After enduring a difficult 2009, many in the public port industry anticipate improvement in all sectors of ocean transportation. Most economists predict the global recession is over but there is still 10 percent unemployment in the U.S. and this number is likely to grow. Most consumers still appear apprehensive, demonstrated by a rather short peak season, and many ocean carriers are reducing capacity during the slack season.
On a positive note, ocean freight rates appear to be climbing as capacity and demand become more balanced.
There are still many questions regarding the economic recovery. Will federal stimulus funding have a long-term impact? The “Cash for Clunkers” program certainly improved automobile sales in the short run, but is consumer confidence high enough to sustain this level of sales?
Though there will be periods of stagnant growth, I believe container volume will experience year-over-year growth in 2010. We may not experience double-digit growth any time soon, but the worst should be over.
To ensure U.S. citizens can benefit from a revitalized global economy, the Obama administration must focus its attention on making freight transportation a national priority. The reauthorization of the surface transportation bill must include a dedicated source of funding for freight movement, and Harbor Maintenance Tax proceeds must be fully appropriated to complete maintenance dredging projects nationwide. Regional economies will suffer if the federal channels leading to their ports are not deep enough to safely handle the vessels delivering cargo to and from their trade-dependent businesses.
The administration has infused a great deal of money to stimulate the economy, but it is just as important to develop a comprehensive transportation program that will ensure the safe, efficient movement of freight.