The maritime community has served this nation well for 400 years.
Eight years ago today, on 9/11, our marine transportation system and the people who serve it were very visible in New York Harbor. They mobilized a massive waterborne evacuation of an estimated 500,000 people from Manhattan, summoning an armada of more than 100 vessels. The result was the largest waterborne evacuation since Dunkirk in World War II.
I commend their dedication, professionalism, and compassion throughout that crisis. Indeed, this nation should be grateful for all they do-–whether during a time of crisis, or on a day-to-day basis.
That's why it's disconcerting to me that this community has been so hard hit recently by job losses that exceed the national average. And that's why it's so important that we've awarded over $21 million to 3 ports through the Recovery Act, with a grant to a 4th port in the works.
But, when this economy recovers, marine transportation capacity will be even more important to this nation.
That's why, also through the Recovery Act, we've awarded $100 million in Small Shipyard Grants. And that's why the Maritime Administration has encouraged investing more than $200 million in public-private port development funds to support critical port modernization and expansion efforts. These partnerships combine federal, state, and local resources.
In addition to these public-private partnerships, we are also committed to doing more with America’s Marine Highway--our system of over 25,000 miles of coastal, inland, and intra-coastal waterways that move freight. The President’s budget includes funding to help start new Marine Highway services or expand existing services. Congress is also considering a long-term competitive grant program to fund these services.
The Marine Highway program will expand the use of this valuable, but underutilized, national network, so we can reduce congestion on our roads and move more freight and passengers in a greener, more efficient manner. It will help make even landlocked communities more livable and will generate jobs aboard vessels and ashore.
America's ports, shipyards, and mariners have served this nation proudly since the first intrepid sailors left their home shores in the 17th century. At DOT, we are working to provide them the resources and support they need to continue that proud service in America's 21st century economy.