cargo and commodities.

Since its inception, the AMHP has designated 46 Marine Highway Projects. A designation makes projects on Marine Highway Routes eligible for grants when AMHP funding is available. In May, the Department announced the availability of nearly $11 million in grant funding through the AMHP, which will be awarded to advance marine highway projects previously designated by the Secretary of Transportation.