The Future Of The Merchant Marine

Table of Content

Throughout the history of the United States, its waterways have played a crucial role in enhancing the quality of life for Americans. From colonial times to today, ports like Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore have been vital and continue to be significant. The ports and waterway systems in the US are invaluable national resources that have served as essential lifelines for our nation’s international and domestic trade since its establishment. It is essential to preserve and improve these resources to meet the increasing needs of all users, including citizens. This development should consider future requirements such as projected growth in waterborne commerce and advancements in technology for carriers, shippers, importers, and exporters.

The national transportation system consists of separate units of rail, road, and water transportation. These units interface by necessity rather than by design. However, with increasing cargo volumes and competition from other national port systems, it is important to recognize that intermodalism maximizes efficiency and provides pathways for future planning and development efforts. Intermodalism requires a seamless transportation system that allows smooth transition of cargo between different modes of transportation. It also acknowledges the need to develop waterborne and land-based infrastructure according to the users’ needs. This development includes advancements in ship design and onboard equipment, vessel traffic systems, aids, and programs to efficiently connect marine transportation systems with rail and road links.

This essay could be plagiarized. Get your custom essay
“Dirty Pretty Things” Acts of Desperation: The State of Being Desperate
128 writers

ready to help you now

Get original paper

Without paying upfront

We as a nation have always benefited from having access to water for our trade, and this remains true today. There was no need for any national debate on this matter; we simply needed to ensure that our ports were deep enough and our channels were clear. To address this issue, public funds were used through the US Army Corp of Engineers. The depth of the ports became a problem at many locations across the country. The Corp also hired private contractors, who were funded through the Corps of Engineers’ budget. It was crucial to maintain the waterways for the nation’s commercial and national interests, so these funds were allocated to achieve that objective. The Navy has always been present in various ports, and this continues to be the case today. Even the largest Navy ships can easily sail through our ports and waterways.

In the early 1980s, the US implemented a tax on shippers who owned cargo in order to generate funds for operational and maintenance dredging. However, in the early 1990s, those paying this tax argued that it was unconstitutional for exports. The Supreme Court sided with the shippers community and declared the export side of the harbor maintenance tax unconstitutional. The funding of our port infrastructure is seen as the most significant maritime issue facing the US in the future. To address this, Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater called for a three-day conference in November 1998. Over 150 government and industry representatives attended to discuss the current state of maritime transportation, their goals for the year 2020, and most notably, how they planned to achieve those goals.

A Task Force was formed to assess maritime transportation and address critical issues. In 1999, participants received the first draft of the Task Force Report, which highlights six critical issues: coordination, competitiveness, infrastructure, environment, national security, and safety. The infrastructure section focuses on capacity, funding, the regulatory framework, and strategy development. Capacity concerns include dredging, locks and dams, land use conflicts, and intermodal connections. The report also tackles environmental issues and finding accommodations for all stakeholders. Funding was a major focus for the Task Force members, as it is a demanding area. The inclusion of a regulatory framework may seem trivial to some but is crucial for US ship owners. The US has worked extensively with the Coast Guard to alleviate difficulties faced by owners and operators. Customs has evaluated the costs of foreign-fitted spare parts and materials on US foreign-trading vessels, subjecting them to the normal duty as if they were imported into the US. As a result, yearly costs for US international trading ships are expected to increase by an average of $200,000 per ship.

Marine carriers currently transport almost two billion metric tons of materials, parts, and consumer items in both domestic and foreign trade. The deep draft ports in the United States are crucial for supporting international and domestic trade. These ports are connected through navigational channels and canals that have been created by dredging and widening, forming an extensive network of shipping lanes.

In the near future, Congress will need to consider developing a new financing mechanism. However, it should be aware that any proposal requiring users to bear financial responsibility may decrease the competitiveness of US exports and increase import costs for American consumers.

The United States has about 25,000 miles of navigable waterways, with over 10,000 miles designated as major inland waterways by Congress. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for maintaining approximately 168 lock-sites, dams, and other marine projects along these navigable waterways.

These waterways provide cost-effective alternatives for transporting commodities such as coal and grain.

The reduction in funding for the Corps by the Maritime Administration had a significant impact on users and beneficiaries of navigable waterways. This decrease would have stopped progress on new projects and slowed down other inland construction endeavors. However, Congress intervened and provided a substantial increase in funding, allowing the Corps to maintain cost-sharing arrangements.

Having a strong and efficient transportation system is extremely important, especially during this time of heightened international competition and when considering overall shipping costs. It is crucial for the United States to be an economic leader in the global marketplace and continue improving its transportation infrastructure to support this goal.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) plays a vital role in producing national nautical charts that are essential for marine transportation within interstate and foreign commerce. These charts are invaluable tools for marine navigation as well as integral components of our nation’s marine infrastructure since almost all foreign commerce involves ships, many carrying oil and hazardous substances. The provided nautical charts contain vital information such as water depths, navigation aids, and traffic control schemes which ensure safe and efficient use of waterways while protecting the marine environment.Some vessels must carry official NOAA charts for consistent decision-making in restricted waterways. The agency has successfully resolved the backlog of notice to mariners and chart update information, enhancing timeliness and accuracy. Congress supports NOAA’s efforts by approving budgets and eliminating political inefficiencies in acquiring, charting, and delivering new data to mariners. However, accurate depth soundings on a chart are only valuable if the shoreline is accurately positioned. NOAA collaborates with the private sector for navigation technology development through research investments. They also have close partnerships with colleges and the Department of Defense. Additionally, NOAA often seeks support from the private sector in testing new services. A study conducted by NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey assessed GPS applications for determining vessels’ squat involving private tanker owners. The Marine Transportation System initiative is led by the Coast Guard and Maritime Administration within the Department of Transportation, with close collaboration from NOAA since its inception. Communication improvement was a recurring theme during regional listening sessions and a national conference. While consensus has not been reached on all matters, the Marine Transportation System process effectively brought together stakeholders in a collaborative mannerPort and maritime activities have a significant impact on communities across the country, affecting local decision-making within the wider context of ocean resources and coastal management. The nation places great importance on preserving marine life and maintaining high-quality coastal waters.

To enhance safety and efficiency at ports, various techniques can be implemented without increasing regulations. These include conducting full-bottom surveys, using digital charts, employing accurate GPS-based three-dimensional positioning systems, implementing real-time systems, and improving marine weather forecasts and warnings. These advancements also increase cargo capacity on ships, leading to higher revenues and enhancing the global competitiveness of US exports.

By improving the reliability and accuracy of charted data, water levels, and forecasts, ship scheduling can be optimized. This enables faster direct transits while reducing fuel consumption, congestion,pollution,and other negative impacts on coastal resources.

The maritime industry has witnessed significant progress in navigation technology with support from NOAA (National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration). Since the 1980s, NOAA has played a crucial role in developing electronic charting systems for marine navigation. These systems have greatly improved safety at sea similar to radar technology. As part of their efforts, international standards for Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems (ECDIS) as well as Electronic Charts have been established. Furthermore adopting standards for Raster Chart Display and Raster Nautical Charts (RNCs) has further enhanced navigation safety.

The RNCs will serve as the authorized charts for mandatory chart carrying on regulated vessels, replacing the need for paper charts. Private companies are responsible for producing and will continue to produce alternative electronic versions of NOAA paper charts to cater to the unregulated market, which accounts for 99% of the market.

NOAA explored multiple approaches to create electronic charts, including contracting, free data distribution for product development, cooperative research and development agreements (CRADAs), or certifying private products. The CRADA method was chosen due to its ability to adapt to changing requirements quickly, while minimizing risks and costs for the taxpayer.

NOAA made digital charts available for free over the Internet to meet mariners’ needs and encourage software producers to develop navigation products for the merchant marine.

The Marine Transportation System, including United States waterways, ports, intermodal connections, and vessels, is vital. The industry recognizes the challenge it faces and understands that collaboration between the Government and private sector is necessary for its prosperous future.

The Government has a crucial role in addressing maritime challenges to maintain competitiveness, safety, security, and environmental sustainability in the 21st century.


Cite this page

The Future Of The Merchant Marine. (2018, Dec 22). Retrieved from

Remember! This essay was written by a student

You can get a custom paper by one of our expert writers

Order custom paper Without paying upfront