The U.S. maritime industry experienced a number of important and positive business developments in 1997. International maritime trade was responsible for generating one-third of our nation's growth in the past year. Twelve million U.S. jobs are related to exports. Ninety-five percent of U.S. trade moves via water. This growth was able to absorb a portion of the overcapacity that exists within the world fleet of cargo ships, but too much shipping space on the market has continued the historical pattern of gradually decreasing productivity in ship capacity and use.
Propelled by strong market fundamentals and currency, the U.S. economy continued to generate considerable import and export power in 1997, and prospects for continued growth in 1998 remain favorable. The biggest winners were the importers and exporters of cargo, who enjoyed another year of high quality maritime transportation services at extremely favorable, if not rock-bottom, freight rates. The maritime industry continues to be extremely service and price competitive, offering good value for money.