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Study highlights adverse effects of under-investing in US ports

News // September 24, 2012

Aging infrastructure for marine ports, inland waterways, and airports threatens more than 1 million US jobs according to a new Failure to Act report from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

Between now and 2020, investment needs in the marine ports and inland waterways sector in the US amount to US$30 billion, while planned expenditures are about US$14 billion, leaving a total investment gap of nearly US$16 billion.

Similarly, with airports, between now and 2020 there is an investment need of about US$114 billion, while anticipated spending is US$95 billion, leaving a gap of nearly US$19 billion, as well as an additional need of about US$20 billion to implement NextGen.

The report concludes that unless America’s infrastructure investment gaps are filled, transporting goods will become costlier, prices will rise, and the United States will become less competitive in the global market. As a result, employment, personal income, and GDP will all fall due to inaction.

“Congestion and delays lead to goods waiting on docks and in warehouses for shipment, which in turn leads to higher transportation costs and higher-priced products on store shelves,” said Andrew W Herrmann, PE, president of ASCE.

“If we don’t close the investment gaps, everyone is going to feel the negative impacts because we are on course to lose more than one million jobs and more than US$1 trillion in personal income by 2020.”

US ports and inland waterways are critical links that make international commerce possible. However, with the scheduled expansion of the Panama Canal by 2015, the average size of container ships is likely to increase significantly, affecting the operations at most of the major US ports that handle containerized cargo and requiring both sectors to modernize.

Needed investment in marine ports includes harbour and channel dredging, while inland waterways require new or rehabilitated lock and dam facilities.

“Strong ports mean more jobs and economic growth,” said Congressman Ted Poe (TX-2), co-founder and co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional PORTS Caucus.

“Supporting port infrastructure helps the US remain globally competitive and creates economic opportunity here at home. The ASCE report highlights the shortcomings of our nation’s investments and seeks to help policymakers understand where improvements are needed and where they make financial sense."


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