Twentieth Centuries

Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries

Increased levels of world trade resulted from the economic growth occurring since the end of World War II in 1945. The United States was in the position to take advantage of new trading opportunities as new world markets opened. Developing countries demanded capital goods, agricultural products, consumer goods, and commercial services, which the United States could provide. As these nations produced goods for export, the United States became a market for these goods.

A significant factor in the opening of the inland waterway system (and the resultant world trade superiority of the United States) was the advances in ship technology and the application of steam power to ships that traveled the extensive water network. Larger and faster ships emerged from the advances in ship and engine design and improvements in construction materials.

Methods of cargo handling evolved to keep pace with the larger vessel sizes. The introduction of palletization and roll-on/roll-off cargoes enabled vessels to be loaded and unloaded in less time. The emergence of containerization in the late 1950s dramatically affected the shipping industry and port infrastructure. The increasing size of containerized cargo vessels became a driving force in the demand for expanded ports and improved facilities.

Importance to Foreign Trade.

Transporting goods with foreign trading partners can be accomplished by road, water, rail, or air. However, for the majority of foreign trading partners, the only options for transportation are water or air. Water-based transportation is generally the most cost effective mode for the majority of internationally traded goods. About 95 percent of U.S. foreign trade passes through its port system. Ports function as the transfer point between land and water transportation of cargo. * For vessels to transport the foreign traded cargo, they must be able to access the ports through established channels. The channels provide adequate water depths for the vessels and navigational aids.

Modern ferries, cruise ships, and many types of recreational boats carry passengers for purposes ranging from daily business commuting to fishing to sightseeing.

Today’s Global Trade.

Today the world economy has become globalized. The economic system is changing from one with distinct local and national markets, separated by trade barriers, distance, time, and culture, to one that is increasingly converging and integrating into a global economy.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United States was the world’s leading trader in 1998, accounting for about one billion tons of ocean-bound trade (about 20 percent of the world’s total ocean-bound trade) out of about 2.4 billion tons of total foreign trade. In 2000, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, approximately $736 billion of goods (about 40 percent of the total U.S. foreign trade by dollar amount) were shipped via ocean vessels and passed through U.S. ports. By 2020, international trade is estimated to more than double (by weight) within the United States, with the majority of this trade projected to move via ocean shipping.