Cantwell-Led Legislation to Reauthorize the Maritime Administration Heads to the President’s Desk

December 14, 2023

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, successfully negotiated the inclusion of the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) reauthorization legislation as part of the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The $1.35 billion package will expand investment opportunities to modernize ports, maritime infrastructure and shipbuilding and expand workforce education and training. After passing the Senate and House this week, the legislation now heads to the president’s desk.

“This bill invests in modernizing America’s ports and shipyards that play a central role in moving American products around the country and world and further expands opportunities to support Washington state’s $1.2 billion seafood industry,” Sen. Cantwell said. “It makes critical investments in growing our maritime workforce by doubling educational stipends for State Maritime Academy students and expanding career opportunities for advancement into high-wage maritime jobs.”

The U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) is the federal agency responsible for supporting the American maritime industry through financing, shipbuilding, workforce development and port infrastructure grant programs. MARAD reauthorization legislation for Fiscal Year 2024 would authorize $1.35 billion to fund key programs, including:

  • $500 million: Port Infrastructure Development Program (135.63% increase from FY23) 
  • $318 million: Maritime Security Program
  • $198.5 million: U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (50.76% increase from FY23)
  • $66.58 million: State Maritime Academies (45.69% increase from FY23)
  • $43.02 million: Federal Ship Financing Program (Title XI) (1,334% increase from FY23)
  • $30 million: Small Shipyard Grant Program (50% increase from FY23)
  • $15 million: Maritime Environmental and Technical Assistance Program (150% increase from FY23)

The legislation includes additional provisions championed by Senator Cantwell:

  • Expands the Port Infrastructure Development Grant Program (PIDP) to include port infrastructure that supports seafood and seafood-related businesses. This could help benefit Washington state’s seafood industry, which is worth $1.2 billion and supports 10,000 jobs, and build out additional cold and refrigerated storage at ports. Since PIDP was established in 2019, Washington state has received over $161 million in competitive grant dollars, including $54.2 million to double capacity at the Port of Tacoma’s Husky Terminal – the single largest PIDP award announced this year.  
  • Boosts funding and expands the Federal Ship Financing Program (Title XI) to now allow for the reconstruction, repair and reconfiguration of vessels at U.S. shipyards. This bill doubles the loan program funding, making nearly $500 million available for loan guarantees this fiscal year. This program could benefit Washington state’s $1.5 billion shipbuilding industry, which directly employs more than 25,000 jobs and has about 150 boat and shipbuilding repair and maintenance facilities across the state.
  • Invests in education and training at the State Maritime Academies and doubles yearly stipends for students to increase program competitiveness and retention. Specifically, the bill increases the Student Incentive Payment Program to $4.48 million, a 100% increase, increasing the yearly stipend for students from $8,000 to $16,000 annually for tuition, uniforms and books.
  • Expands the pool of maritime workers eligible to fill essential, high-wage jobs to combat mariner shortages. Washington state currently employs more than 71,000 direct and 175,000 indirect and induced maritime workers and the U.S. is experiencing a shortage of 1,800 maritime jobs needed to support a full-scale conflict.
  • Expands the U.S. flagged cargo vessel fleet to increase the delivery of more American products worldwide, such as products shipped on the Columbia River System, which handles more than 55% of all U.S. wheat bound for export each year.
  • Establishes a Maritime Workforce Working Group that will make recommendations to enhance maritime support programs like federal financial aid for merchant marine education and training.