Table setting. The Connecticut Port Authority (CPA) is relatively new. The authority wasn’t formed until 2015 and didn’t hire the new port director, Evan Mathews, until September of 2016. So, the process of “table setting” for future projects is still in the stage of finding out what’s in the drawer. It’s no easy task as the CPA’s mandate is far reaching and includes all of Connecticut’s ports, large and small, as well as some inland assets.
The CPA is a little different style port authority than say MASSPORT or Port Authority of New York New Jersey. The quasi-state agency “is more like a state economic development corporation,” Evans explained rather than the traditional models. The main responsibilities for the CPA are marketing the State’s ports, pursuing federal and state funding for dredging and coordinating, planning and implementing capital projects. Port operations are still vested with the local municipalities and companies.
With an authority that covers the entire 100-mile plus coastline, one of the early decisions was to establish a new headquarters (formerly in Hartford) within reasonable reach of the various ports and facilities. Old Saybrook was chosen as the new office location for the CPA - fairly near to the Port New London.
Connecticut’s principal deep-water ports are New London, New Haven and Bridgeport. Nevertheless, 11.4 million tons of freight annually run through Connecticut’s ports with another 4.6 million in freight connected to regional railways. In fact, in many respects because of the central location, the State’s ports like New London and New Haven function like the “break bulk ports” for the Port of New York/ New Jersey or even the Port of Boston.
However, all the State’s deep-water ports have infrastructure issues that need to be addressed for the waterfront assets to reach their full potential.
Since the CPA is largely a facilitator – a project leader - this means finding private companies willing to invest in port projects.
In February, the CPA gave the approval to release a Request for Qualifications (RFQs) for a terminal operating concession at State Pier in New London.
At the time of the announcement the CPA chairman said, “As one of Connecticut’s three deep-water ports, New London can be a catalyst for economic development in the region if properly maintained and marketed.” Currently, New London handles cargoes such as salt, lumber, paper, copper and steel. Because of a solid construction, the pier’s able to handle heavy freight and has on dock rail and an interstate close to the facility. The port also has a significant amount of under-cover warehouse space to enable the handling of weather sensitive freight like steel coils or paper. Salt is also a major import to the facility.
In terms of new opportunities, wind power is at the top of the wish list. And the CPA believes they have the right set of assets as they pointed out at a recent roundtable on wind power, “The Port of New London has the only port between Boston and Norfolk, VA. without restrictions in height or width in its main channel. This allows New London to be an ideal location for receiving shipments of wind turbine parts as well as manufacturing components. Along with the logistical nature of offshore wind in New London, there is also a strong local workforce that is ready to take advantage of the economic opportunities that offshore wind would provide.”
The CPA is also looking to establish an inland intermodal terminal that could capitalize on the State’s road and rail network.
At this stage, there is a great deal of planning still to be done but the table is being set and the opportunities could be bountiful.