Business of Shipping: Improved Infrastructure Leads to Upswing at Port of New York and New Jersey

maersk containership new york
FILE PHOTO: A Maersk container ship is guided by a tug boat in New York Harbor in New York City, U.S., June 27, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

By Ira Breskin – The Port of New York and New Jersey is enjoying an upswing. That’s the message speakers delivered at the recent 19th annual Port Industry Day. This day-long schmooze fest attracts several hundred attendees who represent a cross-section of this port community.

Encouraging was news that marine terminals leased by landlord Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in May 2019 became the nation’s No.2 largest container handling operation. Moreover, the Port of New York and New Jersey remains the No. 1 container port on North America’s East and Gulf coasts.

Port of New York and New Jersey container terminals won the second spot by outperforming those operated by the Port of Long Beach beginning in May 2019 and subsequent, in terms of the number of TEUs handled, both laden and empty, said Sam Ruda, director, Port Development, PANYNJ. PA

In May PANYNJ terminals processed 472,905 laden TEUs, up 9.3% from the year earlier, according to agency data. In comparison, the Port of Long Beach processed 411,035 TEUs.

The reason, according to Ruda: improved infrastructure, including channel deepening to 50 feet; raising of the air draft of the Bayonne Bridge; the build-out of the ExpressRail system (see below) and favorable rail economics

However, the Port of New York and New Jersey grabbing the No. 2 spot demands context. Note that container terminals operated by the Port of Los Angeles easily retain their No.1 volume ranking.

More specifically, the Port of Los Angeles last year processed 9.46 million TEUs, making it the world’s 17thbusiest terminal operation, according to The Journal of Commerce Top 50 Global Container Ports report data. In comparison, Long Beach last year processed 8.09 million TEUs and Port of New York and New Jersey, 7.18, giving them, respectively, 21st and 24th place, according to JoC data.

For the record, six of the top 10 performing container ports are in mainland China, the JoC reported.

PANYNJ in January recorded another milestone when it completed its 11-year ExpressRail project. Inauguration then of near-dock rail service at the Global Container Terminal in Bayonne, NJ, the last project phase, means that the port’s five major container terminals now have close-in intermodal rail capability.

The new rail connection at the Global’s Greenville Yard can provide as many as 250,00 container lifts per year, to feed trains positioned on eight tracks.

Such capability is required if the Port of New York and New Jersey is to significantly grow, from the about 15 percent, the portion of containers conveyed by rail to and from the port. Doing so would allow the Port of New York and New Jersey to better address prime growth markets, primarily in the midwest, and also reduce its carbon footprint.

In fact, Port of New York and New Jersey marine terminals must double the percentage of its intermodal rail traffic to match the US-port average, said Matthew Kwatinetz, executive vice president, port asset management, New York City Economic Development Corp.

Separately, Global has reduced drayage drivers turn time by 45 percent at its Bayonne facility since 2014, when it introduced an appointment system for drayage drivers, said John Atkins, president, GCT USA. He oversees the company’s Port of New York and New Jersey container terminals in Bayonne and Staten Island, NY.

Global Bayonne later extended the appointment’s system hours to between 6 am and 1 pm. On Nov. 6, 2018, mandated that the drivers entering its facility before 1 pm must use the system. Now about 74 percent of drayage drivers calling on this terminal make scheduled appointments, Atkins, said.

Also, Kwatinetz reported NYC EDC has selected a group led by Mike Stamatis, lessor of the Red Hook Container Terminal in Brooklyn, NY, to operate the nearby South Brooklyn Marine Terminal, an underutilized facility.

NYC EDC has spent about $115 million for capital improvement to this facility, seeking to position it as a prime candidate to stage equipment to be used when building offshore wind farms in the New York Bight.

New York area wind farms are expected to begin operations in several years.

Finally, the Port of New York and New Jersey has significantly increased the efficiency of port-based drayage operations by intelligently allocating storage space for the three neutral chassis pools that serve its container terminals, said Val Noel. He is executive vice president, chief operating officer, TRAC Intermodal, which operates one of the pools.

The prime location of the pools’ recently designated chassis storage areas, convenient to the port’s five major container terminals, has improved operations, Noel said.

Ira Breskin
Ira Breskin

Business of Shipping is a column from Ira Breskin, a senior lecturer at State University of New York Maritime College in the Bronx, NY and author of The Business of Shipping (9th edition, 2018), a primer that explains shipping economics, operations and regulations.