A Look at the Busiest Ports in the United States

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Busy Port

A Look at the Busiest Ports in the United States

America’s ports – responsible for the safe handling of billions of dollars in cargo trade and millions of jobs – are designed and managed by civil engineers. In addition to promoting efficiency and safety, these systems include unique environmental programs to improve energy efficiency and reduce pollution. These ports are the three largest and busiest in the country:

Port of Los Angeles

The Port of Los Angeles, known as America’s Port, is the busiest port in the U.S. Founded in 1907 along with the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners and located 25 miles south of downtown Los Angeles in San Pedro, this massive port covers 7,500 acres of land and water along 43 miles of California coast.

Its economic impact is substantial: In 2015, America’s Port facilitated $270 billion in trade and accounted for 133,000 jobs in Los Angeles, more than 1 million jobs in California, and 2.8 million jobs nationwide. According to the World Shipping Council, container volume at the Port of Los Angeles has been ranked first in the U.S. since 2000 and 19th in the world.

Civil engineers lead the environmental management and sustainable business practices involved in port design and management. In 2006, the San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP) was adopted by both the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The plan has been extremely successful in reducing harmful emissions. In fact, the goal of reducing port-related pollution by 2023 was achieved almost a decade ahead of time. In addition, PortTechLA is a not-for-profit business incubator set to attract advanced sustainable technology, green jobs, and clean-tech companies to bring their business and innovations to the Los Angeles Harbor area.

Port of Long Beach

The Port of Long Beach was founded on June 24, 1911, eventually expanding across more than 7,600 acres of land and sea including wharves, cargo terminals, roadways, and shipping channels. By 1926, more than 1 million tons of cargo were handled in Long Beach by 821 vessels. Today, the Port of Long Beach is the second busiest in the United States with more than $180 billion in trade moving through annually. The port facilitates a wide variety of cargo, including toys, clothing, consumer electronics, automobiles, petroleum, cement, lumber, steel, and more. In Long Beach, 1 in 8 jobs are port-related, representing nearly 30,000 jobs in the city.

The Pier G Redevelopment Program, started in 2000 and expected to cost roughly $500 million, is a port modernization initiative. Goals include enhancing the entire port’s environmental, sustainable, and energy efficient aspects including truck gates, rail facilities, and berths.

The Green Port Gateway project aims to improve the efficiency and capacity of the rail system for the Port of Long Beach. This would minimize derailments, optimize rail traffic flow, and reduce air pollution by placing fewer trucks on the road.

Port of New York and New Jersey

The third busiest port in the U.S. is the Port of New York and New Jersey. Due to heavy maritime activity in the Hudson and East rivers in the early 1900s, the two states agreed in 1921 to create the Port Authority of New York to develop and modernize this port. After the Great Depression and two World Wars, Port Newark – the Port Authority’s main terminal – was in dire need of repair. By 1951, a total of 21 berths and a 35-foot-deep channel were able to accommodate large ships. The volume of traffic at the port continues to increase year after year. In 2014, 3,342,286 cargo containers were handled, carrying cargo valued at more than $200 billion.

Several port programs help reduce emissions and pollution while preserving natural habitats. One, the Clean Air Strategy, reduces emissions by replacing old trucks, installing shore power capability, and updating cargo handling equipment. Now, more than 80 percent of the port’s on-road fleet is green and uses a variety of alternative fuel options.

Other programs, such as the Hudson-Raritan Estuary Comprehensive Restoration Plan (CRP), the New York State Open Conservation Plan, and the Stormwater Management Program, work to maintain and restore the ecosystem and wildlife in the New York and New Jersey Harbor.

As these ports continue to handle increased traffic and cargo each year, the duties of civil engineers will become more complex, impacting economic and trade vitality in new and different ways. Innovative efficiencies and environmental awareness will be needed for civil engineers to excel in their expanding roles.

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For more than a century, Ohio University’s Russ College of Engineering and Technology has been teaching engineers how to create for good – how to engineer a better future with responsible and sustainable design. Learn more about our online Master of Science in Civil Engineering program and master how to effectively supervise, plan, design, construct, and operate the infrastructures essential to connect the modern world.

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