June 14, 2011

Subcommittee Panel Holds Hearing on Creating Maritime Jobs and Increasing U.S. Exports

Washington, D.C. – The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation today held an oversight hearing on creating jobs and increasing U.S. exports by enhancing the Marine Transportation System.

The Subcommittee received testimony from the following witnesses: The Honorable David Matsuda, Administrator, Maritime Administration; Mr. Joseph J. Cox, President and CEO, Chamber of Shipping of America; Mr. Michael Roberts, Chief Counsel, Crowley Maritime Corporation, on behalf of the American Maritime Partnership; Mr. Augustin Tellez, Executive Vice President, Seafarers International Union; and Mr. John Mohr, Executive Director, Port of Everett, WA.

Below is the opening statement of U.S. Representative Rick Larsen (D-WA), Democratic Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, as prepared for delivery:

U.S. Representative Rick Larsen (D-WA), Democratic Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation
Opening Statement at Hearing on
“Creating Jobs and Increasing U.S. Exports by Enhancing the Marine Transportation System”
June 14, 2011

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this morning’s hearing to examine how the Marine Transportation System (MTS) – our Nation’s network of ports and marine terminals, navigable waterways, vessels, and intermodal, rail and highway connections – can do more to create jobs, boost exports and stimulate economic growth.

For the maritime industries and workers in my district, few issues are as important.  I am particularly pleased to welcome John Mohr, the Executive Director from the Port of Everett, to this morning’s hearing.

It is one of the goals of my office to implement a forward thinking plan for long term economic growth that works for us through investments in the skills and knowledge of people, support for innovation, and infrastructure all in order to maintain U.S. economic leadership in the world.

Last week I spoke at a rail summit held by one of our county executives.  The summit made it clear that rail and freight infrastructure is critical to our long-term economic growth.  Investing in our transportation infrastructure creates jobs in our local community and helps commerce move more efficiently from point to point.

My office has established an Export Assistance program that connects local small manufacturers with the people and resources they need to export their goods and create jobs.

In order to remain competitive in the global economy, improving domestic infrastructure is a sound strategy to promote growth and efficiency, support increased manufacturing, feed the American market, and serve as an export platform for U.S. manufactured goods around the world.

Our economic prosperity is closely tied to, and heavily dependent on, international trade. Approximately 99 percent by volume of this overseas trade is moved by water, which underscores how pivotal the Marine Transportation System, or MTS, is to global supply chains, and consequently, to our economic and national security.

Waterborne cargo and associated activities contribute more than $649 billion annually to the U.S. gross domestic product, sustaining more than 13 million jobs.  Moreover, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics the total value of marine freight is predicted to increase by 43% domestically and 67% internationally by 2020.

An announcement last week from the Commerce Department reaffirmed this prediction.  New trade figures for U.S. exports of goods and services for April, 2011 revealed a 1.3 percent increase from March to a record $175.6 billion, causing the U.S. trade deficit to decline by 6.7 percent from the preceding month.

However, because much of the System’s infrastructure is aging and constrained by capacity limitations, this projection raises a fundamental question: will the MTS be able to meet these new demands and continue to provide a seamless, integrated, multi-modal transportation system?

In response to the 2004 Ocean Action Plan, the Committee on the Marine Transportation System released in 2008 a National Strategy that offered 34 recommendations to maintain and enhance the MTS, especially the System’s capacity, safety and security, environmental stewardship, resilience and reliability, and its long term financing.

In general, progress towards fulfilling this National Strategy is incomplete at best.  Certainly, efforts by this administration to establish a pilot program for Marine Highways and to designate Marine Highway Corridors, and grants awarded under the Recovery Act to fund MTS infrastructure investments, have been positive steps.  Yet they are not enough and much more needs to be done.

Unfortunately, the prospects are not good under present Federal budget constraints for finding new resources to make the necessary infrastructure investments to maintain, enhance and expand the System to meet its future challenges.  Nevertheless, we must find a way forward.

With this thought in mind, I look forward to hearing the recommendations of our witnesses on how we might creatively and constructively address the needs of the MTS. I want to learn how we might leverage greater public and private investments to improve the efficiency and reliability of the System, and how we can utilize the MTS to drive job creation and revitalize our maritime industries.

The overarching reality is that our economic future and the MTS are closely intertwined. To think that our economy can fully recover and grow if we fail to invest in this critical infrastructure is both unrealistic and shortsighted. We must summon the will to invest in the System or we risk choking off the very conduit that makes our economy hum, that drives job creation, and that ensures the U.S. market remains preeminent in global trade.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman