NORTH KINGSTOWN, RI – In an effort to strengthen America’s shipbuilding capacity and national security and help local shipyards invest in modern equipment and sustain good-paying jobs, U.S. Senator Jack Reed, the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development and Related Agencies (THUD), recently met with U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) Administrator Mark H. Buzby in Rhode Island to discuss maritime issues, economic development, and multimodal transportation policy and tour several shipyards and port facilities across the Ocean State. 

MARAD’s mission is to foster, promote, and develop the Merchant Maritime industry of the United States in order to meet America’s economic and security needs and increase the efficiency of our surface transportation system.

On March 9, Reed and Buzby toured several Rhode Island shipyards and met with marine workers, state officials, and business leaders, including Jack Goodison of J. Goodison Company; Marcia Blount, President of Blount Boats, Inc.; and Steve King, Managing Director of Quonset Development Corporation to discuss federal funding for small shipyards and new opportunities for federal funding for Rhode Island businesses.

Last year, MARAD awarded over $1.1 million in federal funding to Rhode Island shipyards through the Small Shipyard Grant Program to make capital improvements that will help create jobs, increase economic activity, and improve their building, service, and maintenance capabilities.  Blount Boats in Warren received $508,927 and J. Goodison Company in North Kingstown, a veteran-owned shipyard that provides repair services to commercial and government vessels, received $635,453.

“It is great to have Admiral Buzby back in Rhode Island and we appreciate his leadership at MARAD and commitment to ensuring America’s shipyards and marine workforce can effectively compete in the global marketplace.  Small shipyards provide a big lift to Rhode Island’s economy, and the Port of Davisville is an important economic engine and transportation asset for the state.  I am proud to secure federal investments to enhance our infrastructure, grow Rhode Island’s economy, and help sustain good-paying jobs.  These federal funds help Rhode Island businesses compete, bringing more jobs and opportunities to the Ocean State.  It is great to see these funds being wisely invested here.  J. Goodison and Blount Boats are Rhode Island success stories,  providing great jobs and a boost to our economy,” said Senator Reed, who successfully restored federal funding for the Small Shipyard Grant Program after it lapsed. 

Since 2009, MARAD’s Small Shipyard Grant Program has awarded almost $175 million to 169 small shipyards nationwide, helping them to modernize operations, improve efficiency, and boost productivity with employee training and new technologies.  According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, including direct, indirect, and induced impacts, total economic activity associated with U.S. shipyards is nearly 400,000 jobs, $25.1 billion of labor income, and $37.3 billion in GDP.

“Blount Boats is truly grateful to Senator Jack Reed and Admiral Mark Buzby for their enthusiastic support for Small Shipyard Grant Program administered by MARAD. The equipment and training purchased through these grants have been transformative for us increasing production efficiency, jobs, and opportunities,” said Marcia Blount, President of Blount Boats.

“The MARAD Grant we received has allowed us to expedite and complete the installation of a new Waste Water Collection and Treatment System and the expansion of our yard to fully utilize all of our available space.  Both of these goals would not have been possible without the MARAD Grant Program,”  said Jack Goodison, an owner and partner of J. Goodison Company.  “We are grateful for the leadership and support we have received from Senator Reed and Administrator Buzby, and to all those that have believed and supported us.  MARAD Grants are an important and vital component to our industry, specially to small shipyards like us and, our success is a testament to that.”

One stop on the tour was the Port of Davisville.  The U.S. Department of Transportation recently designated the Port of Davisville/Brooklyn/Newark Container on Barge Service as a new Marine Highway Project.  Port of Davisville/Brooklyn/Newark Container on Barge Service is a proposed container-on-barge service to speed the transfer of containers in the Mid Atlantic region.  The barge service will be operated by SEACOR AMH, LLC and will include a dedicated run twice a week utilizing one 800 TEU capacity deck barge transporting north and southbound import and export cargo between Quonset, RI, Brooklyn, NY, and Newark, NJ.  The service will operate in the Block Island Sound, Narraganset Bay, Long Island Sound, and East River. 

“As inland waterway transport becomes an increasingly routine, cost effective and efficient option for shippers to transport their goods to domestic and international markets, we at MARAD are proud to welcome Quonset and the Port of Davisville.  By becoming a part of America’s Marine Highway system they will join us in our efforts to enhance national freight movement, reduce landside congestion and highway maintenance costs as well as increasing public safety and environmental sustainability,” said Admiral Buzby.

“I am pleased MARAD has approved Quonset’s Marine Highway designation.  The Marine Highway program is designed to expand the use of navigable waterways, relieve congestion, and reduce pollution.  This designation makes them eligible to apply for future federal Marine Highway grants,” stated Senator Reed, who previously worked with his colleagues in the delegation to secure a $22.3 million federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant that helped the Port of Davisville secure a mobile harbor crane in 2012 to move cargo across the pier, and also make infrastructure upgrades, including road, pier, and freight improvements to increase port capacity – which were necessary for Davisville to benefit from the marine highway.  “I was pleased to work with my colleagues in the delegation to support Quonset’s application as it prepares to further develop as a multimodal freight transportation center that can provide cost-effective alternatives for businesses and shippers.”

“Much of the progress at Quonset has been the result of successful public/private partnerships.  Now, thanks to the continued efforts of Senator Reed and others, the J. Goodison Company is continuing to invest in their site and create jobs here at Quonset Business Park.  My team looks forward to working with our partners to continue our commitment to creating jobs and building economic prosperity in Rhode Island,” said Steven King, Managing Director of Quonset Development Corporation.

A Marine Highway Project is a planned service, or expansion of an existing service, on a designated Marine Highway Route, that provides new modal choices to shippers of cargo, reduces transportation costs, and provides public benefits including reduced air emissions, reduced road maintenance costs, and improved safety and resiliency.  This designation makes Quonset eligible to apply for federal funding through the Marine Highway Grant program.

Retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Mark Buzby, who previously served as president of the National Defense Transportation Association and is a former commander of the Military Sealift Command, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate last year to helm MARAD.  Admiral Buzby graduated from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in 1979 and was commissioned in the U.S. Navy in June of that year.  He is also a graduate of the Joint Forces Staff College, and holds master’s degrees from the U.S. Naval War College and Salve Regina University in Strategic Studies and International Relations respectively.