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Seaports and waterways play a vital role in the North American economy, jobs and supply chain. These facilities, each of which are international trading hubs, are vital economic engines to their community, their region and their nation.

In the U.S. alone, seaport cargo activity accounts for 26 percent of the economy, generating nearly $4.6 trillion annually in total economic activity. It also supports some 23 million American jobs and produces more than $321 billion in federal, state and local tax revenues annually.

As the global supply chain proliferates and the United States and Canada gear up for the increased seaborne traffic created by the Panama Canal expansion, ports increasingly will become a growing concern for the U.S. and Canadian economies and industrial real estate markets. The growth of e-commerce, logistics, on-shoring and near-shoring of manufacturing to the United States, Canada and Mexico will demand bigger and faster cargo ships. The expanded Panama Canal lock system is allowing the movement of container ships that are three times larger than those that were in use—bringing major changes to North American ports as well as inland transportation systems.

With their increased size, ships will need improved navigation channels to enter and leave ports efficiently, quickly, and safely. Few rivers or harbors are naturally deep enough to handle these mammoth vessels meaning that increased dredging will become paramount. Without it, many harbors and ports would be unusable to cargo ships as well as passenger liners.

The international importance of port maintenance can be seen in the Canadian unions’ fight to stop the possible outsourcing of dredging jobs through the Canadian-European Union Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement. Through the Canadian maritime & Supply Chain Coalition – headed by our own Jim Given – these workers are pushing back foreign concerns to take their jobs.

With infrastructure investment now high on the national agendas, the call for improvements to bring our ports into the modern era should be loud and unyielding. The American Association of Port Authorities earlier this year sent its freight transportation infrastructure policy and funding recommendations to the Trump Administration and Congressional leadership.

Among its proposals were ways to eliminate bottlenecks and expand capacity through landside investments, modernize and fully maintain federal navigation channels through waterside investments, secure America’s ports and borders, enhance the coastal environment and build resilience.

The Maritime Trades Department, AFL-CIO, its affiliates and its Port Maritime Councils join the call to secure funding to implement port modernization.  Almost without exception, the nations’ seaports are showing obvious signs of neglect. The continued lack of needed upgrades and substantial investment ultimately will lead to the highly disturbing reality that our nations will be left behind as the world’s increasingly dynamic global economy moves on.

Approved 2018 MTD Executive Board Meeting