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In Canada and the United States a port authority (less commonly a port district) is a governmental or quasi-governmental public authority for a special-purpose district usually formed by a legislative body (or bodies) to create and support economic development within that area.
Port authorities are usually governed by boards or commissions, which are commonly appointed by governmental chief executives, often from different jurisdictions. For example, in Canada the federal Minister of Transport selects one board member, the local chief executive one, and the rest of the board are at the recommendation of port users to the federal Minister. In Canada all port authorities have a federal or Crown charter called Letters Patent.
Most port authorities are financially self-supporting. In addition to owning land, setting fees, and sometimes levying taxes, port districts can also operate shipping terminals, airports, railroads, and irrigation facilities.
In Mexico the federal government created sixteen port administrations in 1994-1995 called AdministraciÃ³n Portuaria Integral (API) in Spanish, as result of the Ley de Puertos of 1993. These are organized as variable capital corporations (Sociedad AnÃ³nima de Capital Variable or S.A. de C.V.), with the intent of creating more private investment in a state owned sector.
Numerous Caribbean nations also have port authorities, including those of Aruba, British Virgin Islands, Bahamas, Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Lucia, St. Maarten, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Central and South America also have port agencies such as autoridad and consorcio (authority and consortium).