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Frequently Asked Questions - U.S. Marine Highway Program (USMHP)

Questions about USMHP Grants  

When is the application deadline? 

The deadline for all application materials is April 28, 2023 at 11:59:59 pm Eastern. 

Where can I submit the application? 

Final applications must be submitted through Grants.gov. 

Will there be informational webinars for USMHP 2023? 

To provide technical assistance to potential applicants, MARAD hosted a series of webinars on the 2023 U.S. Marine Highway Program (USMHP) grant application process: 

  • The "United States Marine Highway Route Sponsors” webinar was held on February 21 and 23, 2023. 

  • The “FY 2023 Notice of Funding Opportunity for the United States Marine Highway Program” webinar was held on March 16, 2023.

What if I am having technical issues with grants.gov? 

Please refer to the following links for technical issues with grants.gov: 

Grants.gov Applicant Training

Grants.gov Online User Guide

You can also contact Grants.gov Customer Support Hotline at 1-800-518-4726 

How much funding is available in 2023? 

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023 appropriated $10,000,000 for the FY 2023 USMHP. An additional $2,423,000 in unexpended prior-year USMHP funding is available for FY 2023 grant awards. Therefore, a total of up $12,123,000 is available in funding for the FY 2023 USMHP after MARAD retains $300,000 of the funding for grant administration and oversight.   

Who can receive USMHP Grants? 

  • A State, political subdivision of a State or a local government 

  • A United States metropolitan planning organization 

  • A United States port authority 

  • Tribal governments  

  • A United States private sector operator of Marine Highway projects or private sector owners of facilities, including an Alaska Native Corporation 

  • Private applicants require an endorsement letter from the current Marine Highway Route Sponsor. 

What types of projects are eligible for USMHP Grants? 

Through the development and promotion of Marine Highway transportation, the program aims to relieve landside congestion, reduce air emissions, and generate other public benefits by increasing the efficiency of the surface transportation system.  

This includes projects for: 

  • Port and terminal infrastructure 

  • Cargo and/or vessel handling equipment 

  • Vessel construction, new or used vessel purchase, lease, or modification; or 

  • Developmental phase activities in support of Marine Highway Projects; however, these Projects will be less competitive than Capital Projects. 

  • Planning grant applications will be evaluated against the same merit criteria as capital Projects; however, the information does not need to be as driven by data as capital Projects, since data is often an outcome of the Project to be planned. 

How are Rural or Tribal area applications ranked if they request more than 80% Federal share?  

The National Defense Authorization Act allows the Secretary of Transportation to increase the Federal share of funding for the Project to an amount above 80 percent for Tribal governments or for a Project located in a rural area. MARAD will not penalize qualified applicants who request more than the 80% federal share.  

Does the project need to be on an existing Designated U.S. Marine Highway Route to qualify?  

Only projects that serve U.S. Marine Highway Routes designated by the Secretary of Transportation are eligible to apply for USMHP grant funds.  Currently, there are 31 Designated U.S. Marine Highway Routes.  

What are some common application mistakes to avoid? 

A few helpful hints: 

  • Proof-read your application before it is submitted. Double check your work in Grants.Gov. Ensure that you include all the files you need to submit, especially any files or attachments referenced in your application narrative, with your final application. 

  • Submit your application before the April 28, 2023 11:59:59 Eastern application deadline. Applications submitted after the deadline will not be considered, unless an applicant is able to provide verification that a technological issue error prevented their application from being correctly submitted. 

  • Please submit one application in Grants.Gov. If a duplicate application is submitted, MARAD will accept the last application received. 

  • Ensure that you properly document that all parties to a project have the authority to carry out the project and that each party is clearly aware of their respective roles. 

General Questions about U.S. Marine Highways 

What are U.S. Marine Highways? 

U.S. Marine Highways are navigable waterways that have been designated by the Secretary of Transportation and have demonstrated the ability to provide additional capacity to relieve congested landside routes serving freight and passenger movement. Each U.S. Marine Highway has a corridor designation that reflects the congested landside route it parallels. For example, M-95 stretches from Maine to Florida and is the designation for the shipping lane along the Atlantic Coast paralleling interstate highway I-95. 

What is the difference between U.S. Marine Highways and short-sea shipping? 

Short-sea shipping commonly refers to coast-wise waterborne transportation of freight and/or passengers by navigable waterways without crossing an ocean. U.S. Marine Highways are short-sea routes and inland water routes within the U.S. that have been designated by the Secretary of Transportation. The USMHP, administered by the Maritime Administration, was formed to help develop new and expand existing U.S.-flag services that transport passengers and/or containerized or trailerized freight along U.S. Marine Highways. 

What’s the difference between a corridor, connector, and crossing? 

The U.S. Marine Highway Program Final Rule changed the name of corridors, connectors, and crossings to U.S. Marine Highway Routes. Routes can be designated where water transportation presents an opportunity to offer relief to landside corridors that suffer from traffic congestion, excessive air emissions or other environmental concerns and other challenges.  

How do I apply for designation as a U.S. Marine Highway Route? 

Public entities are eligible to apply for the designation of navigable waters. Contents of the application include a narrative portion that should not exceed 20 pages in length. Applications may be submitted electronically via mh@dot.gov. Instructions regarding applications are included in the Final Rule for America’s Marine Highway program published Dec 1, 2017.  Please contact a MARAD Gateway Office in your region to learn more.  

Questions about USMHP Route Sponsors 

A United States private sector operator of a U.S. Marine Highway project, or a private sector owner of a facilities, including an Alaska Native Corporation, is interested in applying for a grant and that service runs across multiple U.S. Marine Highway Routes. Would the applicant have to get an endorsement from each of the Route Sponsors or would it be just one endorsement from the location of the project? 

Only one endorsement letter is required for the private sector entity applying for a grant if the service runs across multiple Marine Highway Routes or if the U.S. Marine Highway Route has multiple co-Sponsors. The applicant can choose an applicable Route and a Route Co-Sponsor in their discretion following operational framework of the project and considering location of the project origin / destination port(s).  

Are Route Sponsors / Co-Sponsors allowed to provide letter of support for more than one project per funding round? 

There is no limitation regarding number of projects serving the same U.S. Marine Highway Route, which can be endorsed by the same Route Sponsor / Co-Sponsor.