18 April 2008
The United States is served by more than 360 commercial ports that provide approximately 3,200 cargo and passenger handling facilities, according to the US Coast Guard. Depending on the individual port facilities, US ports accommodate a range of vessels, including recreational watercraft to barges, ferries, ocean-going cargo and passenger ships. Governance of US ports is a function of various state and local public entities, such as port authorities, port navigation districts and municipal port departments. There are 126 public seaport agencies along the Atlantic, Paciffic, Gulf and Great Lakes coasts, as well as in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the US Virgin Islands. Many of these seaport agencies are governed by an elected and/or appointed body, such as a port commission.
Public ports generate local and regional economic growth, including job creation. Commercial port activities provide employment for more than 1.1 million Americans, while another more than 3.8 million are employed in export/import and support industries. Port activity through waterborne commerce contributed $729 billion to US international trade, and personal income of $44 billion. Port activities in 2002 accounted for $16.1 billion in federal, state and local tax revenues. (Source: Martin Associates, Lancaster, PA)
Major US port issues:
• Expanding sources for port development financing and revenues, including for seaport security measures.
• Balancing environmental regulation and economic development.
• Providing waterside port access through dredging and dredged material disposal.
• Securing resources for intermodal landside access to ports.
• Using transportation trust funds for infrastructure development, not deficit reduction.
• Enhancing free and fair trade worldwide.