The maritime sector has seen substantial recovery in trade volumes since the dark days of late 2008. This fact appears to support the notion that world trade, while not immune from cyclical economic downturns or temporary disruptions in trade finance, is very much on a trajectory for healthy growth.
In the U.S., some reasons for continued optimism can be found in improving housing and automobile markets. The deleveraging of consumer debt coupled with a correction in housing are market signals that a sustained recovery is firmly in place.
On the transportation front, 2013 will certainly be a year in which waterfront labor takes center stage. This may well extend into most of 2014. The stakes are high for an industry that for the most part operates largely hidden from the national news media. With a few notable exceptions, this publication among them, much of the country has little appreciation for or understanding of the size and contribution that the maritime sector has on the economy. There are clearly labor as well as a host of other issues, including the price of oil, to confront.
Similar to the congressional debate concerning taxes and spending, our industry isn’t immune from its own set of “fiscal cliff” dynamics. Whether it’s labor, transportation costs, carrier viability or much-needed infrastructure investments, 2013 could be a year when industry leaders confront the future head-on. Kicking the can down the road seems incompatible with the rich history and value creation that has made the maritime sector a vital and integral part of our economy.
Our to-do list for 2013 is filling quickly.