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A New Old Idea
According to MARAD Administrator Dave Matsuda, the United States is catching up with the rest of
the world when it comes to marine highways. Also known as short sea shipping, coastal trade or
coastal shipping, the rivers and seas of Europe and Asia are filled with small container vessels
carrying cargo within a continent.
“This is an idea that’s been around for a while,” Matsuda said. “The Europeans do it, and other folks
do it. For about 10 years now people have been kicking the idea around in the maritime community.
It’s to the point that it’s been joked about that the Marine Highway conference has become a cottage
When we caught up with him, Matsuda had just been sworn in as MARAD administrator. Earlier this
month, he announced an initial $7 million (.pdf) in grant funding for marine-highway projects that
would primarily strengthen existing projects and proposals.
Some short sea shipping operations are already moving freight in the United St ates, and Matsuda
wants to help them expand. “These are the experts, these are people who have started up new
markets in the past,” he said. “They know the industry; they know the people and the operations.”
Matsuda is clear about engaging existing operators. “The government’s role here is really to help
promote these and get them up and running,” he said. “We can talk to local transportation planners
28 | P a g e Inland Waterways Affirmative BDL and say, ‘Hey, here are some of the federal programs that help.’ There’s a limited amount of federal
dollars to put towards buying cranes or barges or fixing up a port or something that we need to have
up and running.”
Some projects are economic no-brainers, such as moving overweight or hazardous materials, where
the cost of obtaining road permits would be prohibitive for truck shipments. In most cases, however,
in order for a project to make sense and for shippers to make money, MARAD must identify corridors
with strong two-way traffic so empty ships don’t ply the waters.
A good example of such a project is a proposed Green Trade Corridor in California, a project funded
by $30 million of TIGER funds that connects the inland agricultural areas and the Port of Oakland by
a marine highway.
Currently, goods from Asia come into the port of Oakland and are trucked across the state while
agricultural products are trucked in the opposite direction. “It’s a tax on commuters, and it adds to the
congestion, beats up the bridges and raises the cost of maintaining infrastructure,” said Matsuda. “It’s
not just getting the trucks off the road, but also putting people to work in some of these areas that are
A marine highway would move some of that traffic onto barges and guarantee two -way traffic for the
company operating the barges.
A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats, Trains and Trucks
A project that promises to put people to work shouldn’t put ot hers out of work. Marine highway...
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This document was uploaded on 02/06/2014.
- Spring '14