John D. McCown, founder of Blue Alpha Capital, writes for Center for Maritime Strategy:

Given the current need to expand U.S. container port capacity to handle growing inbound volumes, we should learn from history. From Ancient Rome’s construction of Portus, the high-capacity port that fueled the Roman Empire, to President Eisenhower’s plan for a national interstate highway system, the U.S. must likewise respond to demand signals by creating an appropriate national plan of response.

More than two thousand years ago, Rome’s growing population outstripped the ability of Italian farms to meet the demand for grain to feed people. As a result, the first consistent international trade lanes were developed with grain and other food products coming from Egypt and other Mediterranean points. While Rome was twenty miles inland on the Tiber, its curvature and shallowness did not allow those ships to access it directly. The river port of Ostia at the mouth of the Tiber that was established around 400 BC would prove inadequate after some four centuries. Recognizing the limitations this would place on Rome’s future, Emperor Claudius ordered the building of Portus, a manmade port directly on the Mediterranean.

By digging out a 500-acre basin in the coastal dunes and constructing breakwaters with an entrance marked by a lighthouse, a massive, protected harbor where ships could dock was built, which Emperor Trajan would expand Portus by building another 100-acre hexagonal shaped basin further inland. With each side being 1,200 feet long, that addition could accommodate 200 ships at a time. Warehouses and other facilities associated with the registration and distribution of cargo ringed Portus and canals linked it with the Tiber where some cargo would be moved on smaller vessels directly to Rome. Portus would involve more than 10,000 people moving grain and other cargo through it and unto Rome to feed a population of over one million. Further research detailed Archeology article highlights the key role that Portus played in Rome’s ascendancy, evolving from a mighty city to an empire…

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