Ports Promote Global Trade
In the United States, ports facilitate the import and export of goods, allowing access to global markets, making them a major part of the nation's economy. Nearly 60% of all oceangoing vessels were handled at the top ten U. S. ports, which included Los Angeles, Long Beach, New York, Savannah, and Norfolk.
Here are a some statistics on America's ports as indicated by the American Society of Engineers:
- More than 300 commercial ports
- 600 smaller harbors
- Transfer more than 2.3 billion tons of cargo annually
- Move 76% of international exports
- Handle 70% of imports
- 16,800+ commercial vessels accommodated annually
- Port traffic projected to be at least double by 2021
The Panama Canal Affect
Recently, ports have been the focus of investments, receiving major upgrades in anticipation of the widening of the Panama Canal. The widening of the canal was necessary due to the increased size of container ships that are being built, post-Panamax ships (PPMX), because they now exceed the size of the current lock system.
As a result, commercial harbors must be at least 50 feet deeper to accommodate the new ships which can also carry 3 times the number of containers than the ships currently in use. The expansion has spurred port operators and authorities to begin upgrades on facilities, start dredging in harbors or access water ways, and raise bridges as needed.
A Few of the Port Upgrades Currently Underway or Completed
- The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey also began port improvements in 2014, including deepening the harbors 50 feet and raising the Bayonne Bridge to let the newer, taller container ships pass under.
- Houston has begun upgrading cranes and is currently dredging to be PPMX ready
- Norfolk is already PPMX ready, making it one of the first on the East Coast along with Baltimore
- Charleston is currently dredging for PPMX readiness, but projected completion is sometime in 2018 or 2019 and they are in a race with Savannah to finish in time.
Expanded Ship Sizes Help Competitiveness
Ports help the United States remain competitive in the global market, and the efficiency of moving the containers into and out of the port is a key piece of this time-sensitive process. Therefore, the upgrades to the nation's ports will allow the larger container carrying ships access, along with their efficient loading and off-loading, which means a better edge in global trade. It also means a likely reduction in shipping costs by 15-20%, since the larger ships can carry a significantly larger number of containers (12,000+ compared to current ships that hold approximately 5,000).
Intermodal Transport Efficiency
A key component to the efficient movement of goods are the methods of intermodal transport available at the ports, including trucks and trains. Access to the ports with a robust rail system and/or truck lanes is imperative to the smooth and proficient movement of goods. Such proficiency reduces delays, which can significantly increase shipping costs, and reduce market competitiveness. Eventually, continued or increasing delays are likely to have a negative impact on the consumer, and hurt the nation's exports.