Seaports Magazine - Fall 2015 - (Page 55)

» GUEST VIEWPOINT Leveraging Regional Freight Data to Improve Port Connectivity and Boost Trade By Joseph Kane The Brookings Institute A merica's seaports move nearly $1.7 trillion in exports and imports each year, connecting a wide range of domestic producers and consumers to the global marketplace. Crucial to the country's long-term economic growth and millions of good-paying jobs, these facilities not only depend on efficient internal operations, but they also rely on targeted infrastructure investments to accelerate harbor and navigation projects, streamline first- and last-mile connections, and drive several other improvements. Yet, a fundamental disconnect often exists between ports and the markets they serve, with public and private leaders frequently lacking the detailed metrics to track the importance of ports to America's global economic competitiveness. Regionally, in particular, it can be difficult to measure how many goods ports move, the types of commodities they transport, and the major domestic and international trade partners that depend on them the most. Without this knowledge, the country's largest and most productive markets are especially vulnerable to mounting levels of congestion and other disruptions in global value chains. By using a new goods trade database that measures freight flows within and outside the United States, though, the Brookings Metro Freight Series has aimed to do just that. Beyond revealing the remarkable volume and variety of goods exchanged across the country, the Metro Freight Series has also examined the significant role played by seaport facilities in each region, highlighting the need to better target freight policies and investments. Indeed, since seaports in just 10 markets move 76 percent of all internationally traded goods - and more than 96 percent of these goods are produced or consumed in other parts of the country outside a port's local market - the impetus for more targeted freight investments has never been clearer. With efficient and reliable connections, these seaport complexes can propel economic growth in their local markets and beyond, leading to shared benefits for the nation as a whole, from farmers in Iowa and Nebraska to manufacturers in Chicago and Pittsburgh. However, the sheer size of these connections places an enormous strain on existing port infrastructure. For instance, seaports in Los Angeles, New York and Houston transport a combined $681 billion of international goods, with sizable volumes also present in East Coast metro areas Savannah and Charleston. While many ports have distinct commodity specialties, energy products, chemicals/plastics, and agricultural goods frequently dominate their overall volumes and speak to their extensive hinterland connections. A closer look at a particular seaport complex, like Miami, reveals even more detail on how far these domestic and international connections can stretch, reaffirming the importance of individual ports to the broader U.S. economy. Among the nearly $48 billion in international goods that pass through Miami's seaports, including Port Miami and Port Everglades, just $880 million (1.8 percent) starts or ends locally. In other words, these ports barely serve the local market. At the same time, Latin America accounts for the vast majority of goods passing through Miami's seaports, underscoring the metro area's role as a key gateway for U.S. trade with regions in the Caribbean and beyond. In years to come, Miami can solidify its logistical advantages by strengthening these infrastructure connections and tying its freight plans more closely to the area's economic needs, building off efforts already launched by Florida's Office of Freight Logistics and Passenger Operations. Indeed, since seaports in just 10 markets move 76 percent of all internationally traded goods - and more than 96 percent of these goods are produced or consumed in other parts of the country outside a port's local market - the impetus for more targeted freight investments has never been clearer. Together, leaders at the national, state and local level can draw from Miami's example, among other regions, to develop more robust sources of freight data and better articulate U.S. freight needs. Through more timely, geographically granular freight data, regions can precisely track the volume of goods - and related chokepoints - with their trade partners, while highlighting the impacts on specific industries in terms of detailed commodities. Operating at the center of the country's most valuable global exchanges, seaports rank among the most important infrastructure assets nationally; it's time that we are able to quantify this significance as ports look to move more goods, overcome congestion, and ultimately forge stronger economic links. ● Joseph Kane is a researcher at the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program. His work contributes to the Metropolitan Infrastructure Initiative, with a focus on transportation and freight movement. FALL 2015 * WWW.AAPASEAPORTS.COM 55 http://WWW.AAPASEAPORTS.COM

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Seaports Magazine - Fall 2015

AAPA Headquarters
From the President's Desk
Big Data, Big Possibilities
Greenlight on Green Metrics
An Eye on Data
Trusting Third-Party Data
Data in Latin America
Washington Zeroes in on Port Performance
Improving and Expanding Our Nation's Seaports
Navigating the Waves of Transportation Data
Big, Bad Big Data
Data Strategies to Avoid Trouble Ahead, Trouble Behind
Leveraging Regional Freight Data to Improve Port Connectivity and Boost Trade

Seaports Magazine - Fall 2015

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