MARAD Announces New Marine Highway Project Designations

Image via Maritime Administration.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) on June 3 announced the designation of four new Marine Highway Projects—including two in Alaska—as part of the America’s Marine Highway Program (AMHP).

Upon receiving the designation, the projects became eligible to apply for funding through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to help address supply chain challenges.

A Marine Highway Project is a planned service, or expansion of an existing service, on a designated Marine Highway Route. Since its inception in 2010, the AMHP has designated 58 marine highway projects. Once a marine highway project is designated by the Secretary of Transportation as part of the AMHP, they are eligible to apply for a grant.

The program supports the increased use of the nation’s navigable waterways to relieve supply chain congestion, provide new and efficient transportation options, and increase the productivity of the movement of goods. By working with public and private organizations, the AMHP can help create and sustain American jobs in U.S. ports, on vessels and at shipyards, while also improving our supply chains, according to the Department of Transportation.

“We’re pleased to make four new marine highway projects eligible for federal funding so they can move more goods more efficiently,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement. “We are using resources from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to make historic investments in our nation’s marine highways—part of our continuing action to address global supply chain disruptions and lower costs for American families.”

In March, the Department announced the availability of nearly $25 million in grant funding through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for the AMHP. The Fiscal Year 2022 Appropriations Act made an additional $14.8 million available for the program. This is the most funding for Marine Highways in U.S. history, according to MARAD. The new Marine Highways announced in June are eligible to compete for the full funding.

The new Marine Highway Projects in Alaska are:

Yakutat, Alaska’s Freight Expansion Service:  The project would serve the City and Borough of Yakutat, Alaska through the expansion of an existing freight service on the M-5 (AK) Marine Highway Route.

The overall operation of the proposed project includes fishing vessels, freighters carrying vehicles, heavy equipment, building supplies, passengers, food and supplies, pleasure vessels, and commercial vessels. The project also includes the eventual extension of the dock.

The extended sheet-pile-type dock, according to the DOT, would eliminate most pilings and reduce damage overall. The project sponsor expects that this project will put them in a better position to handle larger vessels and handle a greater quantity of ships.

The other project is the Unalaska Express, which would support the growth of the CMA CGM barge terminal operating in the City of Unalaska’s International Port of Dutch Harbor, which utilizes the Alaska M-5 route to connect to the towns of Kodiak, Seward and Valdez.

Currently, the CMA CGM Dutch Harbor Terminal serves as a port of destination for Alaskan commodities, something critical to the state’s economic growth. The terminal has an existing barge service that operates throughout the Aleutian Islands serving the people of Alaska. This project would add 20% increase in cargo volumes, according to the DOT, plus would provide a safer working place for Alaskan workers.