Ports' shipping collaboration plan OK'd

By Charis Anderson

NEW BEDFORD — A plan to strengthen and promote the connection between New Bedford and two other East Coast ports was officially recognized by the U.S. Department of Transportation last week, opening the door to potential federal funding, city officials announced Monday.

The collaboration between the ports of New Bedford, Baltimore and Canaveral, Fla., was one of six “initiatives” named by the transportation department’s Maritime Administration, a designation that allows the ports to apply for federal funding to assist in research development and market analysis, officials said.

The administration also designated eight projects, or proposals, that are, essentially, shovel-ready, from among the 35 applications it received.

“It makes a statement that New Bedford is out front and center on this,” said Kristin Decas, executive director of the city’s Harbor Development Commission. “That’s the signal that I think comes down from this announcement: We’re very viable as a short sea (shipping) hub.”

According to Decas, the ports have done some initial research that indicates an existing network of freight moving between them.

“It makes a lot of sense for us to capitalize on that opportunity,” she said.

The Maritime Administration, through the initiative designation, has indicated its support of the ports’ plan and its willingness to help the ports further develop the connection between them, according to Decas.

“Making better use of our rivers and coastal routes offers an intelligent way to relieve some of the biggest challenges we face in transportation — congestion on our roads, climate change, fossil fuel energy use and soaring road maintenance costs,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a statement.

“There is no better time for us to improve the use of our rivers and coasts for transportation.”

Mayor Scott W. Lang said that while there is still a lot of work to do, the designation by the Maritime Administration puts the city in an advantageous position.

“We want to nail down this short sea shipping opportunity,” he said. “It will mean more jobs. It’ll mean more infrastructure, more businesses.

While there is a clear national benefit to moving freight traffic off the roads and onto the seas in the form of reduced congestion and emissions, there is a local benefit, as well, said Decas.

“From a local perspective … it puts you on the front line of the supply chain,” which attracts businesses into relocating to the city to be closer to their shipping hub, said Decas,

“New Bedford wants to be a part of (the marine highway) because of that local shot in the arm it can give to your economy,” she said.

August 17, 2010

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