Center for Maritime Safety and Health Studies
Marine Terminals and Port Operations
Marine terminals are the points of transfer for cargo loading and unloading as it is transferred from ships to rail and trucks. Loading and unloading of ships requires a variety of loading equipment, knowledge of techniques for lifting and stowing cargo, and the proper handling of hazardous materials. There are more than 3,700 marine terminals and 1,400 inter-modal connections in the United States. More than 45 million TEU’s (twenty-foot equivalent units) were moved through U.S. ports in 2006, and 99% of the volume of overseas trade enters or leaves the U.S. by ship.1
Marine terminals are dynamic environments with high vehicle traffic including a variety of powered industrial equipment, semi trucks, and passenger vehicles. Longshoring work involves strenuous, physical labor. The hazards of the work include subjection to extreme temperatures, heavy lifting, repetitive motions, chemical exposures, work in enclosed spaces, and working around dangerous machinery. In addition, longshoremen work moving containers and other heavy bulk loads with the potential to cause serious injury or death if a mistake is made.
Workers at marine terminals have higher fatality, injury and illness rates than other workers in the U.S. In 2016 there were approximately 98,000 marine terminal and longshoring workers employed at U.S. ports.2 From 2011–2016 fatal injuries occurred at an annual rate of 17.0 per 100,000 workers,3 a rate more than five times that of the U.S. workforce overall. In the same period, there were also an average of 5,015 nonfatal injuries/illnesses per 100,000 workers each year,4 nearly double that of the U.S. workforce overall.
- MARAD . Marine Transportation System (MTS). Washington DC: U.S. Department of Transportation, Maritime Administration, https://www.marad.dot.gov/ports/marine-transportation-system-mts/External.
- BLS . NAICS 4883 Support activities for water transportation, U.S. total, all ownerships, 2006–2016. In Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/cew/External.
- BLS . NAICS 4883 Support activities for water transportation, all U.S., all ownerships, 2011–2016. In Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://data.bls.gov/cew/apps/data_views/data_views.htm#tab=TablesExternal.
- BLS . Table 2. Numbers of nonfatal injuries and illnesses by industry and case types, 2011–2016. In Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/iif/oshsum.htmExternal.