What I Think Are the Primary Challenges in Implementing Marine Highways in the US

Highway in the United States has made significant contributions not only to building the economy of the nation, but also improving the quality of life for its citizens by creating employment opportunities and providing access to goods and services. Generally, marine transportation in the U.S. can be said to be resilient and strong, but there is room for development and growth. Indeed, marine Marine Highways in the US faces several challenges in implementation such as the lack of improvement on current transportation technologies and port infrastructure, tariff hikes, inadequate manpower to operate larges ships and affiliated machines, government regulations, and doubts on the long-term sustainability of the environment.

The Merchant Marine Act/Jones Act of 1920 has been an obstacle in implementing marine highways in the US. the act is an impediment because it restricts non-qualifying vessels from operating in inland waterways and from transporting cargo between two U.S. ports (Lee et al., 2019). What is more, not only does the act exclusively permits vessels which have been constructed in the US to operate in inland marine highways, but it also does not allow shippers from the United States to operate vessels that have been constructed abroad within its borders. The problem of exclusively allowing vessels that have been constructed in the U.S. to operate in marine highways is that it limits the number of ships which are able to do business there thus leading to loss of revenue which could be earned through taxation. According to Lee et al., the cost of an American built coastal and feeder ship is between $190 and $250 million, whereas that of building a similar vessel in a foreign shipyard is about $30 million (2019). The mentioned disparity has significantly contributed to the decline in the number of vessels purchased by U.S. shippers and has reduced employment opportunities for merchant mariners.

Inadequate manpower that have the necessary technical capabilities and skill to not only operate large ships but also sustain prolonged sealift militarization and the initial capital costs for procuring shipping vessels and renovating ports is a challenge in implementing Marine Highways in the U.S. Furthermore, initial capital costs, including vessel procurement costs and port infrastructure-related costs are much higher in North American marine highways than in trucking (Kruse, 2010). When businesses move less cargo by water, shipping companies purchase fewer vessels due to reduced demand which in turn means that producers build fewer ships and, consequently, there are fewer employment opportunities for merchant mariners (Grabow et al., 2018). This has deterred several carriers from investing in marine transportation.

Security issues, such as piracy and maritime terrorism, escalation of tariff prices, and environmental pollution caused by greenhouse gases and particulate matters from ships continue to negatively affect marine highways not only in the US but also in the rest of the world. pirates steal ships and goods on board that are worth large sums of money while terrorists hijack ships and, sometimes, cause the death of many passengers. Although several security procedures have been/are being implemented, the mentioned problem persists.Moreover, while ships are calling at, and loading/discharging cargoes in, ports, they emit greenhouse gas (GHG), such as NOx, Sox, CO2 (Lee et al., 2019) and particulate matters. These greenhouse gas emissions and particulate matters from ships have negative implications on the health of inhabitants who live adjacent to the ports. Finally , the escalation of tariffs has led to reduced trade flows since traders opt for cheaper modes of transportation such as road transport instead.

In conclusion, the lack of improvement on current transportation technologies and port infrastructure, tariff hikes, government regulations, and doubts on the long-term sustainability of the environment are some of the challenges faced in implementing Marine highways in the U.S.


Grabow, C., Manak, I., & Ikenson, D. J. (2018). The Jones Act: A burden America can no longer bear. Cato Institute Policy Analysis, (845). https://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/jones-act-burden-america-can-no-longer-bear

Kruse, C. J., Hutson, N. M., National Research Council (U.S.)., National Cooperative Freight Research Program., & United States. (2010). North American marine highways. Washington, D.C: Transportation Research Board. https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=nuo67QsVGHcC&pg=PA68&lpg=PA68&dq=challenges+facing+marine+highways+in+USA&source=bl&ots=GGGmD_T1Rg&sig=ACfU3U0nHVBijRo8xXfSwyAcZDz3hJaojw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjMhbicme3nAhUKhlwKHTZFDoE4ChDoATAGegQICBAB#v=onepage&q=challenges%20facing%20marine%20highways%20in%20USA&f=false