With Kurt Nagle President and CEO, American Association of Port Authorities

With Kurt Nagle President and CEO, American Association of Port Authorities

Kurt J. Nagle joined the American Association of Port Authorities in 1985 and has served as its president and CEO since 1995. The AAPA is working with federal and local agencies, as well as with its industry partners, to enhance maritime security and to ensure adequate land and waterside infrastructure to accommodate projected growth in international trade.

Q. As ports expand to accommodate growing cargo volumes, they are experiencing a backlash from neighborhood groups and environmentalists. How are ports addressing these sensitive community issues?

A. An ongoing challenge for ports and the AAPA is to increase public awareness of the vital role of ports to both the national economy and to job creation in the local communities, as well as ports' role as environmental stewards. With that awareness, when a project is needed, the community recognizes the value to the local economy. Also, ports often seek to engage community and environmental groups in discussions of the project at the outset, allowing these issues to be addressed in the early stages of the project.

Q. Ports have huge infrastructure needs in areas such as roadway access and intermodal connectors. However, public money is scarce. What can ports do to help finance infrastructure development?

A. While funding intermodal connectors beyond the terminal gates is not the ports' role directly, ports serve as catalysts for investments in these connectors. There was a level of recognition of the importance of freight mobility in Istea and TEA-21 legislation, and ports, as part of the Freight Stakeholders Coalition, are actively advocating for heightened focus on freight transportation infrastructure funding in the reauthorization of TEA-21. We are very pleased that the Bush administration's Safetea proposal includes a number of provisions targeting freight mobility, including a set-aside for intermodal connectors at the individual state level.

Q. Ports are looking to the federal government for assistance in funding security mandates, but it looks like federal funding will fall far short of what is needed. How can ports generate additional money for security projects?

A. As you'd expect given the events of Sept. 11, much attention and funding has been devoted to aviation security. You are beginning to see more of an emphasis on maritime security, particularly as the Coast Guard finalizes its security regulations. This will provide a clearer picture of what is needed and how much it will cost. The Coast Guard estimates costs will be over $1.1 billion for the first year and $5.4 billion over 10 years. Ports are a critical part of our border security and national defense, playing a key role in handling military shipments during the Iraq war. Congress has appropriated $388 million for port security grants to date, but far more is needed. We believe this grant funding will be continued and expanded. The federal government is also providing funding to states as part of its "first responder" program, and we feel this should be another potential source for port security funding.

Q. There is a growing consensus among freight transportation consultants that public-private partnerships will be needed for major infrastructure projects, and that process will probably include user fees. Do ports agree that user fees may be needed?

A. Ports do not support the establishment of new national fees or taxes on the maritime industry. In this context, new taxes are usually discussed as a way for the federal government to fund its participation in transportation system partnerships. Other partners, including ports, are already bringing substantial resources to these projects, and the government should continue to use existing revenues to cover its share. There are already about 120 different fees and taxes on maritime commerce that generate $16 billion a year in federal revenues, but less than $4 billion is expended on maritime transportation by the government. If a dedicated funding source is deemed necessary, ports support the concept of utilizing a specific portion of U.S. Customs revenues collected via maritime commerce.

Q. Still, assuming that the need for infrastructure projects will continue to be robust, how will ports and especially port regions respond to the challenge of accommodating the growth in trade that most expect for the foreseeable future?

A. Projections of cargo growth over the next 15-20 years indicate there will be a need for significantly more port capacity. As markets shift and new large terminals come on line, there can be short-term overcapacity in certain regions. However, the flexibility of the port system and its ability to adapt to rapidly shifting market demands is one of our nation's key strengths. When there are projects that benefit an entire region, such as a central examination site for security inspections in Southern California or the FAST corridor in the Pacific Northwest, ports have demonstrated their ability, and eagerness to work together cooperatively. I believe we will see more cooperative arrangements among ports in the coming years.