MARITIME TRANSPORTATION

MARITIME TRANSPORTATION

The report on the nation's maritime system, released by Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater last Thursday, ducked the key issue of how to pay for dredging of the nation's waterways. That's because representatives from the Office of Management and Budget insisted on sticking with the administration's proposal to tax carriers, which is adamantly opposed by the private sector.

As a result, the public-private task force that produced the report, entitled ''An Assessment of the U.S. Marine Transportation System,'' presented both sides of the issue, but took no position.Still, as William O. Gray points out in a commentary appearing on Page 6, the report produced some interesting points on such issues as safety, including the lack of information for mariners on real-time tide, current and weather conditions. Such information is vital for safe passage of vessels.

Secretary Slater deserves to be commended for agreeing to form two national advisory councils, one of which will be composed entirely of private sector representatives. As Edward Emmett, president of the National Industrial Transportation League, observed, ''That's a gutsy move.''