Short sea shipping is a necessary solution to the impending intermodal congestion crisis facing the United States and the maritime industry is ready to prove it if regulatory hurdles are overcome this year, said Charles G. (Chuck) Raymond, Chairman, President and CEO of Horizon Lines, Inc., during keynote remarks to the JOC Short Sea Shipping Conference here this morning.
Container imports are expected to double to more than 30 million TEU next decade, placing tremendous pressure on an already strained transportation infrastructure. "It is no longer a question of if our nation's transport infrastructure will start to fail, but when," Mr. Raymond said. "Short sea is not the only answer but an answer we must explore now."
As major port gateways and the intermodal rail and highway networks that support them become overly congested and burdened by larger vessels and increased container traffic, short sea shipping services can move cargo from congested ports to ready ports with available capacity. Ports in Wilmington, N.C., Philadelphia and Jacksonville, Fla., for example, would flow freight into the intermodal system more efficiently.
Instead of allowing highway and rail congestion to slow economic growth and harm the environment in the United States, short sea shipping can bring economic growth to new areas. This would add thousands of well-paid trade-related jobs to communities hungry for growth, while at the same time protecting the environment.
"This is sustainable development. This is the win-win," Raymond said. "We grow the industry. We improve the economy. And we use ocean transportation to protect the environmentŠ Ocean shipping continues to be the most environmentally-sensitive and cost-efficient mode of transportation. Let's use it."
Horizon Lines is adding new ships to its fleet this year, freeing up vessels that could be used as early as 2008 to launch short sea shipping services on the East and Gulf Coasts.
Lawmakers and agencies must address regulatory issues this year to allow that to happen. In the short-term, adjustments to the Harbor Maintenance Tax are required immediately to allow companies to start testing the short sea market. To create a viable industry in the long-term, changes will need to be made to Title XI and Capital Construction Fund (CCF) rules to encourage vessel and infrastructure investment.
Mr. Raymond gave the keynote address to attendees of the annual JOC Short Sea Shipping Conference hosted by the Journal of Commerce.