Gateways to Prosperity

Time to invest in America's ports

By Bruce Culpepper, President & U.S. Country Chair, Shell Oil Company

May 17, 2017

While millions of Americans use our highway, rail, air travel and public transport systems every day, far fewer feel a tangible connection to an equally critical part of America’s infrastructure backbone: our nation’s ports and harbors. Yet these resources have a major impact on all of our lives (and livelihoods) and make our economy run.

America’s seaports are vital gateways to global markets. They connect us to the goods, materials and resources we use every day. They enable U.S. businesses to export products to all corners of the globe, driving growth and creating jobs here at home. In fact, cargo activity at U.S. ports was responsible for nearly $4.6 trillion in economic activity in 2014, more than a quarter of our nation’s economic output.

Like America’s roads, bridges and public transportation systems, our port system is clogged up due to underinvestment.

Regrettably, much like America’s roads, bridges and public transportation systems, our port system is clogged up due to underinvestment. This comes even as our ports are facing new pressure from the latest generation of ever-larger container ships, which require deeper channels and larger freight terminals to accommodate them.

The state of America’s ports should concern all of us, as a modern, 21st century port system is critical to boosting U.S. competitiveness across virtually every sector and industry. At Shell, our continued success depends on access to well-maintained, modern ports. Shell’s fleet of 40 liquid natural gas (LNG) carriers, one of the largest in the world, is helping fuel America’s economy and delivering this major energy source — the cleanest-burning hydrocarbon — to customers across the globe.

As we mark Infrastructure Week 2017, momentum is gathering to once again make our nation’s infrastructure the envy of the world. Leaders in both the public and private sectors and from across the political spectrum are engaged and identifying smart approaches to meet the growing challenges in infrastructure.

As part of our Infrastructure Week efforts, Business Roundtable has put forward Back in Business: A Blueprint for Renewing America’s InfrastructureSpecific policy recommendations for revitalizing America’s ports include:

  • Updating and expanding the capacity of U.S. ports by dedicating federal funding to support state and local investments;
  • Improving the efficiency of the federal permitting processes in an environmentally sound manner; and
  • Ensuring that Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund revenue goes to its intended purpose, not unrelated spending projects.

Keeping our ports open for business keeps America open for business. That’s an idea we can all get behind.