Coastal Shipping (Short Sea Shipping) refers to the movement of cargo and people over water without crossing a major ocean. "Coastal Shipping" was the lifeblood of this nation since its infancy but first was eroded by the railroads and then all but disappeared with the advent of the trucking industry and the federally supported interstate highway system. With international trade and domestic loads increasing almost exponentially - some 10,000 more trucks per day are predicted on the I-95 corridor before the close of this decade - congestion is on the verge of now collapsing the "truck network". The increasing air quality implications, travel time problems, and public opinion pressures cannot be overstated. Leadership is emerging from all quarters, public and private, to re-instate a coastal shipping network - "Short Sea" - and make use of those long abandoned ocean (coastal) highways.
Our economy is held hostage to the Hudson Crossings, lower Connecticut bottlenecks which, unless alternatives are found, promise to cause real harm to diversity and expansion of our economy in the future. The bright spot is that the Commonwealth can be part of the solution with the "Port of Massachusetts" (Boston, Salem, Gloucester, Fall River and New Bedford) becoming an integral part of the emerging Coastal Shipping network. To keep pace and grab hold of this opportunity, the Seaport Council has made significant investments in its ports. Now in the final design stage, the Council endorsed the construction of a state of the art Coastal Shipping terminal in Fall River. Ferry and cruise terminals are coming on line in Salem and Gloucester. Major structural repairs and assessments are in the works in New Bedford.
The Seaport Council also furnished funds for a study to assess the status of and potential for Coastal Shipping in Massachusetts with an emphasis on the ports of Fall River and New Bedford. The study seeks to form a basis for developing actual Coastal Shipping service, providing a database that could attract Coastal Shipping initiatives and bring the Commonwealth into the forefront of the much-desired national Coastal Shipping Network. Port Canaveral also taking a leadership role in building the Coastal Shipping Network funded a similar port pairing study as well as vigorously seeks partnerships with sister hubs along the East Coast. The Seaport Council's study proposes to identify opportunities for New Bedford and Fall River that could reach down to the Florida coast and inland markets as well as other potential origin and destination points that might exist along the eastern seaboard.
Building increased momentum for Coastal Shipping, several efforts have taken hold on the national front. The federal Maritime Administration (MARAD) chartered a program known as the Short Sea Shipping Cooperative Program (SCOOP) of which the Council is an active member, as well as the newer initiative by MARAD, the American Marine Highway (AMH). SCOOP provides a forum for industry, labor, government and others to share resources and in kind services in the development of Coastal Shipping in North America. Two other major groups in support of Coastal Shipping include the I-95 Corridor Coalition and the Coastwise Coalition with the Council participating in both. The North Atlantic Ports Association (NAPA) (from Virginia north including the Canadian Maritimes) has committed itself to be on the cutting edge of the new network and promises inter-port cooperation at all levels. The Council's Executive Secretary currently chairs NAPA's standing committee on Coastal Shipping. The Seaport Council working with NAPA is also developing a partnership with the South Atlantic Ports Association to ensure the Coastal Shipping network reaches all points north and south.