America's Marine Highway Reference Library


Below is a listing and summary of 30 reports and publications on America’s Marine Highways. The “Top Shelf” reports are primary sources of information for the benefits offered by the marine highways.  The other reports contain important information that is also vital to understanding America’s Marine Highways and the benefits they offer.


A Modal Comparison of Domestic Freight Transportation Effects on the General Public (Executive Summary), December 2007.Prepared by the Center for Ports and Waterways in the Texas Transportation Institute for the U.S. Maritime Administration in the U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Waterways Foundation.

This report, with an amended Chapter 4 on Emissions, examines many of the same aspects of a 1994 Maritime Administration report, “Environmental Advantages of Inland Barge Transportation”, but using more current data including congestion , emissions, energy efficiency, and safety.  The report includes a case study in St. Louis, MO, using the Federal Highway Administration’s Highway Economic Requirements System-State Version (HERS-ST) model.  HERS-ST is a highway investment model that considers engineering and economic principles to determine the impact of alternative highway investments on highway condition, performance, and user impacts; in this case, closure of the Mississippi River.  The case study concluded highway improvement costs would almost double over 10 years; truck traffic would almost triple; hence, traffic delays would increase up to five-fold and traffic injuries and fatalities would go up one-third to one-half; and maintenance costs would increase by 80 to 93%. 

Four Corridor Case Studies of Short-Sea Shipping Services – Short-Sea Shipping Business Case Analysis, August 15, 2006.  Prepared by Global Insight in association with Reeves Associates for the Office of the Secretary/Maritime Administration in the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The purpose of this study is to assess the feasibility of short-sea shipping operations in four domestic freight corridors – the Gulf Coast to/from the Atlantic Coast, the Atlantic Coast, the West Coast, and the Great Lakes - to assess if such services could be economically feasible compared to overland freight transportation.  The four corridor studies indicate short-sea shipping service may be commercially viable when the market has enough density in that large vessels with capital/operating economies-of-scale have the necessary service frequency to be competitive with trucking, when vessel capital and crew costs and marine terminal costs operate optimally so that short-sea shipping is price-competitive, and for heavy and/or hazardous shipments currently moving over-the-road, and when there is a more direct point-to-point routing to avoid traffic bottlenecks and urban congestion. 

Emissions Analysis of Freight Transport Comparing Land-Side and Water-Side Short-Sea Routes: Development and Demonstration of a Decision Modeling Tool, 2007.  Prepared by and for the U.S. Department of Transportation/Research and Special Programs Administration.

This study’s objective is to create a decision tool to assist in evaluating the economy, environment, as well as congestion for alternative land-side and water-side freight transport routes. The project aims at developing the methodology and tools for: (1) quantifying emissions from land-side and water-side freight alternatives; (2) evaluating tradeoffs for pollutants, costs, and travel time for moving freight between two points; and, (3) identifying optimal modal combinations within a network of travel paths leading to minimum emissions, minimum costs, or minimum travel time. 

Impact of High Oil Prices on Freight Transportation: Modal Shift Potential in Five Corridors (Executive Summary); October 2008. Prepared by Transportation Economics and Management Systems, Inc. for the U.S. Department of Transportation/Maritime Administration.

The study evaluates the impact of oil prices on U.S. domestic freight transportation in four corridors including the East, West, and Gulf Coasts as well as inland (i.e., the Mississippi River).  The study points out, “As the cost of shipping rises with higher fuel prices, better environmental protection, and rising congestion, the speed of delivery of goods may become less significant in shipping decisions. In addition, institutional policies and regulatory and tax structures can be re-aligned so that industry is encouraged to make large new investments and to assume the associated risks.”

America’s Deep Blue Highway: How Coastal Shipping Could Reduce Traffic Congestion, Lower Pollution, and Bolster National Security; September 2008.  Institute for Global Maritime Studies in cooperation with The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.

This study reviews the feasibility of marine highways, providing ten recommendations including promoting the use of alternative fuels and eliminating the harbor maintenance tax for coastal shipping as well as encouraging hazardous materials to be carried offshore and away from urban population centers. 

Short-Sea and Coastal Shipping Options Study, November 2005. Prepared by Cambridge Systematic, Inc. for the I-95 Corridor Coalition.

The study helps state departments of transportation (DOT) and metropolitan planning organizations (MPO) better understand how short-sea shipping fits within their local, state-wide, and regional transportation planning efforts. The study concludes with six steps including conducting a more detailed market assessment including trade flows and origins/destinations of commodities for potential short-sea shipping. 


Short-Sea Vessel Service And Harbor Maintenance Tax, October 2005. Prepared for the Short Sea Shipping Cooperative Program by the National Ports and Waterways Institute (University of New Orleans).

According to Advanced Maritime Technology, "This report provides a comparison between the amount of HMT collected with private and external benefits attained by short-sea intermodal operations. In total, the domestic movement of containers contributes only about $1.7-1.9 million to the $880 million of HMT, collected in 2004, or 0.2% of total. Yet this tax creates an uneven playing field for new short-sea shipping service providers as truck and rail freight carriers do not have to pay HMT. Elimination of the HMT potentially generated by intermodal short-sea services cannot be identified as a loss because introduction of short-sea routes and their associated financial and external savings may be not feasible without this exemption..."

Short Sea Shipping (S3) Roadmap, September 30, 2007.  Prepared by John Malone and Matthew P. Tedesco, Ph D. for the National Shipbuilding Research Program.

This report was recommended by the Marine Transportation System National Advisory Committee (MTSNAC) “…to propose a portfolio of investment areas and tasks within the NSRP scope and charter to engage U.S. Shipbuilders in the advancement of Short Sea Shipping as a potential market, provide benefit to U.S. commercial shipbuilding (in general), and provide benefit to U.S. Navy ship construction programs.”  The report discusses an operational model , the “Integration Project”, in which it was shown that the un/loading cycle for Ro-Ro vessels up to 1500 TEU in a fully AGV automated Ro-Ro terminal equipped with an external fixed ramp would be approximately 6 hours, as done today at the StorEnso sport base in Gothenburg.

European Union Short Sea Shipping: European Union Transport Initiatives to achieve sufficient mobility in order to sustain economic growth; March 8, 2004. Prepared for U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration (Office of Ports and Domestic Shipping).

This report reviews marine highways and transport policy in the European Union, including the Marco Polo programme.  

Mid-Term Review of the Programme for the Promotion of Short Sea Shipping (COM(2003) 155 final), July 13, 2006.  Prepared for the Commission of the European Communities.

Discussion of the pertinent issues including Customs and program as well as practical obstacles that marine highways face in Europe, including referencing the “…initial list of 161 bottlenecks established in 2000  (that were)…reduced to 35.” 

Bi-State Domestic Freight Ferries Study, September 2006.  Prepared by Allison L. C. de Cerreño, Ph.D.; Martin E. Robins; Pippa Woods; Anne Strauss-Wieder; and Ryan Yeung of the NYU Wagner Rudin Center for Transportation Policy & Management and the State University of New Jersey (Rutgers) in conjunction with the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center for the Port of New York/New Jersey.

This is a study funded by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey to review the feasibility of freight ferries alternatively to domestic freight trucking crossing the Hudson River via bridges and tunnels.    The study concludes that prohibition of hazmat truck movements, as an example, would be necessary to create requisite markets for future freight ferry services in this region; however, freight ferry offers the key benefit of hazmat movements removed from more urbanized populations. 

High Speed Ferry and Coastwise Vessels: Assessment of a New York / Boston Service (Program Element 3-17, FY01), May 2003.Prepared by the National Ports and Waterways Institute in the University of New Orleans for the Center for the Commercial Deployment of Transportation Technologies (CCDoTT).

The objective of this study’s Phase IV research is to assess the economic feasibility of a service between New York and Boston, therein targeting the most congested segment of Interstate-95.  The overall conclusion is that the selected New York / Boston service would be feasible in that it would provide a truck-like transport at a cost slightly lower than truck, the vessels selected are also military-useful; and removing trucks from a highly congested corridor provides environmental benefits. 

Cleveland Trans-Erie Ferry Feasibility Study; May 20, 2004.  Prepared by Marquez & Associates for the Port of Cleveland.

The study finds that three critical regulatory issues became apparent – the harbor maintenance tax, the Canadian Coasting Trade Act and truck cabotage – in reviewing the feasibility of the Cleveland Trans-Erie Ferry Service, through reviewing pertinent legal cases.  This study concludes that not all of these factors apply to this potential service; however, it points out they may apply to other ferry services, notably those which engage in “commercial transport”.  


Freight Transportation: Short Sea Shipping Option Shows Importance of Systematic Approach to Public Investment Decisions (GAO-05-768); July 2005.  Prepared by the Government Accountability Office.

This report discusses the importance of marine highways in the United States and the pertinent federal role, stressing the Secretary of Transportation and Maritime Administrator stress yet potentially educate decision makers to take a more systematic approach to freight mobility. 

Intermodal Transportation - DOT Could Take Further Actions to Address Intermodal Barriers (GAO-07-718); June 2007.  Prepared by the Government Accountability Office.

This report finds federal transportation policy and funding have generally focused on individual modes rather than intermodal transportation.  Yet it also points out that DOT is taking actions to address the intermodal nature of the surface transportation system.  DOT utilizes the Intermodal Transportation and Inventory Costing Model State Tool to assist in determining the most efficient modal choice for moving freight.  Finally, while the report does not address “short sea shipping” (or marine highways) directly, it references actions to address intermodal transportation as well as references GAO?05-768, “Freight Transportation: Short Sea Shipping Option Shows Importance of Systematic Approach to Public Investment Decisions”. 

Approaches to Mitigate Freight Congestion, (GAO-09-163R), November 20, 2008.  Prepared by and for the Government Accountability Office.

This report addresses various issues that would help improve freight flow in the United States including virtual container yards and longer business hours.


National Strategy to Reduce Congestion on America's Transportation Network (May 2006)

This plan is an outline for federal, state and local officials to tackle congestion throughout the United States, calling on DOT to establish Urban Partnership Agreements with communities and encouraging states to pass legislation in order to give the private sector a broader role (in transportation). It calls for practices that end traffic tie ups and designates and funds new "corridors of the future".

Report to Congress on the Performance of Ports and the Intermodal System; June 2005.  U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration.

This report provides an assessment of current conditions at commercial ports and the contemporary buildup of military intermodal cargo during Operation Iraqi Freedom.  The report focuses on 23 coastal deepwater ports (e.g., Charleston) yet points out the need for “short sea shipping” to reduce truck and rail traffic.   

The Transportation Challenge: Moving the U.S. Economy, 2008.  Prepared by Cambridge Systematics, Inc. with Boston Logistics Group, Inc. and Alan E. Pisarski for the National Chamber Foundation.

This report examines the relationships between the economy and transportation.  It concludes there is a need for transportation investment in all modes to benefit commerce. It also points out various industry proposals including from the American Association of Port Authority to remove the Harbor Maintenance Tax and relief from the Jones Act (for marine highways).  

The Impact of High Fuel Prices on the Logistics (Industry Report 2008/9): America’s Top 3PLs, Shippers & Carriers share their views on how soaring fuel prices are impacting their business, August 2008. Prepared for EyeforTransport.

This report summarizes a June and July 2008 internet survey of 892 senior level executives in America’s top logistics providers (3PLs), carriers and shippers (manufacturers & retailers) to understand the effects of quickly increasing fuel prices.  The study concludes that some companies are considering keeping more on-hand inventory due to increasing fuel prices.  In addition, carriers, 3PLs and shippers are deploying the latest technologies to optimize their networks in times of soaring fuel prices. The study also points out that marine highways are helping 3Pls, shippers and carriers cutting fuel costs and improving their green credentials. 

Trade and Transportation: A Study of North American Port and Intermodal Systems; March 2003.  Prepared for the National Chamber Foundation of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

This is also a comprehensive report of the current United States’ intermodal container capacity by considering the top 15 U.S. container ports including the East, Gulf, and West Coasts yet also includes Vancouver in the assessment.  

Potential Impact of Short Sea Shipping in the Southern California Region (Research Project Report METRANS Project 65-A0047); February 2006. Prepared by P.I. Hanh Dam Le-Griffin of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Co. P.I. James E. Moore, II, of the Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering.

This study evaluates and finds support for West Coast marine highways, arguing in favor of the establishment of a regional port system to provide an appropriate institutional apparatus for the coordination of public and private investments.

California Inter-Regional Intermodal Systems (CIRIS) Implementation Plan – Final Report (Technical Report); June 11, 2006.  Prepared by The Tioga Group, Inc.; Railroad Industries, Inc.; and Cambridge Systematics, Inc. for the San Joaquain Council of Governments.

This study looks at the viability of the California Inter-Regional Intermodal System (CIRIS), an umbrella concept for rail intermodal service between the Port of Oakland and Northern California. It also reviews barge and “short sea” services, pointing out that marine highway services were being reconsidered due to successful existing services on the Columbia River and to/from the Port of New York/New Jersey, aside from growing congestion in the Oakland area. Finally, it recommends to not dismiss the idea of a feeder barge service but to determine the necessary conditions for the viability of marine highways services in the Oakland area.    

Report of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, December 2007.  Prepared by Transportation for Tomorrow (National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission.

This is an independent report assessing the current state of the U.S. surface transportation system including factors such as freight congestion and necessary public infrastructure involvement.  It also mentions, “As congestion-related initiatives such as Short Sea Shipping continue to develop, the St. Lawrence Seaway will further improve its position as a competitive alternative for shipments to and from the Midwest. Recent forecasts show a doubling of containerized traffic carried by all modes in the U.S. or Canadian Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway region from 35 million forty-foot equivalent units (FEUs) to 70 million FEUs by 2050.” 

Goods Movement Action Plan, January 2007. Prepared by Business, Transportation and Housing Agency & California Environmental Protection Agency for the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency and the California Environmental Protection Agency

This is a two-phase report of which the first phase includes a compiled inventory of existing and proposed goods movement infrastructure projects.  The second phase, the “Goods Movement Action Plan”, is a statewide action plan for goods movement capacity expansion, goods movement-related public health and environmental impact mitigation and community impact mitigation, and goods movement-related security and public safety enhancements. 

Columbia Snake River System and Oregon Coastal Cargo Ports Marine Transportation System Study - Appendix_C (Short Sea Shipping in the Columbia/Snake River System); June 2005. Prepared by Pacific Northwest Waterways Association for the CEDER, the Center for Economic Development Education and Research.

This study identifies public policy issues and market factors that affect the potential for successful short sea shipping within and to and from the Columbia Snake River System.  It concludes, "Barging containers improved the efficiency of the Columbia Snake River international trade corridor and contributed to regional goals of increasing trade and maintaining reliable and frequent steamship service to and from world markets.  Barging of solid waste within the river system is a market-driven domestic movement that offers cost advantages, but also solves local land use issues and keeps thousands of trucks off the highways."


Feasibility Assessment of Short Sea Shipping to Service the Pacific Coast, December 2006.  Prepared by TranSystems/Manalytics International; CDI Marine Company (Systems Development Division); Matthew P. Tedesco, Ph.D. of Technical and Management Consulting; and Westar Transport, for the Center for the Commercial Deployment of Transportation Technologies.

This study’s objective is to demonstrate the preliminary market of a commercial marine highway service on the Pacific Coast that would handle domestic and international (feeder) freight moving from transportation hubs to major population centers. The effort also addresses the potential emissions of marine highway services compared to trucking as well as the military application of such services. 

Short Sea Shipping Port Probability Study; March 4, 2005. Prepared by Maritime Transport & Logistics Advisors, LLC.  Commissioned for Canaveral Port Authority in Partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation, Maritime Administration

This study analyzes international/domestic marine highways history, events, situations and transportation policy that exists today as well as future projections.   The study concludes that Canaveral Port Authority can support a marine highways service based on location, urban population, contribution to reduced congestion in area, and intermodal connectively. The study also points out that the port authority should invest in warehousing and Ro-Ro services which would facilitate the port’s ability to intermodally connected.

A Framework for Evaluating Marine Transportation System Condition and Performance (Final Report); April 27, 2007.  Prepared by Cambridge Systematics, Inc. for the U.S. DOT Maritime Administration.

This is a comprehensive report of the current state of the United States’ Marine Transportation System including the “Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway System” and “Shallow-Draft Inland and Intracoastal System”.  A key conclusion of the report is to close gaps that would include the intermodal system in the MTS.

Short Sea Shipping on the East Coast of North America: an analysis of opportunities and issues – Final Report; March 31, 2006.  Prepared by Mary R. Brooks and J. Richard Hodgson; Faculty of Management, Dalhousie University; and James D. Frost of MariNova Consulting Ltd., for Canada–Dalhousie University (Transportation Planning/Modal Integration Initiative).

This study’s purpose is to advance the Federal Government’s appreciation of the potential for marine highway activities on the East Coast of Canada and the United States.  The study concludes that that a short sea operator would do well to consider two paths for due diligence work prior to developing the business case for his/her financiers: (1.) Examine the possibility of a feeder operation with one of the large container shipping operators; and (2.) the potential for a U.S. northbound domestic short sea service currently unavailable to non-U.S. interests/commercial operators so the marine cabotage market would provide incremental cargo for the backhaul.

Domestic Water Transport Comparative Review: USA and Western Europe; Anatoly Hochstein, PhD. National Ports and Waterways Institute in the College of Urban and Public Affairs at the University of New Orleans.

This study compares factors of shallow draft commercial marine transport between the United States and Western Europe based on congestion, the expansion of transportation capacity offered by inland waterways, integration with international trade/traffic, environmental, safety, and sustainability.  However, despite the United States’ already somewhat expansive use of its inland waterways (compared to the European Union as a whole), the study concludes by noting, “Domestic water transportation capacity…is not fully utilized in the expansion of national intermodal operations.”  

Feasibility Study for Container Barges in Northern California; October 2002.  JWD Group.

This study reviews the economic viability of moving freight between Oakland and Fresno and concludes that the use of barge transportation may be more economical than previously perceived.  The primary benefit of water or barge transportation is reduced truck highway use.  It also discusses environmental benefits and infrastructure demand.

Study of the Interrelation between Shippers’ Logistics and Distribution Systems and the Panama Canal Expansion (Asia-US Trade Route) (Contract SAA-97340) – Final Report; February 2003.  Prepared by The Louis Berger Group, Inc. for the Panama Canal Authority.

This is a study of existing trade routes from Asia to the East Coast of North America, comparing the intermodal landbridge across the United States to transit through the Panama Canal before and after redevelopment of the Canal.

Revolution #4; December 2006.  By Asaf Ashar for Containerisation International (p. 46-49).

This is a four-page article discussing the history of liner shipping yet looking at the next “revolution” in shipping.  The article addresses the expansion of the Panama Canal and the probability of feeder and shuttle services. 


...and more material on America's Marine Highways can be found at the Marine Transportation System National Advisory Council's Library or Advanced Maritime Technology.