THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PORTS FOR THE 21st CENTURY
To maintain competitiveness and ensure America's ability to safely handle the increase in ocean vessel traffic expected in the 21st century, the President is launching a ports modernization program financed by a proposed new Harbor Services Fund. The fund would raise $800 million over the next five years to deepen and maintain shipping channels, improve navigational safety, and undertake other port projects.
More than 95 percent of U.S. overseas trade by tonnage (excluding Mexico and Canada) passes through U.S. ports and harbors. In 1996, U.S. ports handled approximately 2.3 billion tons of cargo and supported nearly 16 million jobs. As we head into the 21st century, international trade will continue to grow. Unless our ports are prepared, for instance, by deepening channels to accommodate larger cargo ships -- American consumers will pay more for imported goods, and American businesses will pay higher export costs.
These efforts must be undertaken in a way that protects the ocean environment. This includes a continued commitment to environmentally sound dredging and safe disposal or reuse of dredged material. Ports must also take full advantage of new navigation technology, such as the Coast Guard's new Vessel Traffic Services system and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's prototype Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System. These computer-based systems provide ships with up-to-the-minute weather and oceanographic data to help move cargo more efficiently and avoid collisions that cost lives and harm the environment.
To continue to prepare our ports for the new millennium, the President is proposing to:
Establish a new Harbor Services Fund to hold revenues from a new user fee on shippers that would replace the existing harbor maintenance fee. Revenues would be used to finance harbor dredging, port construction activities, and navigation safety improvements. Enhance federal partnerships with industry to commercialize government-developed PORTS technology and make it available to ports across the U.S. and around the world. Combine the capabilities of PORTS and the Vessels Traffic Services system to place powerful new navigation safety tools in the hands of the harbor pilots who guide ships into port.