The Coast Port Industry in the U.S.A. A Key Factor in the Process of Economic Growth

Discussion Papers - Department of Economics No. 46

38 Pages Posted: 13 May 2005

See all articles by Alga D. Foschi

Alga D. Foschi

University of Pisa - Department of Economics

Date Written: December 2004


The aim of this paper is to analyze the capacity of the USA coast port industry to sustain the development of the US economic system, which is predicted to undergo further strong expansion throughout the period up to 2020. The analysis is based on the observation that GDP depends on international trade, which in turn depends on maritime transport and therefore on the efficiency of the United States coast port industry system.

The paper also points out that in many respects the US coast port industrial system is very efficient. It boasts a large number of ports, strategically located, efficient in their production specialization and competitiveness; in addition, the US coast ports are integrated with the national intermodal system. Despite this, the system reveals numerous weaknesses that need to be addressed. The most evident deficiencies involve land access to the ports, inadequate modernization of the intermodal system, dredging and its funding, the power the liner shipping companies wield over the ports, container terminal productivity, the organization of dock work and labour. A number of interesting proposals emerge, to some extent favourably re-assessing the role of federal coordination in the maritime transport sector and putting forward the suggestion of a form of specific financing for the transport sector rather than generic funding; this could be achieved by setting up a purpose-created bank and the subsequent emission of transportation bonds.

The paper concludes with the assertion that although the US coast port industry is the most powerful in the world, measures need to be undertaken for technological, organizational and financial rationalization in the coast ports, considered synergically with the intermodal system. Such measures are vital in order to sustain the development that is expected for the period up to 2020; nevertheless, if the proposed measures are not carried out or prove to require a longer time period for completion, this would not lead to an irremediable breakdown, although it would certainly cause a noticeable slow-down of development.

Keywords: US coast ports, US maritime transport, intermodality, ports weaknesses, dredging, naval gigantisms, transport bonds

JEL Classification: L100, L920

Suggested Citation

Foschi, Alga D., The Coast Port Industry in the U.S.A. A Key Factor in the Process of Economic Growth (December 2004). Discussion Papers - Department of Economics No. 46, Available at SSRN: or

Alga D. Foschi (Contact Author)

University of Pisa - Department of Economics ( email )

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