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Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.

Ports map

Map showing location of U.S. facilities in this sector; please click on the map to see a larger version.

Sector Profile

The Ports sector includes public and private marine facilities along seacoasts, on estuaries and rivers, and around the Great Lakes. Ports develop and maintain shoreside facilities for intermodal transfer of cargo between ships and other modes of transportation such as barges, trucks, railroads, and pipelines. They may also operate other facilities, such as airports, trade centers, and recreational facilities. U.S. ports and waterways handle more than 2 billion tons of domestic and import/export cargo annually.

More than 360 commercial ports serve the United States with approximately 3,200 cargo and passenger handling facilities employing more than 507,000 people, contributing an estimated $1.3 trillion to the Gross Domestic Product, and generating an estimated $21.4 billion in U.S. Customs revenue annually.

Ports handle 78 percent of all U.S. foreign trade by weight and 44 percent by value. Forty-nine U.S. ports also have passenger cruise terminals, from which more than 9 million passengers embarked in 2006. U.S. ports are expected to experience unprecedented growth in overseas trade and continuing growth in the cruise industry. Forecasts call for a doubling in the volume of containerized cargo and in the number of cruise passengers between 2005 and 2020. This port growth has tremendous implications for intermodal transportation, e.g., ships, trucks, and trains, as well as property used for port activity. The challenge is to help the ports and their trade partners minimize their environmental footprint, even as they grow; i.e., to be economically viable, environmentally sustainable, and socially responsible.

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Performance Data and Trends for this Sector

You can find data and trends for this sector in the Ports chapter of the most recent Sector Performance Report.

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Planning for Climate Change Impacts at U.S. Ports

Over the upcoming decades, climate change is likely to cause sea levels to rise, lake levels to drop, more frequent and severe storms, and increases in extreme high temperatures. A white paper, Planning for Climate Change Impacts at U.S. Ports (PDF) (16 pp, 237K, About PDF), was published in June 2008 to help raise awareness of the effects of climate change so that ports can work with government, industry and communities to make more informed adaptation decisions. Included are short summaries of what six ports are doing to assess the risks to their facilities and develop local and regional strategies to mitigate those risks.

Port Emission Inventories

Current Methodologies in Preparing Mobile Source Port-Related Emission Inventories, April 2009 (PDF) (116 pp, 3Mb, About PDF).

An emissions inventory is necessary for port authorities, those doing business at ports (such as terminal operators, tenants, and shipping companies), state and local entities, and other interested parties to understand and quantify the air quality impacts of current port operations and to assess the impacts of port expansion projects or growth in port activity. An inventory provides a baseline from which to develop emission mitigation strategies and track performance over time.

This report expands on and adds to the previous ”Current Methodologies and Best Practices in Preparing Port Emission Inventories” report published in 2006. The new report adds methodologies that have evolved since the last report and includes updated emission and load factors as well as adds significant detail on calculating emissions from harbor craft, cargo handling equipment, rail and on-road vehicles serving ports, and calculation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In addition, for each category, both detailed and streamlined calculation methodologies are discussed.

Integration of Ocean Going Vessels (OGV) into the Diesel Emission Quantifier (DEQ) (PDF) (26 pp, 654K, About PDF) memo dated April 29, 2009: The Diesel Emission Quantifier (DEQ) is an interactive tool to help state and local governments, fleet owners/operators, contractors, port authorities, and others to estimate emission reductions and cost effectiveness for clean diesel projects. Estimates are made using specific information about a fleet. EPA based the Quantifier on existing EPA tools and guidance. The DEQ may be useful as reference when studying project-specific activity such as evaluating control options or applying for grants. The Quantifier uses emission factors and other information from EPA's National Mobile Inventory Model (NMIM), which includes the MOBILE 6.2 and NONROAD2005 models. Currently, ocean going vessels (OGVs) with Category 3 diesel engines are not part of the DEQ. OGVs have a unique duty cycle that is significantly different from other categories of engines, vehicles, and equipment currently in the DEQ. Because of this, specific inventory calculations will have to be added to the DEQ to handle OGVs. Until OGVs can be added to the DEQ, this memo will assist those who wish to make these calculations.

Emission Reduction Incentives

Emission Reduction Incentives for Off-Road Diesel Equipment Used in the Port and Construction Sectors (PDF) (94 pp, 588K, About PDF) dated May 19, 2005, discusses the development of incentives to reduce diesel emissions from off-road equipment used in the port and construction sectors. This report provides information helpful to businesses in other sectors, in addition to ports, on what kinds of incentives show potential for reducing emissions.

Environmental Management Systems

An Environmental Management System (EMS) Primer for Ports: Advancing Port Sustainability (PDF) (50 pp, 1.4MB, About PDF) was developed to provide a general introduction to environmental management systems in order to help ports develop these systems and understand how they can also advance port efficiency, security, and other aspects of sustainability through the use of the Plan-Do-Check-Act framework. The development of the primer is a result of more than four years of collaboration between EPA and the American Association of Port Authorities.

An EMS is a formal system for proactively managing the environmental footprint of a port. It incorporates environmental considerations and decision-making into a port's day-to-day operations and into its strategic planning, which can help ports save money and support their competitive advantage.

In September 2004, EPA released a business case brochure highlighting the benefits of EMS implementation at ports around the nation: Environmental Management Systems: Systematically Improving your Performance (PDF) (12 pp, 880K, About PDF).

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Trade Associations

The deep-water public ports are represented by the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA)Exit EPA Disclaimer. Contact: Meredith Martino (mmartino@aapa-ports.org) at (703) 684-5703.

Key Documents

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