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Nation’s Shipyards Contribute $42 Billion to America's GDP

GDP and jobs from US shipbuilding industry
Shipbuilding industry is making significant contributions to the US GDP (file photo)

Published Jun 16, 2021 8:38 PM by The Maritime Executive

The United States' private shipyards contribute over $42 billion annually to the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP), according to a new report released by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD). The report was released in support of a proposal by the Biden administration to include significant investments in the maritime industry as part of President Joe Biden’s proposed infrastructure investment legislation.

“Shipyards create good jobs and support economic growth, not just in the areas surrounding our ports and waterways, but across the nation,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

The report measured the economic importance of the shipbuilding and repairing industry at the national and state levels for the calendar year 2019. They found that in 2019, the nation’s 154 private shipyards directly provided more than 107,000 jobs and contributed $9.9 billion in labor income to the national economy. On a nationwide basis (including direct, indirect, and induced impacts) the industry supported 393,390 jobs, $28.1 billion of labor income, and $42.4 billion in GDP. The report detailed a trade surplus created by the U.S. shipbuilding industry in six out of the last 10 years. They measured the cumulative trade surplus at $7.3 billion over the 10-year period. 

There are currently 154 private shipyards in the United States, spread across 29 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands, that are classified as active shipbuilders. In addition, there are more than 300 shipyards engaged in ship repairs or capable of building ships but not actively engaged in shipbuilding. Although the majority of shipyards are located in the coastal states, active shipyards are also located on major inland waterways such as the Great Lakes, the Mississippi River, and the Ohio River. 

“The report issued by MARAD confirms that shipyards are vital economic engines in addition to being essential components of our industrial base,” said Acting Maritime Administrator Lucinda Lessley. “The skilled jobs created by shipyards are not only essential to supporting our military and our commerce, but they are also contributing to the economic success of communities all over the United States.”

In 2020, U.S. shipbuilders delivered a total of 608 vessels and over the last five years (2015 to 2020) they delivered a total of 5,024 vessels of all types. This includes tugs and towboats, passenger vessels, commercial and fishing vessels, and oceangoing and inland barges. More than 60 percent of vessels delivered during the last six years have been inland tank and dry cargo barges. 

The Biden administration has proposed $17 billion in investments for the inland waterways, coastal ports, land ports of entry, and ferries. According to MARAD, these investments would make the U.S. infrastructure more resilient while improving efficiency and creating new capacity to enhance freight movement in the United States. 

Since 2008, the U.S. Department of Transportation has provided nearly $262.5 million in grant funding through its small shipyard grant program to nearly 300 shipyards in 32 states and territories to improve infrastructure at U.S. shipyards.  

The final report, The Economic Importance of the U.S. Private Shipbuilding and Repairing Industry, can be found online.