Ports And FTZs: Tidal Wave

The economic impact of U.S. seaports has a far reach, extending from the direct to the indirect and beyond. There are an estimated 2.2 million jobs that depend on ports.

By Dominique Cantelme
From the January/February 2020

Martin Associates, an economic and transportation consulting firm, released the results of its economic impact study of U.S. seaports—the 2018 National Economic Impact of the U.S. Coastal Port System report, which was prepared for the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA). The firm’s last impact study was the 2014 National Economic Impact of the U.S. Coastal Port System, released in 2015. And the changes in terms of economic impacts from one to the next are impressive.

(Photo: Metro Nashville Airport Authority)

Between 2014 and 2018, the total economic value that U.S. coastal ports provided in terms of revenue to businesses, personal income and economic output by exporters and importers rose from $4.6 trillion to $5.4 trillion, both amounts accounting for almost 26 percent of the nation’s GDP, which was $17.4 trillion in 2014 and $20.5 trillion in 2018. Federal, state and local tax revenues generated by port-sector and importer/exporter revenues rose from $321.1 billion to $378.1 billion, while personal wages and local consumption related to the port sector increased from $1.1 trillion to $1.4 trillion.

For every $1 billion in exports shipped through U.S. seaports, 15,000 jobs are created. There are 2.2 million direct, induced and indirect jobs in the United States that are generated by the U.S. coastal port sector. Of these, 652,078 are directly generated by the marine cargo and vessel activity. As the result of local and regional purchases by those 652,078 individuals holding the direct jobs, an additional 1,056,942 induced jobs are supported in the national economy. 501,555 indirect jobs are supported by $41 billion of local purchases by businesses supplying services at the marine terminals and by businesses dependent upon the cargo and vessel activity. An additional 28.6 million jobs are with exporters/importers and users of the nation’s coastal seaports. The average annual salary of those directly employed by port-related businesses went from $53,723 to $62,800. The total number of jobs supported by cargo moving through the deep-draft ports increased from 23.1 million to 30.8 million.

According to Panjiva, a global trade data company, the top five ports in 2018 in terms of TEUs were Los Angeles (5,039,363 TEUs and 17.4 percent of total), Long Beach (4,364,771 TEUs, 15.10 percent), Newark/New York (4,196,372 TEUs, 14.5 percent), Savannah (2,223,628 TEUs, 7.7 percent) and Houston (1,811,737 TEUs, 6.3 percent).

According to the AAPA, more than $6 billion in goods are handled by seaports every weekday and America’s trade volume is expected to increase by 300 percent by 2030.

Dr. John Martin, Martin Associates’ president and founder, touted the study’s results. “The sizable growth over the past five years in the number of jobs that American deep-draft ports support, the wages those jobs pay and the tax revenues that are collected from the cargo activities at these ports is really quite impressive. It’s a testament to overall economic importance of our nation’s seaports.”


Recently named one of the best places to go in 2020 by Condé Nast Traveler, Nashville—the city of music, entertainment and constant growth—shows no sign of slowing down any time soon. An emerging hub for businesses like AllianceBernstein and Amazon, Nashville also is home to many other booming industries, including healthcare, banking, hospitality and transportation.

ports and ftzs
BNA’s forthcoming, state-of-the-art International Arrivals Facility (IAF) will feature six aircraft gates and a new Customs and Border Protection passenger processing area. Opening in 2023, the IAF will set the stage to attract new nonstop international flights to Europe, Asia, Latin America and other destinations. (Photo: Metro Nashville Airport Authority)

Music City is on an eye-popping trajectory—the area’s population will exceed 2.5 million by 2041—and Nashville International Airport (BNA) is growing and changing in dramatic ways as well. BNA has seen unprecedented passenger increases over each of the last seven years, and all projections show that the airport will continue breaking records. By 2023, BNA anticipates passenger traffic growing from more than 18 million today to more than 23 million.

In order to keep up with this passenger demand and the ever-changing city, BNA is in the midst of a dynamic expansion and renovation plan, called BNA Vision, that is designed to meet the travel needs of this market and maintain the warm and welcoming vibe so characteristic of Nashville. Accommodating the robust increase in passengers and fostering the continued economic expansion—all while reflecting the hospitality and charm of Music City—is the very essence of BNA Vision.

BNA Vision was first launched in July 2016 as the airport unveiled a new look, feel and design to better reflect the future of the Nashville airport experience. BNA and the greater Nashville community have been fully committed to bringing the vision to life and have made great progress thus far. Multiple projects are underway now as BNA works to build a world-class airport for a world-class city.

In February 2018, BNA completed a significant upgrade to its Interim International Arrivals Building, which was necessary to meet immediate demands for international service until the airport’s permanent, state-of-the-art International Arrivals Facility could be opened in 2023. Just a few months later, BNA officially opened its new six-level terminal garage, which offers 2,200 parking spaces and a variety of amenities for travelers, including a parking space guidance system, vehicle locator and pay-on-foot kiosks, EV charging stations, a tire inflation station, a Ground Transportation Center for commercial vehicle pick-ups and more. Notably, this project was completed $7 million under budget.

A second Terminal Garage also is under construction and will open in Spring 2020 with six levels of parking, which includes another 2,800 public parking spaces on the five upper levels, the same customer conveniences found in BNA’s Terminal Garage that opened in December 2018, and a new valet pick-up and drop-off area on the ground level. Also included in this project are a new Airport Administrative Office Building and a picturesque pedestrian plaza.

In addition, an expansive new Concourse D and Terminal Wings project is well underway. When it opens in July 2020, Concourse D will feature six domestic aircraft gates to increase capacity for even more air service, new dining and retail options and public art installations. Additionally, the North and South Terminal Wings Expansions will add 200,000 square feet of Ticketing and Baggage Claim space to add capacity and provide for the needs of continued growth.

Other key components of BNA Vision getting underway in 2020 are the airport’s terminal lobby renovation and International Arrivals Facility, both slated for completion in 2023. The terminal lobby renovation will change the face and the interior of Nashville International Airport. A spacious central entrance hall will welcome travelers to BNA with a fresh, modern look, ample amounts of natural light and compelling airfield views. A striking new roof canopy will crown the facility, captivating views of the airport both from the Arrivals roadway and from the air. Inside, this renovation will comfortably accommodate airline ticketing and baggage check-in, and it will expedite the security screening process with an expanded and consolidated security checkpoint. The number of security screening lanes will be more than doubled when the new terminal lobby opens in 2023.

The new International Arrivals Facility will include six international aircraft gates and a new Customs and Border Protection processing area to accommodate the increase of international travelers, setting the stage to attract new nonstop international flights to Europe, Asia, Latin America and more. This project, like the terminal lobby renovation, will be completed in 2023.

ports and ftzs
As Nashville continues to boom, Nashville International Airport (BNA) is in the midst of an ambitious growth and renovation plan, called BNA Vision, that will transform an already great airport into a world-class transportation hub designed to meet the travel needs of this market and maintain the warm and welcoming vibe so characteristic of Music City. By 2024, completed BNA Vision projects will include three new terminal parking garages, new Concourse D, ticketing and baggage claim expansions, a state-of-the-art International Arrivals Facility, new hotel, terminal apron expansion and major airport roadway improvements. (Photo: Metro Nashville Airport Authority)

Adding even more customer conveniences, an on-site hotel and additional terminal garage also are slated to open in 2023. This project will include an 1,800-space terminal garage, an 11-story on-site hotel and potential transit connection.

The terminal apron and taxilane at BNA also will be expanded under this initiative in a two-phase project that will be completed in 2023. Phase 1, completed in 2019, filled a 50-foot depression near the airfield and paved the resulting space, adding 13 acres to accommodate construction of the new International Arrivals Facility (IAF). Phase 2, which will be completed in 2023, will ready the space for aircraft parking and maneuvering at the International Arrivals Facility.

Lastly, the airport will improve terminal access by augmenting its existing network of roadways—adding another mile of road, additional lanes and increasing access to and from I-40 East and West. In conjunction with these improvements, the Tennessee Department of Transportation will relocate a portion of Donelson Pike, a major roadway that runs adjacent to the terminal, by shifting it eastward to improve traffic flow in the vicinity of the airport.

With all of this exciting progress, BNA Vision has allowed the airport to reach milestones at an impressive pace. Both the BNA community and the greater Middle Tennessee region are eager to see this ambitious vision come to life and give Music City the state-of-the-art airport it needs to soar into the future.

Take a virtual 360-degree tour, view renderings and watch the BNA Vision video at BNAvision.com.


Port Freeport currently ranks 10th in chemicals, 19th in total tonnage and 26th in containers among U.S. ports. Port Freeport is a deep-water port that rests on the Texas Gulf Coast only 3 miles from the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It offers an abundance of acreage for development with more than 500 acres mitigated and shovel ready. Port Freeport was established in 1925 when the voters of Brazoria County, Texas, recognized the importance of having a reliable waterway to move commerce. A six-member commission governs the port. The 46-foot-deep Freeport Harbor Channel serves public and private operating berths.

ports and ftzs
The Freeport Harbor Channel serves both public and private facilities and will be deepened to depths ranging from 51 feet to 56 feet. (Photo: Port Freeport)

During the past five years, Port Freeport has experienced exponential growth and is taking strategic initiatives to maintain that growth and provide the surrounding community with jobs and economic benefits. One of these initiatives includes a deepening and widening project to increase the harbor channel from its current 46 feet to depths ranging from 51 feet to 56 feet mean lower low water. Providing nationwide total economic outputs of nearly $150 billion a year, Port Freeport clearly is demonstrating that its strategic initiatives are paying big dividends. As further terminal expansions and a deeper, wider ship channel advance, Port Freeport is purposefully building upon its impressive contributions to economic wellbeing near and far. Within Texas alone, Port Freeport was responsible for 150,561 jobs, producing $9 billion in income, while generating economic output of $98.8 billion in 2017, according to a 2019 study by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. The statewide impact figure is more than double that calculated in a similar analysis just five years earlier. The most recent report puts Port Freeport’s nationwide impact at $149 billion, with the port supporting 279,783 U.S. jobs.

Port Freeport serves its customers and stakeholders through development and marketing of a competitive world-class facility, technically advanced marine and multimodal terminal services and port-related industrial facilities.

Port Freeport offers customers first-class, state-of-the-art infrastructure. Port Freeport’s container handling terminal with two Post-Panamax gantry cranes was completed in 2014. Expansion of the terminal is slated to begin in 2020 and features 925 feet of berth extension and will accommodate additional Post-Panamax gantry cranes. A new storage and processing terminal for automobiles was established in 2015, and the Port’s project cargo terminal has continuously served the petrochemical industry through construction and expansions in the surrounding areas. In 2019, the Port completed the first phase of its first major rail project. The project at its full buildout will include a 200-acre multimodal industrial park, which will feature new rail lines, environmentally friendly vehicle storage and processing centers, as well as warehouse and distribution centers.

Public and private docks combined to handle more than 1,000 ships in 2019. Private facilities along the channel include petrochemical and energy industry leaders such as The Dow Chemical Co., Enterprise Products Partners L.P., Freeport LNG and Phillips 66. In 2017, Forbes magazine named Port Freeport one of the top 10 fastest growing seaports for exports. Port Freeport expects to continue to make the Top 10 list with the Freeport LNG liquefaction units expected to come on line beginning early next year. Additionally, its proximity to the Permian Basin and the pipelines being built to deliver West Texas crude to the Gulf Coast puts the Port in prime position to facilitate additional energy exports. Sustained growth in cargo volumes, including exported plastic resins, is bolstering activity for global ocean carrier CMA CGM as it enters its second year calling Port Freeport with its weekly Brazex service, offering a direct link with Brazil and vast transshipment opportunities all along the East Coast of South America and throughout the world.

These terminals, combined with a sophisticated state highway system, railroad connectivity and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, allow users of Port Freeport seamless connectivity between various modes of transportation for their supply chain.

Port Freeport is staying on very solid financial ground. The port continues to garner excellent ratings from Standard & Poor’s, and each year for three decades has been recognized by the Government Finance Officers Association (GFAO) for excellence in financial reporting. Port Freeport continues to excel on environmental and community fronts, as well.

Environmental stewardship is a critical aspect of every Port Freeport undertaking, and Tenaris and transport partner Jetco Delivery recently were acknowledged for their use of the heavyweight truck corridor, significantly reducing potential vehicle emissions. Port Freeport is proud to be a fast-growing Texas port and leading economic catalyst for the Texas Gulf Coast and the State of Texas. Under the insightful guidance of the Port Freeport Commission, the port, in collaboration with its broad spectrum of stakeholders, confidently looks forward to still greater accomplishments, furthering its position as the region’s backbone of socioeconomic prosperity for generations to come.

For more information about Port Freeport, please visit www.portfreeport.com or call (800) 362-5743.


If America is the land of opportunity, the Port of Baltimore is the beacon for diversity in maritime trade.

The inspiration for Francis Scott Key’s Star Spangled Banner from nearby Fort McHenry, the port is a major shipping hub for automobiles, trucks, heavy-duty farm and construction equipment and forestry products, as well as home to major cruise lines.

The port’s public and private terminals combined handled a record 43 million tons of international cargo worth $59.7 billion in 2018, breaking a 44-year record. The port now ranks 11th in the nation for cargo transport, ninth for cargo value and has generated nearly 16,000 jobs. The state-owned port terminals handled a record 10.9 million tons of general cargo in 2018, surpassing 10 million tons for the third consecutive year, according to the Maryland Port Administration.

“We’re a very diverse port. Most ports concentrate a large percentage of their business on containers and container trade. About 20 years ago, we developed a long-term strategy for diversifying cargo, concentrating efforts on cars, light trucks, ro-ro, forest products, breakbulk and containers,” said Richard Scher, Director of Communications for the Port of Baltimore, Maryland Port Administration (MPA).

The strategy paid off.

“We are the No. 1 port in the U.S. for ro-ro and we’re in the top two for forest products,” Scher said.

And roll on, roll off they do. For the eighth consecutive year, the Port of Baltimore handled more cars and light trucks than any other port in the United States, with 850,000 cars and light trucks coming through the port last year alone.

The port’s container business is booming as well.

With the widening of the Panama Canal in 2016, “containers are just going gangbusters. We hit a record last year, breaking the 1 million TEU (20-foot equivalent unit) mark. And we’re tracking ahead of that pace now,” Scher said.

Baltimore is one of a few East Coast ports that can handle the supersized ships coming through the canal, he said.

In May, the Seagirt Marine Terminal welcomed the Evergreen Triton, the largest ship ever to dock in Maryland—that’s four football fields long—carried more than 14,000 20-foot containers filled with toys, clothes, consumer electronics and other goods bound for distribution points across the country.

The Port Administration and Ports America Chesapeake, the private company that operates the Seagirt Marine Terminal through a public-private partnership with the state, have spent millions to accommodate these ocean-going hulks, dredging to the magic 50-foot depth mark and adding four massive 1,550-ton cranes to take containers off the ships.

To continue growing, the Port Administration and Ports America Chesapeake are constructing a second 50-foot-deep berth at Seagirt. The $32.7 million project gets underway later this year and is scheduled to be operational in 2021.

“It’s almost an arms race to accommodate these massive ships. We’re still ahead of the game with one of the few ports who can handle these ships. Having two 50-foot-deep berths will allow us the opportunity to handle supersized ships simultaneously,” Scher said.

With the first quarter already setting records for ro-ro, the state and private developers are looking to make room for more. A $4.6 million project at the Locust Point Marine Terminal, a former fruit pier slip, is expanding the auto import area. Meanwhile, private developer Tradepoint Atlantic is turning Sparrows Point into a $2 billion multimodal facility. Once home to Bethlehem Steel, Sparrows Point now houses warehouses and fulfillment centers for Under Armour, Amazon, Home Depot, FedEx and others as the redevelopment effort continues. In February, Volkswagen Group of America signed a lease to process 120,000 vehicles at Sparrows Point.

With growth comes a laser-like focus on ongoing physical and cyber security measures for trucks coming in and cargo going out, Scher added. The Maryland Port Administration just received a federal grant on port security to improve software, access control programs and help on the cyber security front.

“It’s an ongoing effort. We need to keep moving forward to do well. If you stay static, then you are probably going backward.


The Port of Savannah moved 4.6 million twenty-foot equivalent container units in Calendar Year 2019, an increase of nearly 250,000 TEUs (5.6 percent) compared to the previous year, Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) Executive Director Griff Lynch announced this month.

Port of Savannah
The Port of Savannah is the fastest-growing port in the U.S., with a $973-million expansion project nearing completion, including dredging of the shipping channel and its entrance to accommodate Post-Panamax container vessels.

“This record-breaking accomplishment is thanks to a dedicated team of professionals including GPA and the International Longshoremen’s Association, our partners in trucking and rail, and those making important investments beyond our gates to accommodate growth,” Lynch said. “It’s a testament to the trust our customers and stakeholders place in our ability to deliver reliable, on-time service, every day.”

In Roll-on/Roll-off trade, GPA handled 657,685 units of cars, trucks and tractors in 2019, an increase of 12,167 units, or 2 percent.

“Both Savannah and Brunswick are outperforming the market, with Garden City container trade growing at a rate three times faster than the U.S. total, and Brunswick Ro/Ro units increasing despite a drop in U.S. vehicle sales in 2019,” said GPA Board Chairman Will McKnight.

Ocean Terminal picked up two new customers in 2019—GM and Volvo—with both carmakers exporting vehicles to Australia and New Zealand via Savannah. Volvo also began exporting cars to South American markets via Brunswick.

Total tons crossing all GPA terminals reached 38.5 million, up from 36.9 million tons in 2018, an increase of 4.3 percent. Lynch credited steady volumes in breakbulk cargo, combined with growth in tonnage for both bulk and containerized goods.

Highlights of the year included a burst of new cargo handled via the Appalachian Regional Port, totaling approximately 36,000 TEUs, and the announcement of two new resin-handling facilities near Savannah, which are expected to increase export totals by around 90,000 TEUs per year.

Lynch said the Authority is building the infrastructure necessary to take on new business while maintaining the free flow of cargo. He said an ambitious infrastructure plan will double annual rail capacity at the Port of Savannah to 2 million TEUs, expand berth capacity to handle up to six 14,000-TEU vessels by 2026, and develop another 400 acres on Colonel’s Island, enough to nearly double the autoport’s annual capacity from 800,000 vehicles to 1.5 million per year.

Georgia’s deepwater ports and inland barge terminals support more than 439,000 jobs throughout the state annually and contribute $25 billion in income, $106 billion in revenue and $2.9 billion in state and local taxes to Georgia’s economy.

As of December, the Georgia Ports Authority said the level of trade in the Savannah port would be a 14 percent increase over volumes moved through Savannah just three years ago, or an additional 550,000 TEUs. Over the same period, the Authority has increased the annual capacity at the Port of Savannah from 5 million to 5.5 million TEUs.

“Through incredible teamwork from the GPA and the ILA on the docks, to the motor carriers and Class I railroads, and to our partners throughout the supply chain, Georgia has managed to create a powerful hub for commerce that is creating jobs and economic opportunity in every corner of the state,” Lynch said, adding that GPA is adding cranes, container rows, truck gates and intermodal capacity.

With the first phase of GPA’s Mason Mega Rail project opening this spring, cargo moved by rail has grown twice as fast as the Authority’s overall three-year growth rate in container trade. Over the first 10 months of the year, intermodal volumes expanded by 30 percent, compared to the same period in 2017. The port handled 427,891 rail containers through October, up 98,835 over volumes from three years ago.

The new Mason Mega Rail terminal will double Savannah’s on-port rail capacity to 1 million containers per year.

“Exciting new business opportunities such as the export of the Georgia-made Kia Telluride, and resins produced in Pennsylvania and the Gulf States, as well as the import of cold-treated fresh produce, are driving the increase in trade through our deepwater ports,” said GPA Board Chairman Will McKnight. “The speed and efficiency of our terminal operations, as well as our connectivity via road and rail make Georgia the best choice for reliable supply chain services.”

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