The United States was the world’s dominant shipbuilder half a century ago. But like flat-screen televisions, photovoltaics, wind energy, advanced batteries and scores of other formerly American-developed and -led sectors, shipbuilding is now centered in Asia.
Out of sight, out of mind. That pretty well sums up the layperson's view of the country's extensive inland waterways system, an efficient, environmentally friendly network of rivers, locks and canals that moves our huge fleet of floating pack mules, aka barges, powered by towboats.
Sixty percent of the nation's agricultural exports move by barge up and down the Mississippi River system, as do billions of dollars' worth of petroleum, coal, steel and other commodities. It's a critical lifeline for the nation's economy, but one not without problems.