Renewed Call for Investment in Ports During Congressional Negotiations

calls for infrastrucuture investment in America's ports
Port of Long Beach moved a reconrd number of containers in May 2021 highlighting the presures on America's ports (Port of Long Beach)

Published Jun 9, 2021 5:52 PM by The Maritime Executive

A portion of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure and jobs agenda calls for significant investments in America’s ports. Leaders in the port industry renewed their calls for support from Congress as the negotiations over the infrastructure legislation are proceeding saying these investments are vital to strengthen and modernize America’s maritime infrastructure.

 The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), which represents more than 130 public port authorities in the U.S., Canada, the Caribbean, and Latin America, renewed its call for Congress “to make an immediate and substantial investment in ports as part of the Biden administration’s American Jobs Plan.” 

The association called for the congressional action citing the record volumes and the strain it is putting on America’s infrastructure. They highlighted the congestion that developed at the West Coast ports as well as the outlook for continued growth in global trade.

“The consequences of decades-long under-investment in maritime infrastructure are playing out in real time in the form of supply chain disruptions and delays that have been exacerbated by the pandemic,” said Chris Connor, AAPA President and CEO. “Current disruptions will diminish over time, but with global trade volumes forecasted to increase, now is the time for significant and sustained federal investment in a stronger and more resilient port infrastructure.”

According to the port industry association, investment is urgently needed to ensure that American ports remain competitive worldwide. They also believe that a significant infusion of federal dollars will unlock private financing as well.

“Spending one dollar on maritime infrastructure returns two to three dollars to the national economy in terms of jobs, growth and productivity,” said Connor. “Port funding yields a strong return on investment for American workers and will continue to help drive the nation’s recovery. Congress must act now.”

AAPA recently outlined the need for immediate port investment in a letter to President Biden. In addition, port leaders have testified before Congress and joined coalitions to urge action on federal funding. With trillions of dollars in new spending proposed, AAPA will continue advocating for the greatest amount possible for port investment.

The renewed call for Congressional support came, however, as the Biden administration said it had reached an impasse with Congressional Republicans over the level and scope of the infrastructure legislation. Republic leaders have been saying that the bill is too wide and costly and after repeated negotiations, President Biden on Tuesday called off the negotiations with West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters before departing on the president’s first overseas trip that they would be perusing other paths for a bipartisan deal with Congress. 

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg has strongly endorsed the calls for infrastructure investments dedicated to America’s ports. The current calls appear to be designed to keep port investments in the spotlight as efforts continue to save the president’s signature proposal as part of his broader calls to restore America and create new jobs through investment in public infrastructure.