Asia is knocking ever stronger at the door of U.S. ports, but our nation’s infrastructure is crumbling while those in Washington are twiddling their thumbs, sitting on their hands or simply thumbing their noses at each other.
It’s no joke. If our leaders don’t stop doing their modern-day equivalent of Nero fiddling while Rome burns, our infrastructure, from ports to “last-mile” connections, won’t be able to handle growing cargo flows that will come with economic rebound and the completion of Panama Canal expansion.
U.S. leaders would do well to look to Panama as an example of how acting with collaborative force to advance the vital nature of transportation infrastructure can establish the foundation for long-term prosperity.
In September, just before completing my term as chairman of the American Association of Port Authorities at our 100th annual convention in Seattle, I was in Panama for the signing of a memorandum of understanding. I was impressed by how the Panamanian people had the foresight to support the multibillion-dollar investment in canal expansion, recognizing the benefits it will have.
As I wind down a career of nearly a half-century in this industry, I hope the next generation of port directors finds greater support from Washington’s elected and appointed leadership: for federal Harbor Maintenance Tax collections being used for their designated purpose; for sufficient transportation infrastructure funding; for uncompromised port security grant authorizations; for a Maritime Administration that has a better relationship with, and advocates more strongly for, the port industry.
Asia’s knocking, and our proverbial doors aren’t adequate enough to let them all the way in. We must act now or suffer the consequences.