The longtime busiest containerport on North America’s Atlantic Coast, the Port of New York and New Jersey is on a record pace this year and, with major enhancements recently completed and collaboratively in the works, is poised to deliver as the U.S. East Coast gateway of choice for decades to come.
Molly Campbell, director of the Port of New York and New Jersey, and Sam Ruda, the port’s deputy director, in sharing enthusiasm in a late September interview with AJOT, pointed to the raising of the Bayonne Bridge roadbed plus the deepening of harbor areas to 50 feet as key recent developments, while a new master plan bodes to chart the future course.
“I really can’t complain as to where we are today,” said Campbell, formerly deputy executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, now in her third year at the helm at the Port of New York and New Jersey. “As I sit here today, we’re looking at record volumes coming through the port. A lot of it has to do with the economy doing well. But it also has to do with the strength of this gateway. “If anything, this gateway has grown in terms of its strength and its attraction to the supply chain and to business,” Campbell continued, “so it’s an exciting place to be. And I think we have more upside as a result.
“So, as we tackle one thing, where we complete the channel deepening, we complete the raising of the roadway, we are working on infrastructure improvements in terms of moving the cargo,” she said, “I think for the future, as we’re thoroughly in a growth mode, we need to think through what we can and should do to continue to make sure, even in more challenging times, that this port is doing what it can to continue to attract cargo.
“I’m excited about the future and what it holds,” Campbell said. “One of the things I love about this organization and this port complex is all of the partners work well together in trying to figure out the solutions, and that’s been very positive.”
The $1.6 billion 50-foot-harbor project was completed in late summer 2016 in conjunction with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, while the $1.3 billion raising of the Bayonne Bridge clearance was celebrated about a year later, on Sept. 7, as CMA CGM’s T. Roosevelt, with a capacity of 14,414 twenty-foot-equivalent units, passed beneath.
In August, the Port of New York and New Jersey set an all-time monthly record for containerized cargo volume, with 631,404 TEUs handled, soaring past the previous record month total of 588,918 TEUs logged in July 2015. Through August, the port has seen more than 4.4 million TEUs of containerized cargo move across its docks in the current calendar year, not only 6.7 percent ahead of the total at the similar juncture a year earlier but, with four months to go, also on pace to eclipse the annual record to date of nearly 6.4 million TEUs set in 2015. The only busier U.S. containerports are the Southern California gateways of Los Angeles and Long Beach, respectively handling more than 8.8 million TEUs and almost 6.8 million TEUs in 2016.
Campbell pointed out that, with the raised Bayonne Bridge roadbed, the New York-New Jersey port now can handle containerships with a capacity of as many as 18,000 twenty-foot-equivalent units, including those coming via the Suez Canal, in addition to those in the 14,000-TEU range transiting the expanded Panama Canal.
Indeed, according to Campbell, that translates to gains for major containerports all along the U.S. East Coast.
“The ships have two routes by which to transit here,” she said, “and I quite frankly think that the rest of our port community that shares the supply chain route from the Panama Canal to the southern ports – Norfolk, Savannah and Charleston – also benefit. The region as a whole and the country as a whole, I think, benefit from this project being completed.”
Another bridge project – to replace the Goethals Bridge that spans the Arthur Kill just below the GCT New York container terminal at Howland Hook on Staten Island – is part of the port’s current $4 billion-plus capital program. That bridge endeavor is projected for completion in 2019.
Hard and soft infrastructure enhancements by both public and private sectors are advancing the Port of New York and New Jersey, according to Campbell.
For example, the Port Newark Container Terminal and APM Terminals’ facility in Elizabeth, New Jersey, are heavily investing in improvements to gate complexes and wharf infrastructure, including more and larger cranes, to better handle the big volumes of boxes coming off the megacontainerships.
“More of a soft thing is making sure we’re more responsive to the needs of the trucking community,” she said, noting that GCT Bayonne, in Jersey City, has been very successful in improving turn times with its pilot of a truck appointment system. “Our hope is that, as they complete their pilot, other terminals will also pick that up.”
Campbell said truckers typically are getting in and out of the terminal within 45 minutes and are now often able to complete three or four turns per day compared with one or two in the recent past.
Ruda interjected that he anticipates that truck appointment systems are likely to soon be introduced as well at facilities such as Port Newark and APM Terminals Elizabeth in conjunction with gate complex reconfigurations.
Rail enhancements are under way, too, including moving forward toward projected mid-2018 completion, in collaboration with GCT USA, of an ExpressRail intermodal container transfer facility adjacent to GCT Bayonne. The ICTF augurs to further efficient links with inland destinations via Norfolk Southern and CSX trains. Future undertakings are expected to be outlined in the comprehensive master plan upon which Hatch Associates Consultants Inc. embarked in fall 2016.
“It’s exciting,” Campbell said of the master plan, which is expected to be completed in early 2018. “I think we have an opportunity to really look to our future and figure out how we want to set it out.”
Ruda noted that the plan is taking a 30-year view related to the more than 3,000 acres of cargo facilities under the port’s jurisdiction.
“We’re starting to really get into the meat of the plan,” he said, “looking at a number of scenarios, land use scenarios, highest-and-best-use scenarios, but also evaluating long-term growth in capacity and what that means in terms of decisions and the planning now and over time.”
Both Campbell and Ruda cited the importance of the bistate landlord port’s substantial stakeholder outreach and engagement in the plan’s development.
“This has really been a broad outreach in terms of the stakeholder input and collaboration, doing a tremendous amount of listening,” Campbell said. “I think the success of the plan really is determined quite frankly by people at least feeling heard and, as we carve it out, to incorporate some of their feedback.”
The port’s development continues to center around four strategic pillars of increasing productivity, improving infrastructure, enhancing revenues and doing so in a sustainable way.
“Those are all goals that are completely applicable today,” Campbell said. “The challenge is doing so in a manner that is sustainable or green, and I think that there we need to do a little bit more. One of the things we’re looking at is the success in terms of our Clean Air Action Plan and what we have done and what more we could and should and can do.”
Port staff, she said, is taking a closer look at a number of environmental initiatives, from the clean trucks program to vessel- and cargo-handling equipment to potentially providing shoreside power for berthed cargo vessels (in addition to such plug-in capability now available at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal).
“The increasing productivity is absolutely necessary for this gateway,” Campbell added, citing collaboration with stakeholder partners in efforts such as the truck appointment systems and infrastructure advances.
“Quite frankly, if we’re doing those things well,” she said, “we should be enhancing our revenues and our volumes, because then the cargo has every reason to flow here.”
Ruda said that, while the container side tends to capture the headlines, the Port of New York and New Jersey is enjoying cruise growth and realizing strong volumes in vehicles handled.
Through August, the number of automobiles handled at Port of New York and New Jersey terminals was up nearly 12 percent on a year-over-year basis compared with calendar 2016.
“One of my observations when we were out on the water for the Teddy Roosevelt celebration was just looking in awe at the harbor and all the maritime activity,” Ruda said. “It is a busy, busy port.”
Campbell added, “Everyone plays a role, and we couldn’t do all of this without all of our port partners, and I know I’m going to miss someone, but our terminal operators, the labor, the truckers, the carriers, the people who inspect our cargo and support the growth of our facilities. Not one group can do it without the other to make the port successful.”