APM Terminals: $200 Million Investment to Bring ‘Megaships’ to Port of New York and New Jersey

APM Terminals Port Elizabeth facility. Photo: APM Terminals
APM Terminals Port Elizabeth facility. Photo: APM Terminals

APM Terminals on Wednesday revealed plans to bring so-called ‘megaships’ to the Port of New York and New Jersey with a massive increase to its infrastructure investment plan at its Port Elizabeth facility.

In September 2016, APM Terminals announced its plan to invest $70 million for a new berth at its Port Elizabeth container terminal that will allow the facility to handle the larger vessels coming through the Panama Canal post expansion. APM Terminals, the port operating arm of Maersk Group, is now more than doubling that investment.

On Wednesday the company revealed it is increasing the investment plan to $200 million, which will include the purchase of four next-generation Ship-To-Shore (STS) cranes tall enough to handle the world’s biggest containerships.

Ultra Large Container Ships or Vessels (ULCS/ULCV), or megaships as they are often called, often have capacity to carry upwards of 18,000 TEU, but are typically classified as any containership with greater than 14,500 TEU capacity.

“These vessels are expected to start calling the port right after the heightening of the Bayonne Bridge is completed later this year,” APM Terminals said in a press release. “The heightening of the Bayonne Bridge, combined with the widened Panama Canal allows these ULCS liner services to call and be operated efficiently at the advanced APM Terminals facility.”

The Port of New York and New Jersey is the largest port complex on the US East Coast, with 6.25 million TEUs handled in 2016. APM Terminals’ Port Elizabeth facility is one of the largest container terminals in the port complex.

Under the new investment plan, APM Terminals says capacity at the terminal will be expanded from the current capacity of 1.5 million TEU to 2.3 million TEU, with berth expansion to accommodate three simultaneous ULCS vessel calls. Additional investments include an expanded gate complex trucks, upgrades to container handling equipment, and other operational improvements in anticipation of regular ULCS vessel calls.

“APM Terminals is being very selective and disciplined about the projects for which to invest; these projects complement already committed investments being made at the berth to ensure the most value is harnessed from this strategic location over the long term,” the press release said.

It is important to note the Maersk Line or its 2M alliance partner MSC, have not revealed any plans to deploy ULCS’ on routes calling in America – or outside of Europe or Asia for that matter.

In late 2015/early 2016, the megaship CMA CGM became the first ULCS to call at ports in the United States when it visited the U.S. West Coast ports from Asia as part of a trial to test ports’ ability to handle ships of this size. CMA CGM planned to deploy six 18,000 TEU ULCS’ in the transpacific market after deeming the tests a success, but later rescinded those plans due to the weak market.

The Bayonne Bridge, linking New Jersey with Staten Island, was originally completed in 1932 and has limited the size of vessels that can currently call on the port due to its clearance above the water. The project, known as the Bayonne Bridge Navigational Project, will raise the bridge to a height of 215 feet (65.5 meters) from its original 151 foot (46 meter) vessel passage clearance when it is completed later this year. This will allow the larger ships to enter Newark Bay without any air draft issues. 

“We are connecting people, lifting global trade and addressing liner trends to make the port even better for the future,” said the President of APM Terminals North America, Wim Lagaay. “Our goal is to make APM Terminals Port Elizabeth safer, easier to use and faster for our trucker community, more productive for our shipping line clients and more reliable for our clients’ supply chains expectations. These operational and infrastructure improvements are designed to keep APM Terminals Port Elizabeth at the forefront of the New York/New Jersey harbor by being the container terminal of choice to work with by our many clients and partners. These terminal enhancements would not be possible without the essential work the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey has done to deepen the harbor and heighten the Bayonne Bridge to ensure future success and growth of the port.”

APM Terminals said the planned expansion and upgrades will be performed with no disruptions in service at the terminal through a dedicated onsite APM Terminals project team.