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The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) is calling on its membership to push Congress to include the Realize America’s Maritime Promise (RAMP) Act with the Surface Transportation Bill. That measure is being considered by a joint Senate-House conference committee.

 In a story in its May 2012 IAM Journal, the Machinists stated the RAMP Act will create badly-needed U.S. jobs and enhance America’s economic competitiveness.

Among other things, RAMP would require that funds designated for commercial harbor dredging and maintenance be used for that purpose.  Right now, many dollars being deposited in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund are being used to offset our nation’s budget deficit among other things.

This is having an adverse effect on many important U.S. interests, noted IAM Eastern Territory General Vice President Lynn D. Tucker, Jr. A member of the MTD Executive Board and a founding member of the Seaway Task Force, Tucker added, “Our ports are being underutilized.

“Years of inadequate funding have wreaked havoc on our maritime infrastructure. Without needed maintenance and upgrades, many ports won’t be able to keep up with the changes in the marine transportation system.”

Moreover, the problem is only going to get worse. Pointing to the “massive expansion of the Panama Canal” that is scheduled to occur around 2014/2015, the IAM Journal pointed out that a new generation of super carriers will be built.

“These ships can carry 20,000 containers,” said the IAM Journal. “They need ports that are at least 51 feet deep, and that requires dredging. We cannot meet the goal of doubling U.S. exports in five years without significant investment in our ports and commercial waterways.

 “The RAMP Act is long overdue.”