(Editor’s note: The following is excepted from a letter written to the AJOT by Ralph S. Irwin, vice-president, general Manager, Westchester Motor Lines, New Haven CT.)
As more 4th generation container vessels sail, it is no industry secret that the operational directive of the day will be to spend the least amount of time in the least number of ports. It is a trend that will gradually expand the number of feeder ports, off dock CY locations and landbridge terminals, more transshipping and a trend toward less time-defined service. Reliable, not precise delivery will remain prevalent. A greater emphasis toward real-time information will be paramount as a container transverses multiple modes. A customer will continue to still want more and will be willing to pay less for it.
Where will these trends leave the Port of Boston, or for that matter, any non-load port.? What impact will these changes usher in to a marketplace everyone has worked so hard to preserve? Some direct calls may remain. For containers that bypass Boston, there are a few options to get them back to New England.
Rail service from New York currently exists. But will rail service crossing the Hudson River via Selkirk, NY be able to handle peak season MLB traffic and Boston B/L traffic simultaneously? Over the road trucking remains the most known and reliable method for time-sensitive moves. New York terminal congestion, chassis shortages, spiraling fuel costs, planned changes in hours of service and driver shortages will impact capacity at times. Nevertheless, are there enough drivers to truck another 500 - 600 containers on a weekly basis over I-95, a highway that is already too prone to accidents and countless construction delays? There is the weekly service from Halifax that may be expanded. There is also the barge service from New York to Boston. In days past, ships used to regularly ply the route from New York and call Bridgeport, New Haven, Providence, Rl, and then on to the Port of Boston.
Perhaps having the barge call New Haven again could be an alternative to the congestion? Why? With a three barge rotation, containers moving via barge on a Boston B/L would see transit time improve. It would also create a viable alternative. A growing percentage of containers that move between the expediency of over-the-road truck and time constraints of waiting for a barge to arrive in Boston could be discharged in New Haven. They could be delivered into New England by local truck service. The steam time from New York into New Haven is 10 hours along the protected shores of Long Island Sound. Via New Haven would alleviate delays caused by congestion in New York while cutting out the most difficult leg of the trip on I-95. It allows New England truckers to utilize one driver to turn two containers per day back to their local terminals vs. a 12-13 hour day to and from New York. There isn’t any trucker who will disagree that a chief concern is having enough skilled drivers, let alone drivers who can be coaxed into going to New York. So who is going to move the loads? The barge service is the alternative that mixes and matches modes that capitalizes on New Haven’s strategic position in the New York-Boston corridor.
New Haven is situated at the junctions of I-91 & I-95 in between New York and Boston. On land, the plan to restore barge service calls for an adjacent container yard operation. It is situated on the good side of the “Q” Bridge, on close to 15 acres, less than a 1/2 mile from on-off ramps. The plan is to be open 24-hours-a-day, five-days a week, with lift-on lift-off, on site M&R capabilities, a US Custom’s Bonded CY & CFS, steamship line pools, flat bed, tri-axle and chassis on hire availability, operated by New England based truckers. The objective is to provide turn times at an accessible terminal that all New England truckers can live with.
These types of feeder operations are an alternative. They are no substitute for customers who perceive seeing a container handled once at their favored port. This concept is approaching extincti