AAPA: U.S. Ports fare well in Congressional Year-End Legislation

U.S. members of the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) said in their latest release that they are pleased that many port-related programs championed by AAPA and its members are included in the FY 2021 Omnibus appropriation package and in the FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Among the most noteworthy port-related programs in the year-end Omnibus spending bill is the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2020, which includes critical Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) spending reforms long advocated by AAPA, together with the first-ever drawdowns from the $9.3 billion balance in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF).  

Within the NDAA is authorization of the Maritime Transportation System Emergency Relief Program, or MTSERP.

Although the MTSERP program wasn’t funded in either the Omnibus year-end appropriations package or the second COVID-19 stimulus bill, MTSERP is the first-of-its-kind mechanism available to ports for getting federal funds appropriated and distributed as direct relief following disasters, including pandemics such as COVID-19.

“While we’re ecstatic about the hard-fought WRDA reforms being included in the year-end FY 2021 appropriations package, we’re disappointed that relief for ports and those in the maritime industry, hard hit by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, wasn’t included,” said Christopher J. Connor, AAPA’s president and CEO. “That said, establishment of the MTSERP as part of the FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act was a major victory, and with it we’ll continue to work with policymakers and our maritime partners to bring much needed relief to the industry.”

“Although WRDA and MTSERP are the most likely newsmakers for ports in Congress’ end-of-year legislation, the Omnibus provides a host of funding for many of the association’s ongoing priorities that will go a long way to enhancing port infrastructure development (waterside and landside), providing investments in multimodal transportation, and ensuring timely inspection of goods moving through America’s ports.”

Below is a brief breakdown of how AAPA priorities fared in the end-of-year FY 2021 Omnibus appropriations package: 

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

  • Coastal Navigation- $2.6 billion – This amount represents robust funding for a wide range of studies, construction projects and maintenance work.
  • Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund – $1.68 billion– Funding increases by $50 million over FY 2020 appropriated level.
  • Construction – $911 million– This allows continued work on 10 coastal navigation projects across the country.
  • Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Balance – $500 million (rising incrementally to $1.5B in Year 10) – This is the first-ever allowable draw-down from the HMTF accumulated balance to address navigation maintenance backlogs, negotiated as part of the landmark WRDA 2020 legislation.
  • Donor and Energy Transfer– $50 million – This continues the funding for this program at the FY 2020 level. 

Photo: USACE