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National Association of Waterfront Employers

Within a port, there are numerous entities ensuring the efficient flow of imports and exports. Ocean carriers, railroads and over the road trucks are the most recognizable to the average consumer, but terminal operators are the key node in the logistical framework that ensures that goods are offloaded correctly and safely, temporarily stored for pick up, then placed on a truck, or in some cases freight rail, or even domestic barges for onward distribution. In short, terminal operators do all the heavy lifting at ports. Not only when they use their cranes to offload the thousands of tons of shipping containers off of a vessel, but also in their positioning of those containers as they wait to be placed on their proper form of transportation to eventually be carried across the country and their destination. Terminal operators stack and re-stack containers, organize those by imported and exported goods and by company, and get them safely and quickly to where they need to go.

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Often, but not always, the operator is a private business and even when a government operator it is operating under commercial contracts; with a shipping line, with labor, and with machinery suppliers/repairers. Marine terminals perform the operations necessary. The Marine Terminal serves as the vital link between Ocean Transport and Land Transport (either rail or truck or even onward barge). Without this link, exports could not sail to global customers nor could imported merchandise be delivered to stores and ultimate customers. The marine terminal is more than the visible ship to shore crane or the gate through which containers roll. The marine terminal is a complex operation orchestrating the port’s workforce, machinery, and information to ensure containers are moved efficiently to their ultimate destination. This operation also must ensure only authorized containers pursuant to commercial and government requirements are moved. Yet, moving containers at a marine terminal facility is a volume business, dependent on efficient use of the facility, and is highly susceptible to congestion triggered by all supply chain partners.

Learn more about this industry through hyperlinks for our Members' websites on the next page.

The U.S. Marine Terminal and Stevedoring Industry

As a critical part of the world's marine transportation system (MTS), the U.S. marine terminal operator (MTO) and stevedoring industry provides the critical link between ocean carriers and rail and/or motor carriers, as cargo and containers flow from point of origin to point of delivery. MTOs play an integral role in the import/export engine that drives the U.S. economy, creating jobs in America through trade. They are central to maintaining a vibrant U.S. economy, which enables Americans to achieve and maintain an even higher standard of living.

The industy's work falls squarely within both the foreign commerce and admiralty/maritime jurisdictions of the federal government, making it one of the most heavily federally-regulated industries. Federal law, rather than state law, controls the industry's contracts for services, leases for terminals, workers' compensation insurance, cargo liability, terminal and cargo security, cargo inspection, worker safety and health, navigation infrastructure, and environmental protection.

Since the events of 9/11, the industry has partnered with Congress and federal agencies to resolve key facility security and cargo screening issues in order to ensure a secure and efficient U.S. marine transportation system.