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Ports ~ Connecting People and Products

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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

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.

Kimberly Arsenault Kimberly Arsenault serves as an intern at the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency where she works on plan revisions and special projects. Previously, Kimberly spent 15 years in commercial and business aviation. Her positions included station manager at the former Midwest Express Airlines, as well as corporate flight attendant, inflight manager, and charter flight coordinator. Kimberly currently holds a master's degree in emergency and disaster management from American Public University.