Seaports have always been and will continue to be integral to the economy, environment and security of the regions and nations they serve. As such, marine spatial planning processes now underway or being considered worldwide must factor in the seaport industry’s role and how goods move around the globe.
The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) supports marine spatial planning efforts that recognise and include human use aspects of the coastal environment. Changing trade patterns, such as those that may arise with the Panama Canal expansion slated for completion in 2014, will have a major impact on the United States and other countries. Emerging markets are continuing to grow, along with public and private investments in infrastructure to serve those markets.
Shifting trade patterns will have environmental impacts on coastal communities that must be mitigated, but will also present tremendous opportunities for increased efficiency of moving goods. Facilitation of commerce, preservation of habitat, potential impacts of climate change, access to energy sources and growth of coastal communities – including increased public access – are just a few of the many pressures that confront those responsible for managing coastal resources. Marine spatial planning offers an opportunity to chart the future, ensuring the needs of all are met and that human uses of the waterfront are protected.
Seaports deliver prosperity
Throughout civilization, seaports have served as a vital economic lifeline for the movement of goods and services to people aroundthe world. Modern, navigable and secure seaports are vital to international trade. They’re also vital to economic prosperity, in securing a country’s borders and as stewards of the coastal environment.
Seaport activities and infrastructure development must also be sustainable. To that end, port authorities and their business partners are investing billions of dollars annually to significantly reduce environmental impacts on their communities and natural resources.
In the US for example, seaport activities generate nearly $3.2 trillion a year in economic impacts, employ 13.3 million people in trade-related jobs and move more than 2 billion tonnes of import, export, domestic and military freight, including food, clothing, medicine, fuel, building materials, electronics and toys. US ports also enabled some 9 million Americans a year to take cruise vacations in 2008.
Because they are gateways to the rest of the world, a nation’s seaports are critical to its long-term prosperity. On the waterside – with ships getting increasingly larger – dredging harbours and navigation channels is more crucial than ever, both to maintain their existing depths and widths, and to expand them to accommodate these larger ships.