US Army Corps of Engineers
Institute for Water Resources

Value to the Nation logo graphic

Value to the Nation


Navigation: Economic Impact

Graphic depicting volume of waterborne trade domestic and foreign, by state. Click for full size picture
Image of waterborne trade volume

Despite the growth in high-tech communication and high-speed transportation the nation's ports and waterways remain the crucial backbone of our economy. Nearly 2.3 billion tons of cargo are shipped to, from or through 41 states each year. USACE navigation services play an essential role in ensuring that commercial goods move smoothly along the distribution chain.

Did you know that…

  • More than 98 percent of imported and exported goods from overseas move by ship, including 9 million barrels of oil per day.
  • The U.S. marine transportation industry supports nearly $2 trillion in commerce and 13 million jobs.
  • The unit cost to transport commodities over inland waterways is lower than other forms of transportation. The ability to ship goods safely and reliably via inland waterways translates into about $8.7 billion annually in transportation savings for American businesses.
  • More than 48 percent of all consumer goods purchased by Americans pass through harbors maintained by USACE.
  • Inland waterways maintained by USACE handle over 630 million tons of consumer goods per year valued at over $70 billion.

A smooth, well-functioning navigation system is crucial to the nation's economy. Each year USACE invests more than $1.5 billion in engineering, construction, operations and maintenance of the nation's waterways, ports and harbors. Over the next 20 years shipment of cargo by container ships is expected to increase by 65 percent creating even greater need for USACE services.