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US ports make progress on Harbour Maintenance Tax reform

The US House of Representatives has agreed that all of the Harbour Maintenance Tax should be spent on maintaining navigation channels.

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The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) has notched an important victory in its long running battle to stop the US Government diverting funds collected through the add valorem Harbour Maintenance Tax(HMT) to other purposes.


It has long been a point of contention for US ports that some of HMT funds collected on the value of cargo that passes over their quays to pay for dredging and waterway maintenance have gone to other purposes. The US House of Representatives has now advanced H.R. 2440, the Full Utilization of the Harbour Maintenance Trust Fund Act which would end this practice, and pave the way for more investment, providing it passes into law.


“The legislation would enable Congress to appropriate $34 billion over the next decade to restore America’s federal navigation channels to their originally-constructed widths and depths, thereby improving their safety and reliability to handle today’s larger ships and growing trade,” the AAPA said.


There are many other issues around the HMT that US ports are unhappy with, particularly the west coast ports that do not need regular maintenance dredging and view the way the HMT is managed as a subsidy to their competitors on the east coast. Other ports want to see the rules around how the funds can be spent broadened to include road and rail infrastructure.


“Passage of H.R. 2440 is a critical first step to solve the problems with the HMT,” said AAPA President & CEO, Chris Connor. “The legislation will stop the diversion of HMTF payments and provide a means for Congress to spend down the more than $9 billion that has been diverted in previous years.”


The bill now heads to the Senate, where the AAPA anticipates the Environment and Public Works Committee will release “initial HMT legislative language in the next few weeks, as part of developing their Water Resources Development Act bill”.

“AAPA looks forward to working with Congressional leaders to ensure that, prior to implementation of this bill, Congress enacts legislation to address the needs of donor and energy transfer ports and provides funding certainty for emerging harbours and the Great Lakes navigation system. Enactment of yesterday’s legislation coupled with these policy priorities is essential for AAPA’s members,” the AAPA concluded.

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