Written by Rob Pressly, NACo Program Manager.
Earlier this week, the National Association of Counties
released its latest issue brief, Sustainable Ports: Strategies for Port
Development and Operations, as a guide for county leaders to understand
the importance of operating ports in an efficient and environmentally
Ports are major drivers of trade and economic activity, with
some 360 public commercial ports throughout the U.S. Each year these ports
handle more than two billion tons of domestic cargo, and are also responsible
for exporting 99.4 percent of all of the country’s goods for international
trade. Seaports provide 471,000 direct jobs, support another 543,000 induced
jobs from port activities and provide an average annual salary $12,000 higher
than the national average. Port activity is expected to grow substantially in
the coming years—following the expansion of the Panama Canal in 2015, the total
amount of cargo transported through U.S. ports in 2020 will grow by more than
50 percent compared to 2001 levels.
While port activities can be an economic boon to counties,
it’s important that county and port officials take an active role in minimizing
a port’s impact on the natural environment and surrounding communities. Improving
rail and highway infrastructure connections to ports, upgrading heavy machinery
to run on cleaner burning diesel fuel, reducing impervious surfaces and minimizing
noise pollution are all examples of how ports can address issues surrounding
air pollution, water quality and community impacts. As an added benefit, many
of these strategies can improve efficiency and reduce fuel and operating costs.
To learn more about what steps counties can take to ensure
that they minimize their ports’ environmental impact while remaining
competitive in local and global commercial activities, download Sustainable Ports: Strategies for Port
Development and Operations. Case studies featured in the report highlight
strategic efforts undertaken at the Port of New Orleans in Orleans Parish, La.,
the Port of Cleveland in Cuyahoga County, Ohio and Port Everglades in Broward
County, Fla. that are allowing them to remain vibrant hubs of commerce,
employment and leisure.