In its 2016-2020 Port Planned Infrastructure Investment Survey, the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) asked its US member ports how much they and their private-sector partners plan to spend on port-related freight and passenger infrastructure over the next five years and found that a massive US$154.8 billion is to be allocated.
AAPA then contrasted that number with what it believes is the “best-case” scenario for investments by the federal government into US ports, including their land-and water-side connections, through 2020. The answer was just $24.8 billion.
According to Kurt Nagle, President and CEO of the AAPA, the vast difference between the two investment numbers poses tangible concerns, particularly considering the need to increase government investments in America’s federal navigation channels and the “first-and-last mile” connections with ports.
Mr Nagle said: “Infrastructure investments in America’s seaports and their intermodal connections – both on the land and in the water – are in our nation’s best interest because they provide opportunities to bolster our economy, create and sustain jobs, enhance our international competitiveness, and pay annual dividends through the generation of more than $321 billion in federal, state and local tax revenue.
“From a jobs standpoint, goods moved through America’s seaports in 2014 supported employment of more than 23 million US workers, up from 13.3 million in 2007.”
Economist John C. Martin, Ph.D., president of Lancaster, Pa.-based Martin Associates, said US Bureau of Economic Analysis formulas show that investing nearly $155 billion in capital projects at US ports would create about 1.6 million direct, indirect and induced domestic jobs.
Dr Martin said: “Those are really significant job numbers. In 2014, the U.S. coastal ports also generated $4.6 trillion dollars for the U.S. economy, about 26 percent of the US Gross Domestic Product.
“From a dollars-and-cents perspective, it’s hard to over-emphasize the value of investing in ports, particularly when you factor in how much these investments contribute to our overall economic prosperity and help lower the cost of imports and make our exports more competitive overseas.”
The combined $155 billion, five-year investment represents a more than three-fold increase over the combined $46 billion figure obtained from the same survey five years ago.
The biggest project investments will be in ports along the US Gulf Coast, where many new energy processing, production and transfer facilities are being planned.
According to the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) 2012 Failure to Act report, by 2020 there will be a $15.8 billion investment gap between expected annual federal funding on goods movement infrastructure and what’s needed to effectively maintain the system.
Mr Nagle said: “The take-away from this survey is that we must have increased and sustainable funding at and on both sides of our ports. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but the investments that we make today in our ports will pay off for generations to come.”
Fact File: The AAPA represents 130 of the leading seaport authorities in the US, Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean and more than 200 sustaining and associate members, firms and individuals with an interest in seaports.