Cargo Handling Equipment Grant Qualifications

The National Association of Waterfront Employers is in support of the Buy American Act as it encourages the growth of infrastructure, economic opportunities, and climate stability at our nation’s ports. Marine Terminal Operators are responsible for the safe and secure transfer of freight and passengers between vessels, trucks and rail at ports. To perform the job effectively and efficiently, cargo handling equipment is necessary.  Gone are the days when a human with two hooks can lift all the freight moved today.  Containers weigh up to 20 tons – and ship to shore cranes can lift two at a time out of the hold of a ship.

While accepting that Buy American is a brilliant step towards reinforcing infrastructure and machinery that can support America’s growing economic needs, securing federal grant support can be challenging. This diagram was created to illustrate the need to upgrade cargo handling equipment (CHE), the desire to acquire equipment that will result in reduced emissions, thereby helping our climate woes, and how Federal assistance claims to want to help, but is unable to do so due to policy that overrides laws in place.

  • Fact:  The ship to shore (STS), staddle carriers, and larger marine cranes needed to transfer freight between vessels and surface transportation modes at a port terminal have not been manufactured in the US since the late 1980s.
  • Fact:  CHE has a life expectance of 20 years.
  • Fact: This equipment is expensive.  For example, STS cranes average $16M each.
  • Our point:  Change policy to allow for the acquisition of near-zero emission CHE as (1) a phased approach to zero and (2) to serve as a resilient option when the grid fails.

The Hold Up:

  • Congress has authorized programs such as , the Port Infrastructure Development Grant program (PIDG) and RAISE that can help marine terminal operators and port authorities acquire cargo handling equipment (CHE), including STS cranes. The Biden Administration has directed that certain infrastructure grant programs prioritize awarding grants to applications that can address Climate change needs.  CHE fits this category.  However, it is our understanding only zero-emission CHE will qualify, and the CHE with the best power rating needed for port operations runs on electricity.
    • These Federal programs require compliance with the Buy American Act (BAA).  NAWE supports the BAA, which allows for exceptions to be granted when necessary equipment is not made in the US.
      • The Biden Administration’s policy does not allow grants to be awarded for CHE that needs an exception to be considered.
        • Infrastructure Grant programs allow grants to be used for acquiring CHE, and the BAA allows waivers for CHE, but the Administration’s policy does not allow USDOT staff to consider such grant applications.

What Can Get Us Going:

  • Authorize a tax credit program that will incentivize private firms to acquire foreign-made CHE that meets zero AND near-zero-emission goals.
  • Change Administration policy to allow Buy American Act exceptions to be considered for infrastructure grants awarded for projects that include CHE that is not manufactured in the United States.
  • Doing the above two steps will help this industry reduce emission impacts in a phased approach while inventions are being created that can accommodate zero-emission goals and support the power needs of ports and terminals.

 Keep the conversation going:

We would welcome the opportunity to discuss NAWE’s concerns regarding application of Buy American policies and practices within Federal assistance programs, especially for infrastructure projects that can improve the safety and efficiency of our national transportation system.

Please contact Robert Murray ([email protected]) for comments and questions. 

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