I believe 2010 will see a continued, but measured economic upswing. It will likely take several years for many ports to reach cargo levels from earlier this decade. The industry did not experience a strong surge for the holiday season, which means just adequate sales for retailers. Unemployment will continue to weigh heavily. A faster recovery will not occur without more people going to work.
The use of private investment in public-private partnerships will continue to evolve this year. Ports cannot go at it alone and fund capital infrastructure improvements. Remaining competitive in our industry to accommodate larger vessels and more cargo, especially East Coast ports after the Panama Canal expansion project, means investing in equipment that in today’s market is simply too expensive for ports to assume full financial responsibility.
Using private capital to construct major, multimillion-dollar improvements to port facilities keeps public taxpayer dollars lower, while improving your port and creating or retaining good, family-supporting blue-collar jobs. Finding a private partner who understands the maritime business and who can embrace the value of strengthening an economic engine like a port to benefit a city and state can be hugely beneficial to ensuring your port remains competitive.
Even in a slowly improving economy, we must continue to grow and prosper. Utilizing private investment can help do that.