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Published: 18 January 2012      

Call for HMT to be extended

Former Congresswoman Helen Delich Bentley has called for the Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) to be collected on all freight from foreign sources entering the United States, not just on ocean-borne cargoes.

In a speech to west coast maritime interests, Bentley noted that Washington state shippers are concerned that substantial Asian cargo bound for the US is being diverted via the Port of Prince Rupert in Canada to avoid the Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT), which the US instituted in 1986 to pay for dredging ship channels. Freight entering the US from Canada or Mexico by rail does not pay any tax.

Bentley, who is also a past chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), said the situation is now under review at the FMC. The study was requested by the entire Congressional delegation of the state of Washington - both House and Senate - and members of California’s Congressional delegation. The period for industry comment has closed and FMC staff is analysing 70 inputs the agency received.

During a September 2011 speech, current FMC Chairman Richard Lidinsky said the agency faces important legal issues, including where does water-borne commerce begin and end and where the responsibility lies.

The former Fairview Terminal at the Port of Prince Rupert in British Colombia has been converted from a general cargo facility to a state-of-the-art container terminal by US terminal operator Maher Terminals and is touted as the closest North American port to Asia with direct on-dock access to the CN Rail network. Plans are underway for a Phase 2 expansion that will triple current capacity.


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