Wyatt Testifies on Ports’ Role in National Export Strategy

Bill Wyatt, executive director for the Port of Portland, testified before a Senate subcommittee on April 29 to emphasize the importance of seaports to the nation’s exports and to identify existing transportation infrastructure constraints that threaten to hamper growth.

Wyatt joined fellow port officials and industry leaders involved with trade and transportation for a hearing titled Doubling U.S. Exports: Are U.S. Seaports Ready for the Challenge? The session was convened by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, chair of the Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs and Global Competitiveness.

“About 35 percent of American exports in dollar terms, and a much larger percentage in tonnage terms, moved through U.S. seaports in 2009,” said Wyatt. “Therefore, it is important to understand if seaports are operating as effectively as possible as a conduit for U.S. exports.”

He identified four primary challenges for moving forward: the poor condition of ground transportation infrastructure, deferred maintenance and improvement of waterways, lacking investments in terminal infrastructure at seaports, and limited industrial property near seaports for export and import facilities. He also cited the availability of containers and equipment as a going concern — but as a commercial problem more than a policy problem.

Wyatt offered a series of recommendations and solutions to these challenges, such as establishing a national freight strategy, creating an office focused on freight mobility and dedicating federal funds to freight projects in the surface transportation authorization bill. He also advocated funding for waterway improvements, incentives for investment in freight rail service and removal of obstacles to brownfield remediation and redevelopment.

He expressed support for the president’s National Export Initiative and encouraged Congress to stimulate U.S. exports through the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement. “The Port of Portland and other U.S. port authorities are committed to helping American producers increase their exports to foreign markets,” said Wyatt. “We recognize the higher value that exports generate for producers, their employees, and the communities in which they’re located.”