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Ports Primer: 3.3 Federal and International Governance

1.0 Ports Primer Home   2.0 The Role of Ports   3.0 How Ports Work   4.0 Port-Community Relations   5.0 Land Use and Transportation   6.0 Local and Regional Economy   7.0 Environmental Impacts   8.0 Tools and Resources   9.0 Appendix   Glossary   Endnotes
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The U.S. Constitution grants the federal government jurisdiction over the navigable waters of the United States.

The International MaritimeHelpMaritimeLocated on or near the sea. Commerce or navigation by sea. The maritime industry includes people working for transportation (ship, rail, truck and towboat/barge) companies, freight forwarders and customs brokers; stevedoring companies; labor unions; chandlers; warehouses; ship building and repair firms; importers/exporters; pilot associations, etc. Organization (IMO), a special agency of the United Nations, is responsible for additional oversight, including safety, security and pollution concerns. Vessels are regulated by the IMO and international treaties.

Current Federal Roles5

According to the U.S. Maritime Administration, the Transportation Research Board identifies the roles relating to ports and governance over navigable waters currently undertaken by the federal government as:

  • “Constructing, operating and maintaining the navigable channels
  • Managing the traffic on the waterways
  • Providing mariners with aids to navigation, charts and information on water and weather conditions
  • Regulating the safety and environmental compatibility of vessels
  • Responding to marine accidents that threaten public safety and the environment
  • Helping to finance the highways that connect marine ports and terminals to the larger transportation system
  • Ensuring the security of the Marine Transportation System and its many components.”

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Federal Agencies with Current Oversight and Control6

Federal Interest Federal Agencies
Enhance Safety Army Corps of Engineers
Department of Homeland Security
Coast Guard
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Navy
Protect the Environment Coast Guard
Environmental Protection Agency
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Navy
Facilitate Commerce Army Corps of Engineers
Coast Guard
Environmental Protection Agency
Office of the Secretary of Transportation
Ensure National Security Department of Homeland Security
Coast Guard
Maritime Administration (MARAD)
Navy
Office of the Secretary of Transportation
Research and Development Maritime Administration (MARAD)
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Office of the Secretary of Transportation
Human Resources Coast Guard
Maritime Administration (MARAD)
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Office of the Secretary of Transportation

Additional information on regulation of the environment by EPA and other agencies is provided in Section 7. Environmental Impacts.

For a full list of Federal programs that apply to the Marine Transportation System, see the Appendix.

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International Maritime Organization

Maritime shipping is an international industry. Because ships are flagged to their nation of origin, an international agency is needed to provide global oversight and guidance.

The International Maritime Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations, provides a regulatory framework for the international shipping industry. The IMO sets standards for safety, security and environmental performance. For example, in 2010, the IMO designated waters off of North American coasts as an Emissions Control Area (ECA) and developed standards that were designed to reduce air pollution from ships. IMO actions require member countries to sign onto conventionsHelpconventionAn international agreement. as part of the process for individual governments to accept the action.

For more information:

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