Maritime Affairs

Focus Areas > Maritime Affairs

The twin ports at Los Angeles and Long Beach constitute the busiest seaport complex in the U.S. and close to 45% of all marine freight entering the country comes ashore through the two. While contributing to a vibrant economy with an estimated 960,000 jobs in the region directly or indirectly related to the goods movement system, nevertheless, movement of such massive volumes of goods also creates environmental impacts, mainly in degraded air quality and traffic congestion. USC Sea Grant promotes science and policy research addressing these challenges and assists the public and its policy makers to find an optimal balance between economic development and environmental protection. Moreover, Sea Grant outreach provides advice, analysis and science to the ports as they move forward with sustainable coastal development policies.

Ship's Log: A Maritime Series

Beginning in 2020, USC Sea Grant hosts a series of articles highlighting marine transportation topics and issues that are relevant to Southern California. Los Angeles County consists of two ports, the Port of Los Angeles (in San Pedro) and the Port of Long Beach, and they are the #1 and #2 container ports in the U.S. bringing in about 40% of import cargo for the country and managing over 1.3 billion in cargo value every day. This series aims to address common questions, highlight current topics and issues, and to increase knowledge and understanding of these important ports. 

2018 Arctic Conference

USC Sea Grant and the USC's Global Policy Institute hosted the 2018 Arctic Conference April 11-12 at the Caruso Catholic Center in Los Angeles. Speakers from all eight nations in the Arctic Council joined experts from USC to discuss major challenges in Arctic governance, security, marine shipping and transportation, environmental risks, indigenous communities, tourism, and future policies through the lens of a changing climate. 

PROGRAM/AGENDA | View Conference Highlights  

View Conference Flyer  |  Blog: Arctic Indigenous Peoples and Communities

Protecting Blue Whales and Blue Skies

2017. USC Sea Grant helped lead negotiations on the Channel Islands Marine Shipping Working Group to discuss solutions to whale-ship interactions in the Santa Barbara Channel.   Check out a video, highlights, and recommendations about the Vessel Speed Reduction Incentive program in the Santa Barbara Channel. Slower ship speeds reduce incidences of ships striking whales, reduce whale mortality, and reduce harmful air quality. Over a three-year period, 202 ship transits have been incentivized to slow down. 

White Papers & Blog Posts


  • Blog: Taming the Dragon of Seaport Air Pollution
    February 2019. USC Sea Grant's Dr. Jim Fawcett recently led a discussion with seaport officials from China to share lessons from managing air quality around the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and how similar policies could function in China.
  • White Paper: Sato-umi in the Anthropocene
    January 2018. A new white paper, Sato-umi in the Anthropocene, co-edited by Dr. James Fawcett and published by the Aquarium of the Pacific, presents case studies of coastal systems where Sato-umi, Ahupua’a and Integrated Coastal Management have been applied successfully and search for the conditions and strategies essential to their success.

  • Research Blog: Methanol Shows Great Potential as an Alternative Maritime Fuel 
    March 2016. Air emissions from seagoing vessels are an increasing concern for all coastal nations.  Here in Southern California, our urban ocean is home to the two busiest seaports in the United States - the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Several factors have helped inspire research into more efficient and cost effective alternative maritime fuels. One promising option is methanol. It is a cleaner burning fuel then LNG, emitting no sulfur dioxide or particulates.
  • Resereach Blog: Evaluating Seaport Efficiency in the United States
    September 2015. New research by USC Sea Grant's Dr. James Fawcett and Dr. Hyo-Won Kang examines the 22 largest seaports in the U.S. to determine if federal air quality rules have resulted in uniform air quality among these seaports. The study reveals a critical data gap that distorts the environmental efficiency of U.S. seaports.

  • Retrospective: 40 Years of Progress in the Urban Ocean
    May 2015. As we celebrate USC Sea Grant's more than 40 years, we tell a few stories to show how USC Sea Grant’s long-term work supports achievements in several key areas of importance to maritime affairs.

Port Development

California has the strongest ocean economy in the nation. Its urban ports and harbors—primarily the twin Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles—are a central component of the region's economy and continue to accommodate the demand for goods and expanding international trade. The impact of port growth affects air quality, water quality, transportation and thus the area's population through both increased traffic and...more

Maritime Transportation

While seaports are more commonly the focus of our attention because of their economic as well as environmental impacts on the nation, USC Sea Grant is also invested in public education on the importance of our marine transportation system including issues involving vessels not owned or operated by US companies. The US maritime industry certainly is not as robust as those of other nations who retain large fleets of cargo vessels, yet despite the diminutive size of the US fleet our citizens and policy makers cannot make good judgments about the marine transportation industry until they understand its operations...more

Maritime Security

Maritime security is an issue for all major seaports of the world. Because of the importance of the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to both the regional economy (25 million residents in southern California) and the national economy, securing the ports from both natural and anthropogenic disasters is a high priority issue for the ports and their tenants. USC Sea Grant can best serve our clients at the ports by...more

AltaSea Urban Marine Research Center

In late 2007, the Port of Los Angeles approached the Southern California Marine Institute (SCMI), a marine laboratory shared by a consortium of (at that time) 10 southern California universities including USC and proposed moving the lab from an isolated location in the Port to a more accessible and much larger facility. In 2008, the Port along with the Annenberg Foundation sponsored a grant to USC Sea Grant (James Fawcett) to research and write a "visioning study" for the envisioned new laboratory...more

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