"Ships, Trains and Automobiles"
Ship to Shore: Linking Science to Policy
Few industries affect our daily lives in such a profound manner as marine transportation, but for most of us, the industry is all but invisible. More than 90% of the world’s cargo is moved by water and done so in the most fuel-efficient manner of all modes of transportation. Yet, unless we live near a seaport or happen to see these enormous vessels disgorging thousands of container boxes, or crude oil being pumped to our refineries, or a ship loading scrap metal which was the 1984 Mazda you scrapped last year, we have little reason to notice how our world relies on this vital system. But if you look around, we see that many of the goods we treasure and depend upon came to us from afar by ship.
Since the 1980s, the Sea Grant Program has emphasized the importance of engaging with maritime cargo movement and seaports. This makes sense as the twin Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach constitute the biggest seaport in the country, handling almost 50% of all imports to the U.S. Soon after Congress enacted the Shipping Act of 1984, USC Sea Grant held a major national conference on the Act and its implications for the shipping industry. In subsequent years, we sought to help researchers by hosting workshops around the country asking port and harbor managers to share with us the critical research they needed to improve their productivity and competitiveness.
More recently over the past decade, USC Sea Grant has worked closely with the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, conducting studies on intergovernmental relations, project feasibility, and seaport security. USC Sea Grant’s connection to the world ocean is especially apparent in our port and marine transportation work, since our ports are part of an international system; USC Sea Grant visits Asia on an annual basis to interact with academic colleagues at universities in two of the country’s most vital trading partners, Korea and Taiwan. More detailed descriptions of all aspects of USC Sea Grant’s work on ports and marine transportation are included in the “In Depth” section of this Urban Mariner.
The marine transportation industry poses many challenges for coastal and environmental managers, yet when more than 900,000 jobs in Southern California rely on the movement of international trade through these two busy seaports, our responsibility to engage such an important aspect of the marine world is evident. As such, USC Sea Grant makes it a priority with the ports and marine transportation industry to find ways to balance business with environmental and social concerns such as air quality and other port greening measures, land-use and marine spatial planning, opportunities for public education, and planning for climate change.