Cantwell Heralds Major Wins for Washington State in Bipartisan Maritime Administration Act

MARAD reauthorization bill includes orca and salmon protections, maritime fuel decarbonization, and protections for maritime workers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation voted to advance the Bipartisan Maritime Administration Act (MARAD), which reauthorizes funding for the Maritime Administration for the Fiscal Year of 2023.

As Chair of the Committee, Sen. Cantwell championed the legislation which includes major investments for Washington state’s $21.4 billion maritime economy. At today’s Senate Commerce Committee Executive Session, Sen. Cantwell said the following:

“This bill would invest $1.6 billion to make critical improvements in our maritime workforce, small shipyards, and port infrastructure that are key to keeping our supply chains moving. It will create a new Maritime Innovation Center to explore cleaner fuels and maritime technology innovation to propel America's maritime industry into the future.

“The bill would also strengthen protections against sexual assault and sexual harassment at sea and I'm glad we were able to work in a bipartisan fashion to send a strong signal that we must invest in and protect our maritime workforce, especially midshipmen at the start of their careers at sea.”

The Maritime Administration operates under the Department of Transportation and is tasked with promoting the U.S. maritime industry, improving port infrastructure to help speed the shipment of freight and goods, and investing in America’s maritime workforce and shipyards.

What’s included for Washington state:

  • Protecting Orcas by Reducing Marine Sound: The act would include $15 million (a 50% increase from the FY2022 allocated funding) to expand the existing Maritime Environmental and Technical Assistance Program (META) to fund research on vessel quieting measures. Marine sound is one of the three major threats to recovering endangered Southern resident orca populations, along with pollution and food availability. MARAD 2023 would also establish a program to make certain unclassified government vessel quieting technologies available to the commercial maritime sector.
  • Study on Salmon and Port Runoff: Tire runoff has been documented to be lethal to certain salmon species, such as coho. The act would authorize a National Academies of Sciences study to identify ways to reduce the impact of tire runoff on salmon survival.
  • Establish a New Maritime Innovation Center for Cleaner Maritime Fuels: That center would support public/private partnerships to research and develop alternative maritime fuel sources and boost decarbonization for the maritime industry. The Washington Maritime Blue Ocean Cluster is the type of public/private partnership that would be competitive to host a potential future Maritime Innovation Center.
  • Authorize a Climate Resilience Study of Port Infrastructure: The act would require the Government Accountability Office to evaluate the climate resiliency of port infrastructure, and provide recommendations on how to best prepare our ports for climate and extreme weather events, as well as natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis, to protect and strengthen our maritime supply chain.
  • Boost Maritime Workforce: The act would establish a grant program to expand training opportunities to recruit and retain more workers in the maritime industry.

The MARAD Reauthorization Act of 2023 would also strengthen protections against sexual assault and sexual harassment at sea and require for mariners’ licenses to be revoked if found guilty. In October 2021, Sen. Cantwell sent a letter to Acting Administrator of the Maritime Administration demanding answers following allegations of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA).

Sen. Cantwell also championed a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2022 to reform the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) to address sexual assault in the military.

Sen. Cantwell has consistently championed Washington’s ports and secured $750 million in the MARAD 2023 for the Port Infrastructure Development Program. In 2019, Sen. Cantwell co-authored the legislation that reauthorized the Port Infrastructure Development Program (PIDP).

Most recently, the program was reauthorized in the 2021 National Defense Reauthorization Act, a provision authored by Cantwell. As Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, Sen. Cantwell worked to include a record $2.25 billion for the program in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and in September 2021, Sen. Cantwell led a letter calling for increased funding for the PIDP program to help address the ongoing issues with port congestion.

Video from today’s Commerce Executive Session is available HERE, audio HERE, and a full transcript HERE.