The Port of Albany secures a TIGER grant of over $17.6 million for expansion, and the future for project freight at the port has never looked brighter.

New York Senator Charles Schumer personally stumped hard for the Port of Albany’s TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) Grant application. The Port had applied for nearly $18 million in federal funding ($17,629,800 to be exact) as part of an overall project, aptly called ExPort Upstate New York, expected to cost $50 million. With an office in Albany (New York’s state capital), a stone’s throw away from the Hudson River, the Senator had a first hand view of what is at stake for the Port of Albany.

In 2014 and again in 2015, the Port of Albany had applied for a TIGER Grant and was disappointed. This time was different. In late July the Port received official word that the application had resulted in approval of the $17.6 million grant. Senator Charles E. Schumer said at the announcement of the successful TIGER Grant application, “The ship has come in for the Port of Albany and it is loaded with $17 million dollars in federal funds to expand and upgrade operations…”

Senator Charles E. Schumer
Senator Charles E. Schumer

It was indeed a bright day as Rich Hendricks, general manager of the Albany Port District Commission (APDC), which runs the Port, explained not only did they secure the funding but it is the largest grant given in this round to any port in the United States. Project Port Geography

The Port of Albany’s position is an essential feature to the port’s future as a featured project hub. It’s easy to forget that the port’s geography places it 150 miles north up the Hudson River of New York City, surprisingly only 169 miles west-southwest of Boston and even in the case of Montreal, Canada, the distance is only 226 miles south. Given the position inland with rail and highways and the Hudson River, there is great potential for the port to evolve as a project hub. Added to this is the natural cargo base of the region itself, which has a number of industries (like GE, Siemens and Bechtel) that produce project cargo.

Tony Vasil, business development and marketing manager for the Albany APDC told the AJOT, “2015 was an outstanding year (94 ships and barges)” bolstered by General Electric’s large shipment of power generation equipment to Algeria. And the (up) beat continues. According to Vasil, 34 ships and barges were handled in 2015 during the period of January to July, and this year the tally is 37 ships and barges for the same period. As Vasil explained, “We are on a pretty good track [2016]…even though the dollar is up and there are some [business] headwinds.”

The port’s already established itself as a go-to port for EPC companies (engineering, procurement and construction) but with the TIGER grant funding, Albany is about to “ratchet it up” as Hendricks explains with a comprehensive overhaul and expansion of facilities that will benefit companies like GE shipping high and heavy loads.

Game changer: Roll on/Roll Off

Hendricks noted, “We’re trying to make room for big projects with GE. As part of our expansion, we are building a new warehouse on the north end of the facility which will enable us to store 12 of the [GE] stator units [the static portion of electrical generating systems].” The current units are 300-400 tons but the next generation is in the plus 600-ton range.

Currently, major GE industrial products are shipped from Schenectady to Port of Albany via rail for onward shipment. But as the equipment gets larger, the rail option isn’t available. GE has been looking to ship by barge to the port and with the TIGER grant, a solution is in the offering.

The APDC is planning to build a ro/ro berth as part of the replacement work on the oldest section of wharf in the south part of the facility. When finished a barge-docking facility will enable barges to pull in perpendicular to the river to roll-on or roll-off the heavy lift cargo like the stators. This could be a real game changer for the port as it opens up the facility to a host of new shippers and service providers.

The work on the port involves numerous upgrades, some while not as obvious as warehouses are equally important to the task of moving freight within the terminal. For example, the entire outside area in the marine terminal is being paved – most of it is currently gravel or unfinished and uneven surfaces. This will enable the port to shift heavy cargo to and from the wharves.

Future Plans

A bid was submitted by the APDC for the 88 acres of land along the Hudson River in Bethlehem, which was ultimately accepted. Hendricks explained as part of the bid there was a stipulation that the APDC have 8-month due diligence period for $1 which may be extended for 6 months, $20,000 for each 2 month period. The idea is to make sure that the land does not violate any usage infringing on wetlands or other environmental issues.

The “intention is to start from the landside to water with throughput warehousing,” according to Hendricks. The parcel doesn’t have any infrastructure so “we can build from the ground up,” Hendricks added. He also noted that they have a Master Plan they are assembling along with engineering studies of the land. He hopes that they will have companies established on the site within a couple years.