Obama signs pivotal port bill

Legal, Ports & Terminals, Regulatory — By on June 13, 2014 at 4:22 PM
President Barack Obama - picture credits USCG

President Barack Obama – picture credits USCG

US President Barack Obama has signed legislation that port officials and the dredging industry believe will jump-start harbour deepening and expansion projects. (source:Fairplay / IHS  Maritime  360)

The Water Resources Reform and Development Act, signed by Obama on 10 June, streamlines federal permitting for navigational dredging while directing more money towards maintenance dredging.

The American Association of Port Authorities called the legislation a major victory because it includes numerous policy priorities of the group, including setting a path toward full use of the Harbor Maintenance Tax.

The tax is used to keep ports and harbours dredged to appropriate depths for commercial vessels.

The legislation also lifts major construction hurdles for ports that have been waiting to start harbour deepening projects to take advantage of larger containerships.

One of those projects, the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) at the Port of Savannah, Georgia, has been in the planning stages for 16 years.

“With today’s action, SHEP has officially received a green light, ” said Georgia Ports Authority executive director Curtis Foltz.

The State of Georgia has already allocated $266M to help finance the $706M project, which will deepen the Savannah River to 14.6m.

The bill lifts a spending limit set when lawmakers first authorised the project in 1999, allowing both state and federal dollars to be used for the project.

The next step calls for Georgia to enter an agreement with the US Army Corps of Engineers to more closely define cost sharing for the project, which Foltz said he expects to have in place within 90 days.

Related news: Passage is near for US port bill; US agrees water bill

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