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Ports Welcome Infrastructure and Innovation Policies in 2023 NDAA

The NDAA creates a United States Center for Maritime Innovation to support the study, research, development, assessment, and deployment of emerging marine technologies and practices related to the maritime transportation system.

Seattle and Tacoma ports have welcomed the passing of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which has now been signed into law. It contained several major policies that will benefit innovation, decarbonization, and habitat programs at both the ports and throughout the Puget Sound. The legislation included the annual Water Resources Development Act, the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) Reauthorization Act, and the U.S. Coast Guard Reauthorization Act. 

“The Port of Seattle and The Northwest Seaport Alliance thank our state’s Congressional delegation for incorporating provisions in the NDAA that balance the needs of commerce, communities, climate and killer whales,” said Port of Seattle Commissioner Fred Felleman. “These provisions include critical funding and collaboration to help ports decarbonize our operations with electricity and alternative fuels that reduce our impacts on the climate and near-port communities. It also increases the ability for ports to work with the Coast Guard and whale watching networks to reduce conflicts between ships and vulnerable whale species.”

“The NDAA legislation includes key provisions that support both environmental and operational activities at the Port of Tacoma and The Northwest Seaport Alliance,” stated Port of Tacoma Commission President and Northwest Seaport Alliance Co-Chair Don Meyer. “The Tacoma harbor deepening included in the WRDA bill is a significant benefit for maritime trade in the Puget Sound and will ensure our ports remain competitive for years to come. We appreciate the good work of our Federal delegation in passing this legislation.”

Among the provisions that will benefit the region:

  • A pilot program on use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), requiring two military bases to develop a plan for implementing SAF. The Port of Seattle plans to work with the Congressional delegation to urge the U.S. Department of Defense to consider Joint Base Lewis McCord as one of the locations for this pilot program.  
  • Expansion of the U.S. Maritime Administration’s (MARAD) Port Infrastructure Development Program to include “shore power at a port that services passenger vessels”, which will allow for federal funding to support the Port’s investment in providing shore power at the Pier 66 cruise terminal. Once completed, all three of the Port of Seattle’s cruise berths will be shore power capable.
  • Creates a “United States Center for Maritime Innovation to support the study, research, development, assessment, and deployment of emerging marine technologies and practices related to the maritime transportation system,” which the Port will work with the Congressional delegation to locate in Washington state.
  • Directs a MARAD study on the “necessary port-related infrastructure needed to support bunkering facilities for liquefied natural gas, hydrogen, ammonia, or other new marine fuels under development.”
  • Includes a significant number of policies and programs to support marine mammals and reduce underwater noise, including adding eligibility for underwater noise technologies to MARAD’s Maritime Environmental and Technical Assistance Program; creating a NOAA grant program to provide assistance to ports to reduce impacts of vessel traffic and port operations on marine mammals; starting a NOAA near real-time monitoring and mitigation program for large cetaceans; and establishing a Coast Guard Cetacean Desk for the Puget Sound region, expanding the capacity of the Coast Guard’s vessel traffic service to inform mariners of ways to avoid conflicts with whales.
  • Allows ports to fund U.S. Army Corps of Engineer staff capacity to expedite review of mitigation banking permits, which will support implementation of the Port’s habitat restoration initiatives.

The Northwest Seaport Alliance, Port of Seattle, and Port of Tacoma made the voluntary commitment to reduce maritime-related emissions to zero by 2050 or earlier with the Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy. In October 2021, the Port of Seattle Commission accelerated its climate action goals to be net zero or better for Port-owned emissions by 2040. The Port also committed to accelerate and expand its goal to reduce emissions from industries operating at its facilities to be carbon neutral or better by 2050. 

Read more at the Port of Seattle

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