A key part of President Obama's economic strategy for winning the future is his initiative to double American exports within five years. That means we need to expand shipping capacity in order to support larger demand for American goods abroad.
Last week, I had the opportunity to talk about this at the Second Annual National Port Summit. In addition to speaking about the President's economic vision and the DOT’s many marine initiatives, I was able to to hear ideas from folks in the marine industry.
To build a world-class economy, the United States must be able to move people and products safely and efficiently. We must invest in world-class roadways, railways, runways--and waterways.
And that's exactly what we're doing. Through TIGER grants and other programs, we've focused on awarding funds to projects that will seamlessly connect shippers with ports and easy access to freight rail and highways.
Fully half of our TIGER funds went to freight projects, including $215 million for marine highway and port projects. This is the first time that our nation's ports have ever received federal funds.
A major priority for DOT is our marine highways initiative, an important part of President Obama’s plan to meet the challenge of rising gas prices. Marine highways remain the single most fuel-efficient and cost-effective way to haul goods from one place to another.
We also know that investing in our nations waterways, ports, and shipyards will create jobs. On Friday Maritime Administrator David Matsuda signed a loan guarantee that allows Florida's Eastern Shipbuilding Group to build five new vessels for export to Brazil. The 300 jobs created at the shipyard to fulfill this order are expected to have a ripple effect that could add as many as 1,500 jobs to the local economy. As U.S. Senator Bill Nelson said, "So much of shipbuilding has gone offshore; this is a homegrown company that keeps it in America."
To continue the work accomplished at the port summit, DOT will soon be announcing the members of our new advisory committee for the maritime industry. We want to really listen to what industries and communities need, and make sure that everyone has a chance to be part of the maritime conversation.
DOT is committed to working with the marine industry. Together, we can turn challenges into opportunities, create jobs, and keep America's freight moving for generations to come.