The success of the coming year depends largely upon the global economic climate. If issues remain at status quo or worsen, ports will obviously suffer the consequences. If improvements are realized, there could be a semblance of normalcy returning to the industry.
With the presidential election in the rearview mirror, we must continue to work with the federal government to invest in the nation’s inland modes of transportation to increase efficiencies and boost the competitiveness of domestic manufacturers and producers. This would impact the flow of cargo into the country for construction projects and create much-needed jobs. A vital priority is the dredging of the Mississippi River and its tributaries. The 14,500 miles of navigable waterways work as one and any weak link in the system can cause economic hardship on the whole.
The United States has more than 300 marine ports, which handle 2.3 billion tons of cargo annually, and more than 600 smaller harbors. Recently, the American Society of Civil Engineers released a report on the infrastructure needs of our ports. The study determined the greatest threats to the performance of our waterway system are the delay caused by insufficient funding for dredging needs and the operation and maintenance of locks and dams. According to the Army Corps of Engineers, maintaining current levels of service will require a $13 billion investment by 2020 and another $28 billion by 2040, and that’s just to maintain the status quo.
Port authorities alone are planning to spend a combined $18 billion in the next four years on infrastructure improvements while private sector terminal partners are investing another $27.6 billion — that’s a total of nearly $46 billion. But that investment could be for naught if the federal government fails to invest at least $30 billion by 2020 to handle both navigational dredging needs and maintenance work for ports, harbors and inland marine highways.