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…..
- Surface Freight Transportation: A Comparison of the Costs of Road, Rail & Waterways Freight Shipments That Are Not Passed on to Consumers – USGAO Report to the Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures, Committee on Ways & Means, House of Representatives – January 2011
- Assessment of Short-Sea Shipping Options for Domestic Applications – Office of Naval Research – December 2009
- Short Sea Developments In Europe: Lessons for Canada – Dalhousie Univ. & Transcom – July 2009
- Ontario Marine Transportation Study – Phase II Final Report: Market Issues, Competitiveness, Opportunities and Recommendations – June 2009
- The Environmental & Economic Benefits of SSS by COB – University of Michigan, Dept. of Naval Architecture & Marine Engineering – May 2009
- A Modal Comparison of Domestic Freight Transportation Effects on the General Public – Texas Transportation Institute – March 2009
- Inland Port Feasibility Study for the Southern California Assoc. of Governments – The Tioga Group – August 2008
- Container-on-Barge Port Concept Paper – Southeastern Ohio Port Authority – June 2008
- Staff Summary: Container-on-Barge Service for Missouri Waterways – MoDOT – November 2006
- North American Trade Corridors: An Initial Exploration – Pace Univ. – May 2006
- Short Sea Shipping on the East Coast of North America: An Analysis of Opportunities & Issues – Dalhousie University – March 2006
- Freight Transportation: Short Sea Shipping Option Shows Importance of Systematic Approach to Public Investment Decisions – USGAO Report to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure – July 2005
- Long Island Sound Waterborne Transportation Plan: Task 3 – Initial Screening of Alternatives – Cambridge Systematics – June 2004
- Long Island Sound Waterborne Transportation Plan: Task 2 – Baseline Data for Transportation Plan Development – Cambridge Systematics – September 2003
- Container-on-Barge Pre-Feasibility Study Final Report – Port of Pittsburgh Commission – July 2003
- Container Barge Feeder Service Study, Connecticut DOT – Office of Intermodal Planning – 2001
Many other documents, reports and papers are available at the Maritime Administration’s Marine Highway Reference Library.