The journey for much of our nation’s commerce begins or and ends at our ports. On an average day, some 43 million tons of goods valued at $29 billion move on the nation’s interconnected network of ports, roads, rails and inland waterways (U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 2008).
According to the American Association of Port Authorities, every major U.S. container port is projected to at least double the volume of cargo it was designed to handle by 2020. Some west coast ports will triple in volume and others will even quadruple. We must ensure that these ports operate as efficiently as possible and can handle the projected increase in cargo traffic.
According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, between now and 2020 the investment needs in the nation’s maritime ports and inland waterways total $30 billion. Planned expenditures are $14 billion leaving a total investment gap of nearly $16 billion.
Impediments to the efficient movement of goods drive up costs to consumers. Too often outdated infrastructure impedes the efficient flow of goods into and out of our ports. We must also employ innovative ideas and technologies to help reduce congestion at our nation’s ports. Initiatives like the Port of Los Angeles’ PierPass have helped make strides in reducing bottlenecks.
While our nation has vibrant network of port facilities, we are not doing enough to keep up with our international competitors. Global competitors are leapfrogging past us by investing in world-class ports. In 2013 The World Economic Forum ranked the quality of U.S. port infrastructure at number 12 behind such countries as Finland and Belgium. China is investing billions and the port of Shanghai now has more container capacity than the top eight U.S. ports combined (American Association of Port Authorities).
With the increase in supersized vessels, it is more critical than ever that the appropriate resources are devoted to deepening our ports to accommodate these new and larger vessels. By 2030 post-Panamax ships will account for 62% of the capacity of the world’s container fleet (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers). Only two ports on the East Coast – Norfolk and Baltimore - are deep enough to accommodate the larger vessels. We must wisely invest in port deepening projects so that America remains competitive with ports like Halifax and Vancouver.
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U.S. Port volume is expected to double by 2020; Freight tonnage is expected to increase 88% by 2035; and, passenger miles to increase by 80% in 30 years.