Report calls for wider use of coastal shipping
A new study urges wider use of short sea shipping to reduce highway congestion and pollution.
“The now underused deep blue highway could provide resilience and improve the environmental performance of the nation’s transportation system,” said a study from the Institute for Global Maritime Studies, entitled America’s Deep Blue Highway: How Coastal Shipping Could Reduce Traffic Congestion, Lower Pollution, and Bolster National Security.
“Coastal shipping could complement, not compete with, trucking and rail. This is especially critical given current pressures on the trucking industry, such as rising fuel costs and labor shortages,” the report said. “The U.S. today moves by sea an almost negligible 2 percent of domestic freight among the lower forty-eight states. In stark contrast, Europe ships over 40 percent of its domestic freight along motorways of the sea.”
The authors said they see “environmental protection as a major reason for using the sea to move cargo,” but suggests “the public now perceives ships as polluters; coastal shipping must go green.”
It says shipping can be made cleaner through the use of alternative fuel and advanced engine design. “Technologies are now coming on stream for the improvement of both, including burning natural gas or ultra-low sulfur diesel, turning waste heat into additional energy, and filtering exhaust fumes. Smart regulations and incentives, as well as public opinion, could speed industry experimentation with new technologies.”
The report contends short sea shipping would be good for national security by adding “resiliency to a brittle American transportation system,” by providing alternatives to Interstate highways parallel to the coast that might be disrupted if, for example, tunnels or bridges were destroyed.
“A relatively modest investment in our nation’s coastal sea routes would provide some redundancy, offering a prudent strategy to mitigate the impact of a disaster, be it an accident, storm, or terrorist attack,” the authors contend.
Short sea shipping could revitalize cities with underutilized ports, reduce highway congestion, and provide alternative routes for movement of hazardous materials.
The report calls for a “national, and perhaps even continental” transportation vision that includes coastal shipping with “real federal support to help make this mode a reality. Europe, for example, has budgeted 450 million euros (about $670 million) to stimulate coastal shipping.” It also suggests investment of $150 million in coastal shipping ports.
It joins the chorus of short sea shipping advocates calling for elimination of the harbor maintenance tax on coastal shipping, saying it unfairly burdens coastal shipping because shallow draft coastal vessels do not require port dredging.
The full report can be downloaded for free at www.igms.org.