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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

About the Deepwater Port Act

Processing vessel in the ocean.

The Deepwater Port Act of 1974 (DWPA), as amended, establishes a licensing system for ownership, construction, operation, and decommissioning of deepwater port structures located beyond the U.S. territorial sea for the import and export of oil and natural gas. The DWPA sets out conditions that deepwater port license applicants must meet, including minimization of adverse impacts on the marine environment and submission of detailed plans for construction, operation, and decommissioning of deepwater ports.

The DWPA also sets out detailed procedures for the issuance of licenses by the Secretary of Transportation (Secretary) and prohibits the issuance of a license without the approval of the Governors of the Adjacent Coastal States. The Secretary is required to establish environmental review criteria consistent with the National Environmental Policy Act. On June 18, 2003, the Secretary authorized the Maritime Administrator to “carry out the following powers and duties and exercise the authorities vested in the Secretary by the Deepwater Port Act of 1974, Public Law 93–627, as amended (33 U.S.C. 1501 et seq.)” (68 FR 36496).

The DWPA establishes a specific time frame of 330 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register (for notice of a complete application) for approval or denial of the deepwater port license. During this time, the Maritime Administration must receive and assess specific information from participating agencies and efficiently process all required licensing documentation.

MARAD's Role in the Deepwater Port Act Licensing Process

The Maritime Administration is responsible for determining the financial capability of potential licensees, the citizenship of the applicant, preparing the project Record of Decision (including the decommissioning analysis), and issuing or denying the deepwater port license. Other duties under the DWPA, including consultation, are shared with the U.S. Coast Guard. For example, the Maritime Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard, in cooperation with other Federal agencies, must comply with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act within the established time frame.


For details about the Deepwater Port Act or related activities, contact the Office of Deepwater Port Licensing & Port Conveyance.

Last updated: Wednesday, March 18, 2020