MTS Initiative Chronology


Various reports calling for improvements to navigational safety of the Nation's Marine Transportation System (MTS), including the National Research Council's report Charting a Course into the Digital Era and the Marine Board's paper Minding the Helm, were published.

September 1996

In September 1996, INTERTANKO, the international trade association representing private tanker owners, published a study which proposed a more "holistic approach" to the MTS. Specifically, it called for Federal agencies to improve coordination of the Nation's various waterway management systems in order to enhance safety and environmental protection in and around U.S. ports.

May 1997

Lillian Barrone, Director, Port Commerce Department at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, presenting at the Federal Waterways Research and Development Coordination Conference, called for a restructuring of the roles and responsibilities which have traditionally governed the development and management of waterway infrastructure. She also called for Federal agencies to pursue productive relationships and partnerships with the maritime community.


Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater sponsored a series of seven regional listening sessions at port cities across the country. Stakeholders voiced concern for the following:

  • Aging infrastructure, inadequate channels, and congested intermodal connections
  • The need for a safe and environmentally sound world-class waterway system
  • The need to improve U.S. competitiveness and national security through coordination and cooperation among all MTS stakeholders
  • A nation that is lacking a MTS vision
  • An MTS that is viewed as a collection of smaller independent systems which lack national focus

September 17-19, 1998

Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater hosted a National Conference on the MTS in Warrenton, Virginia, to develop a shared vision for the MTS and improve coordination of public and private MTS activities. A need to assess the current state of the MTS was identified in order to support development of a vision for the MTS.


The USCG reauthorization act included a provision to establish a Federal Interagency Task Force to assess the adequacy of the Nation's MTS.


A report titled An Assessment of the U.S. Marine Transportation System was submitted to Congress. The report provided a comprehensive assessment of the MTS, including 150 recommended actions in seven strategic areas. It recommended the formation of an Interagency Committee on the Marine Transportation System (ICMTS) to improve federal agency coordination and establishment of a Marine Transportation System National Advisory Council (MTSNAC) to improve coordination between MTS stakeholders and the federal government.

April 2000 – May 2005

The Interagency Committee on the Marine Transportation System (ICMTS) and the Marine Transportation System National Advisory Council (MTSNAC) were established in the spring of 2000. The primary role of the ICMTS was to facilitate communication among federal agencies and to develop strategies to minimize or eliminate duplicated efforts. ICMTS' accomplishments during its five-year existence include establishing working relations with MTS stakeholders through MTSNAC. In addition, it developed a comprehensive set of MTS policy papers and sponsored many significant MTS awareness initiatives.

The Transportation Research Board of the National Academies published The Marine Transportation System and the Federal Role in 2004.

September 20, 2004

The Ocean Act of 2000 established a Commission to make recommendations for coordinated and comprehensive national ocean policy.

On September 20, 2004, the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy fulfilled its mandate to submit recommendations for a coordinated and comprehensive national ocean policy to the President and Congress. The Commission's final report, "An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century," contains 212 recommendations addressing all aspects of ocean and coastal policy. Chapter 13 of the report, "Supporting Marine Commerce and Transportation," recommended actions specific to the MTS, including raising the level of the ICMTS to a Cabinet-level committee, chaired by the Secretary of Transportation.

December 17, 2004

President George W. Bush issued the U.S. Ocean Action Plan as a required response to the recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy (Public Law 106-256). This plan contained a directive from the President to establish a cabinet-level interagency committee on the MTS. The new Committee on the Marine Transportation System (CMTS) replaced the ICMTS and elevated it to a "Cabinet-level" body. The purpose of the committee is to improve federal agency coordination to promote the safety, security, efficiency, economic vitality, environmental sound integration, and reliability of the U.S. Marine Transportation System (MTS) for commercial, recreational, and national defense requirements. Coordination includes budget and regulatory activities that impact the MTS.

July 11, 2005

The Committee on the Marine Transportation System (CMTS) met for the first time.

August 11, 2005

The Charter for the CMTS was unanimously agreed to and adopted by the CMTS members, which include 11 Departments, 2 independent agencies, and 5 ex-officio White House Offices. Four initial integrated action teams were approved, including the start of the development of a National Strategy.

July 2006

The Executive Secretariat of the CMTS was established with a dedicated director and staff support provided by CMTS agencies and housed within the Department of Transportation.

July 2008

A strategic plan titled National Strategy for the Marine Transportation System: A Framework for Action was approved by the CMTS, chaired by DOT Deputy Secretary Thomas Barrett.

To December 2012

Additional integrated action teams and shorter-term task teams were formed between October 2006 and December 2012 to address short- and long-term coordination and collaboration between the 25+ active Federal agencies of the CMTS.

December 2012

The CMTS was authorized in the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2012 (PL 112-213) as an interagency coordinating committee charged with the following:

  • Assessing the adequacy of the MTS
  • Promote integration of the MTS with other modes of transportation and the marine environment
  • Coordinate, improve the coordination of, and making recommendations about regard to Federal policies that impact the MTS

September, 2017

The National Strategy for the Marine Transportation System: Channeling the Maritime Advantage (2017-2022) is approved by DOT Secretary Elaine Chow.

  • Chronology updated Nov 2022