Following President Obama’s State of the Union address delivered in February, ports in the US stand to benefit from a new funding proposal within the Department of Transport for $5 billion directed at infrastructure across the region.

The American Infrastructure Investment Fund is designed to provide an incentive for private investment in transport projects that have “regional or national significance” and improve the economic competitiveness of the US. It would be authorised for the fiscal year 2014-2015.

According to the US Senate office, the fund is aimed at providing financial assistance to state, regional and local government, as well as private entities to make improvements to existing transport systems or build new ones. Projects eligible for the funding include ports, rail lines, airports, highways and bridges amongst others.

In his speech President Obama highlighted the need to attract private capital to upgrade what US businesses needed most and included modern ports needed to move goods amongst them.

The American Association of Port Authorities welcomed the announcement. Kurt Nagle, president and CEO of the AAPA said the association was “extremely pleased” that President Obama mentioned the value and need for modern ports.

“Highlighting ports in the State of the Union address is recognition that seaports and the trade flowing through them are vital to creating and sustaining jobs, economic growth and enhancing US international competitiveness,” said Nagle. “International trade accounts for more than one-quarter of GDP and goods moving through seaports generate 13m American jobs.”

He added that local public ports and their private-sector investment partners plan to spend a combined $46 billion over the next five years.

According to the AAPA, exports were a major factor in sustaining the national economy between 2011 and 2012 when the US GDP grew by 0.2% but waterborne exports still managed to set an annual record at almost 573m metric tonnes, equal to 3.8% growth. Significantly automotive products were those that showed the highest growth rate within the export category according to US Bureau of Census figures, at 9.7% for the period and worth around $146 billion last year ($133 billion 2011).

A number of individual port authorities at the top car processing ports were approached to comment but declined stating it is too early to speculate or that they were unfamiliar with the development.