Innovations: US/MARAD

The American marine transportation industry has become a highly sophisticated, global, intermodal transportation network that is absolutely vital to the nation’s economy and continued prosperity.

The Agency is working with the diverse marine transportation stakeholders to plan and implement a better future.

A Sea Change

To say that America’s marine transportation industry is just about ships and mariners is like saying that commercial aviation is only about planes and pilots. As we move forward in the 21st century, a profound sea change is taking shape. The marine transportation industry has become a highly sophisticated, global, intermodal transportation network that is absolutely vital to America’s economy
and continued prosperity.

Every day, thousands of vessels ply the world’s vast ocean highways and America’s waterways carrying record quantities of consumer goods and cargo. But the journey today no longer begins and ends at a port. It begins with construction of the ships that carry goods produced around the globe and can conclude at a department store’s receiving dock in Indianapolis or any other American city.

Port-to-port grew into door-to-door for the marine transportation industry. America’s
marine transportation industry led the intermodal revolution and is the most interconnected of all forms of transportation. More than half a century ago, America’s marine transportation industry pioneered the use of the container, now the standard instrument of trade all over the world. It also paved the way for double-stacked trains and the development of door-to-door logistical operations,
software and tracking systems.

This evolution has transformed the way we think about the business of moving
freight and people. It has completely altered the transportation landscape and the role of transportation in our lives. Marine transportation is now a system of systems — an integrated network, not just within the United States, but around the world. It must operate seamlessly.

Taking full advantage of America’s wealth of waterways, the Marine Transportation System requires vessels of all kinds suited to all kinds of cargo. It requires an advanced network of ports and terminals, fleets of trucks, rail cars and barges to carry these goods to the customer. It requires highly trained personnel both ashore and afloat. It needs support services and industries to keep the network up and running.

It requires a highly complex logistical choreography of man and machine, an infrastructure
of ship construction and repair facilities, pinpoint scheduling and the ability to track and trace all assets 24/7 throughout the supply chain — whether those assets are in the air, or on water or land.

However, marine transportation is not just about physically moving cargo and people across land and bodies of water great and small, but better managing the entire shipment process. It is about providing greater efficiency, reliability and cost savings. It is meeting customer expectations and providing world class customer service.

A Vision for the Future

The Maritime Administration is committed to working collaboratively with all stakeholders including other governments, foreign and domestic ports and all transportation sectors and modes to ensure that the United States has a marine transportation network capable of accommodating whatever the future may hold. Such a system must meet these critical needs:

• It must move a larger volume of goods and people with high levels of reliability
and efficiency

• It must be flexible, resilient, cost effective and environmentally friendly

• It must make the best use of available and advanced technology

• It must have a global perspective and be able to meet changing market conditions
and customer needs

• It must encourage new business models and a dynamic set of “door-to-door”

• It must promote innovative financing mechanisms in partnership with the
private sector to improve and expand the transportation network

• It must ensure a stable shipyard industrial base to effectively build and repair
the ships and barges that serve the Marine Transportation System

• It must be available to serve American interests in time of national or international

• It must preserve and promote American economic interests and encourage
American content and participation

The Maritime Administration embraces this challenge.

United States Department of Transportation
Maritime Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590


The Maritime Administration has the lead role in the advancement of the United States’ 21st century marine transportation system. A system that will:

• Support the growing importance of international trade to the continued prosperity of the United States by easing congestion throughout the intermodal transportation network–from door to door:
• Enhance America’s leadership and prominence in the international marine transportation community while continuing to promote a strong domestic merchant marine, a highly skilled workforce and making better use of the Nation’s marine highways
• Promote U.S. shipbuilding and repair facilities
• Stimulate competition, innovation and efficiency and involve the private sector more fully in the financing, development and management of transportation infrastructure
• Meet national security transportation needs no matter where in the world a conflict may arise
• Help overcome impediments to maritime system growth while addressing the concerns over safety, security and the environment.