The Global Transport System: Understanding the Role of Shipping Ports


    Imagine one day all the shipping ports across the globe disappeared into thin air. If all cargo relying on maritime trade systems had to sit idly by because of this unprecedented event, what kind of effect would this have on the global economy?

    The world as we know it would come to a screeching halt!

    Think about it. A single 1000-foot ship moves the same amount of cargo as 2800 trucks or 7 100-car unit trains while using far fewer fossil fuels. Almost all cargo entering the United States arrives by ship, and more than 360 ports are transferring these goods across the U.S.

    Without maritime access, the global economy would freeze, but there’s more to it than that.

    Read on to discover why shipping ports are versatile transport systems the world couldn’t do without.

    The Importance of United States Shipping Ports

    With $2.5 trillion in exports and $5.6 trillion in imports in 2019, the U.S. is the largest trading nation in the world. Over 200 countries rely on U.S. trading ports for their products and services, and vice versa. As per The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), U.S. seaports account for over 99 percent of its overseas cargo by volume and 65 percent by value.

    Crunch all this together and a staggering equation follows. The value of international trade accounts for 30 percent of the U.S.’s $21.43 trillion GDP!

    Make no mistake about it. Even if only U.S. shipping ports mysteriously disappeared, the world economy would collapse. U.S. overseas trade makes up the center of the global trade economy.


    Shipping ports don’t only account for port employment. Any job that relies on global maritime trade to exist would be affected by the disappearance of container ships, port terminals, and other maritime access channels.

    This means if the factory you work at relies upon maritime trade industries for the importing of materials and the exportation of the products you create, then say goodbye to that product, and your job.

    There are over 124 million full-time workers in the U.S., and American seaport activity is necessary for 23 million of those jobs to exist. That means 1/6th of Americans would be unemployed if such a disaster were to occur.

    Click here to see an example of seaport-related products and services.

    The Inter-Modal Transportation System

    Port terminals serve as the foundation of the importing and exporting of goods and services. Whether they be goods flowed from businesses to local communities or worldwide markets, chances are they were channeled from a large seaport or a smaller intercoastal port.

    Since container ships can carry over 24,000 containers and can take up to 5 days to unload, seaport companies are always endeavoring to channel this enormous quantity of goods to communities.

    Without seaports, the available goods and services would flip from overabundance to suffocating scarcity.

    National Defense and Emergencies

    15 of our over 360 commercial seaports are used as National Defense and National Emergency port terminals. They serve as major assets to military deployment because of their size and their connectedness to railroads. These ports also are capable of loading non-containerized cargo.

    This means if any national disasters occur, such as earthquakes, these 15 ports would serve as vital facilities saving millions of people.

    The World Wouldn’t Be The Same Without Our Ports

    Who would have known a simple everyday activity like enjoying a glass of milk wouldn’t be possible without maritime trade services? Without shipping ports, many of the goods, services, and protections we enjoy today wouldn’t exist.

    Consider taking a trip to your local maritime community, and be sure to thank them for the hard and essential work they do.


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