GCT's Edwards sees expansion for New York, Vancouver
With two container terminals on the East Coast of North America and two terminals on the West Coast, Stephen Edwards, recently appointed President and CEO of Global Container Terminals (GCT), has as comprehensive an understanding of North America's container industry as anyone in the U.S. or Canada. And, his predictions for the box business are for modest growth next year and expansion beyond 2013. Based in Vancouver, Canada, he is responsible for four terminals including Canada's largest and busiest container terminal, Deltaport, Vancouver and New York harbor's largest capacity terminal, New York Container Terminal (NYCT).
By Leo Quigley, AJOT
GCT runs two U.S. box terminals, New York Container Terminal (NYCT) near the Goethals Bridge and Global Terminal (GT) located in Bayonne, New Jersey.
Global Container Terminal at NYCT.
Global Terminals on the Upper New York Bay provides ships with a four-hour reduction in travelling time compared to terminals in Port Newark or Elizabeth. At present the terminal is undergoing a technology conversion that will make it a semi-automated facility with a 70-acre increase in terminal capacity.
The business of moving containers is no stranger to Edwards. Having served as President and CEO of Ports America for three years and with the P&O Group for 17 years he is recognized as someone in the shipping industry who is experienced both in acquisitions and mergers and turning businesses around.
In spite of today’s global economic problems, Edwards is convinced the container trade, particularly in North America, can only grow and, if anything, the major challenge terminal operators will face will be building sufficient capacity to handle future business efficiently.
Stephen Edwards – President & CEO of GCT
In an exclusive interview with the AJOT, Edwards said GCT, owned by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP), is expecting moderate growth in the New York region next year.
“Most forecasters,” he said, “are predicting anything in the three percent to five percent range.” “I think we will continue to see – for the non-Panama trade – shipping lines increase the size of ships deployed. This will enhance cost/benefits so we will continue to see some scaling up of ships and of certain cargoes on those trade routes. However, the Panama trade will continue to be constrained by the canal until the expansion is finished.”
Discussing the widening of the canal Edwards said he feel GCT’s two East Coast terminals will be prepared for the larger vessels that are expected to result from the expansion.
“I think we have to realize that the cargo that comes through the Panama Canal to the East Coast of the United States today is more than 95% for the immediate Eastern Seaboard and that will continue to be the case once the Panama Canal has been widened,” he said. “The size of the ships will change and the speed of that change will be decided by the shipping lines, but the cargo itself will largely be coming to the Eastern Seaboard and New York/ New Jersey is the largest port on the Eastern Seaboard.
“So we don’t expect to see huge competition for Gateway freight on the Panama trade because so much of the cargo is serving the local market,” he said.
One thing that has impressed Edwards about the company’s two Vancouver terminals has been the level of co-operation he’s experienced between terminal management, the port authority, railways and government.
Aerial view of Global Container Terminal at Vanterm.
“You can see a real partnership working to promote the Gateway (Asia Pacific Gateway) and to make the Gateway efficient,” he said.
“We can see it in the dwell times being lower, which means faster deliveries, and we can see greater certainty in the deliveries; so the predictability of the Gateway, the certainty of the Gateway and the efficiency of the Gateway are all improving,” he said.
The major difference between Canada and the U.S., according to Edwards, is the fact that Canada seems to have “a more aligned transportation strategy.”
“The port authorities in the United States are working within their own jurisdictions whereas in Canada you’ll see the ports bringing in the federal government. So, the Gateway strategy in Canada - or the national transportation strategy - is more aligned nationally whereas in the U.S., I think everybody would agree, it’s more state-by-state and port-by-port,” he noted.
Edwards agrees with those who believe North America’s container trade will grow over the long term, although the timing and amount of the growth will vary according to global economic conditions.
While participants in the logistics chain serving Port Metro Vancouver have made impressive strides in improving the level of coordination, Edwards said there are still improvements to be made on the trucking side of the equation.
“The trucking side has fallen a little behind,” he said. “We now have to do the same thing to improve the local market situation.”
“That’s the same for all the four (Vancouver) terminals. It’s recognized by us, and it’s recognized by the port that we need a much more engaging dialogue with the trucking community.”
“In 2013 there’s an immediate need to improve the overall service and the overall partnership with the trucking community, the port and the terminal operators.”
There is still capacity to be gained in Vancouver market, he said. The immediate issues in 2013 will be to determine the best way to operate gates, the best times to operate gates and gaining the best possible efficiency through terminal gates, he said.
From 2013 and going forward the issues will be: “The continued growth of the Gateway – there is still capacity today in the Vancouver market to be utilized and to get the best out of the Gateway, he said. “As ship sizes increase and continue to increase it will put pressure on certain times of the week, or certain days of the week, but it won’t put pressure on the whole Gateway if it’s widely used.”
“I think everybody understands that to maximize rail delivery it’s best to spread the load over seven days a week and not two or three days.”