WASHINGTON, D.C. – S. 1298, the Ports Performance Act, today secured approval by the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on a voice vote. The legislation is intended to provide currently non-existent key metrics on port operations to help provide earlier warning of disruptions to various sectors of our economy following the recent nine month labor dispute at 29 West Coast container ports. This particular port slowdown has been cited as a cause of the anemic 0.2 percent annual growth rate of the U.S. economy in the first quarter of 2015.
“Businesses in South Dakota and across our country rely on dependable port operations for vital import and export necessities,” said bill sponsor and committee chairman Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.). “This bill creates a right for the public to know, and an opportunity for government officials to act, if future labor strife or any other development threatens efficient operation of maritime commerce.”
“The damage inflicted on our economy because of port labor strife needed a response to help prevent a reoccurrence. Today, the committee resisted arguments against transparency and acted on that need.”
S. 1298 creates a new level of transparency and accountability for ports, many of which are government owned, by requiring:
- The director of the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) to establish a port performance statistics program and report annually to Congress on the performance and capacity of the Nation’s key ports.
- U.S. port authorities that are subject to federal regulation or that receive federal assistance to report annually to BTS.
- The Secretary of Transportation, in consultation with the Secretaries of Labor and Commerce, to report to Congress on a port’s performance before and after the expiration of maritime labor agreements to help indicate whether labor discussions have impacted operations, the estimated economic impact of such disputes and roughly how long it will take for shipments to return to normal.
Click here for a copy of S. 1298, considered today by the committee and here for an adopted amendment, offered by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), on data collection requirements.
A separate amendment, offered by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), which would have removed provisions related to monthly reporting requirements in proximity to maritime labor agreements, was defeated by a vote of 11-13.
S. 1298 may next be considered as part of the upcoming surface transportation reauthorization bill.
Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) joined Thune as original cosponsors in introducing S. 1298.