Ocean freight rates need to provide a sustainable return on investment. Continued overcapacity in today’s container fleet threatens the entire shipping supply chain as we know it. New partnerships, or 3Ps, are the best hope we have had in a long time to reduce losses from overcapacity.
Another potential important change to look forward to in 2014 is the passing of a new Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). The continued dredging of our channels is a matter that all ports wrestle with. As ships get larger and with the Panama Canal opening a little more than a year from now, there has never been a more opportune time to strongly encourage the passing of a WRDA.
The federal government is supposed to have a new WRDA passed every two years. It has been seven years since the last one. In that time, ports have struggled to conduct the amount of dredging they need to safely accommodate ships. Many ports have been limited to maintenance dredging only, as opposed to new dredging work. This has resulted in lost opportunities for business growth and new jobs.
The new WRDA should also require that money collected for the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund be used exclusively for the operation and maintenance of ports and channels, not for general purposes that have nothing to do with our industry.
James J. White is Executive Director of the Maryland Port Administration.