Short Sea Shipping

First, you’ll need to understand the lingo and all of the numerous acronyms. For that there’s the United States Maritime Administration’s 2008 Glossary of Shipping Terms, which also has a comprehensive listing of U.S.-flag carriers.

Below you’ll find numerous studies and white papers concerning trade, generally, and short-sea shipping (or SSS), particularly, on the North American continent. Unfortunately, because of long-term U.S. national transportation policies that continue to heavily favor inefficient trucking over the far more efficient and environmentally-friendly modes of rail and water-borne freight, various SSS initiatives and efforts have either languished or failed outright. These failures are usually attributed to either poor planning and/or execution, or  a service that simply couldn’t compete economically against trucking. In reality the true culprit is bad public policy that deliberately favors what is generally the most infrastructure-dependent, polluting and expensive mode of transport (trucking) over the least (water and rail). This short-sightedness and failure of public policy has cost us much and will continue to do so, worsening all the while. Why? In two words, peak oil.

The end of the cheap-and-abundant conventional-energy era is rapidly approaching, and no amount of  the “Drill, Baby, Drill!!!” nonsense or the sending of U.S. Navy battle groups, marines and soldiers overseas is going to change it. At best these responses push our day of economic and energy reckoning just a bit further back, while doing nothing to solve the long-term problem and wasting enormous  amounts of irreplaceable and invaluable resources in the process. We’re now progressing quickly through this epochal transition period, which will soon force us back to these older forms of transportation for the primary movement of freight, and people, throughout most of North America. The timing of the phases of this transition is variable and wholly dependent upon many unpredictable factors, such as what policies we adopt and when we adopt them, various world events beyond our control, the pace and effects of climate change on agriculture and our infrastructure, etc., but it is nonetheless inevitable. Those who are ahead of the curve in planning for this inevitability will have big advantages over those who aren’t. Wake up and smell the coffee! The time to start educating yourself began yesterday…..

Many other documents, reports and papers are available at the Maritime Administration’s Marine Highway Reference Library.


  1. […] a living (we just don’t refer to it as such), there is a brand new section called, simply, Short Sea Shipping, which is filled with reports and white papers on that subject. Rising fuel costs from high and […]

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