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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Maritime Transportation System (MTS)

Improving the U.S. Marine Transportation System

America's Marine Transportation System, or MTS, is expansive. It includes waterways, ports and land-side connections, moving people and goods to and from the water. At a glance, the MTS includes approximately:

  • 25,000 miles of navigable channels
  • 250 locks
  • 3,500 marine terminals
  • thousands of recreational marinas
  • and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway

Coordinating with those elements are approximately:

  • 174,000 miles of rail connecting all 48 contiguous States, Canada and Mexico
  • 45,000 miles of interstate highway and 115,000 miles of supporing roadways
  • 1,400 designated intermodal connections

MTS Challenges

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the total value of marine freight increases significantly every decade, with ferry transport experiencing rapid growth in response to land-transport congestion and commercial fishing. Military operations are also using MTS facilities, waterways and resources more and more. These projected trade increases also increase demands on our MTS and must be safely handled and balanced with environmental values in order to ensure that freight and people move efficiently to, from and on our waterfronts. In fact, doing so is critical to our National and Economic Security -- about 99% of overseas trade enters or leaves the U.S. by ship. This waterborne cargo and associated activity contributes more than $500 billion dollars to the U.S. GDP, generates over $200 billion in annual port sector federal/state/local taxes and sustains over 10 million jobs. Which is why MARAD works constantly to improve the U.S. maritime transportation system, protect all MTS users and support higher levels of maritime traffic in the 21st century.

To accomplish this, the Maritime Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard and a dozen other Federal agencies have partnered with non-Federal stakeholders to promote a safe and environmentally-sound world-class marine transportation system that supports DOT's goal to reduce impediments to our MTS and secures U.S. economic and national security in the global market, specifically the Marine Transportation System National Advisory Committee (MTSNAC).

The MTS National Advisory Committee (MTSNAC)

Coordination, leadership, and cooperation are essential to addressing MTS challenges in manner that benefits all MTS users and stakeholders. Information must be shared among federal, regional and local agencies, as well as private sector owners and operators. MARAD's Marine Transportation System National Advisory Committee (MTSNAC), is a chartered, non-federal body that advises the U.S. Secretary of Transportation on all matters relating to the U.S. maritime transportation system and its seamless integration with other segments of the transportation system, including the viability of the U.S. Merchant Marine. The MTSNAC is comprised of dozens of leaders from commercial transportation firms, port and water stakeholders, labor, and Federal, state and local public entities. It does not exercise program management responsibilities and makes no decisions directly affecting the programs to which it provides advice, leaving policy and implementation responsibilities to the MARAD Administrator and Department of Transportation.

The MTSNAC was originally established in 1999 and mandated in 2007 by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The MTSNAC operates in accordance with the provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). For more information, view the MTSNAC Charter or contact the Office of Ports & Waterways.

To submit written comments for MTSNAC consideration, email or mail comments to:

Maritime Transportation System National Advisory Committee (MTSNAC)
1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., W21-307
Washington, DC 20590

Committee on the Maritime Transportation System (CMTS)

Chaired by the Secretary of Transportation, the Committee on the Maritime Transportation System (CMTS) ensures the development and implementation of national MTS policies consistent with national needs, then reports to Congress its views and recommendations for MTS improvement. The CMTS addresses any number of issues that affect the safety, security, air/water quality and the efficient movement of freight and people at our coasts, waterways and associated port facilities. The CMTS also provides key MTS information sources to help senior public and private decisionmakers make critical MTS investments and resource allocations. See An Assessment of the U.S. Maritime Transportation System – A Report to Congress.


For details about the MTS initiative, contact the Office of Ports & Waterways.