Facilities are poised for 2021 breakbulk spikes

Interruptions in international trade thanks to Trump administration policies and the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic took their toll on the volumes of some commodities handled at the facilities of South Jersey Port Corporation in 2020. But indications point to a nice rebound this year. There have also been swift movements in the development of the wind energy industry in southern New Jersey which will rebound to the benefit of local ports.

South Jersey Port Corporation facilities are best known for their breakbulk capabilities, handling steel, cement, gypsum, wood products, and cocoa beans. Steel volumes handled at SJPC facilities in Camden and Paulsboro plummeted last year, but have already bounced back in 2021. (See Peter Buxbaum’s article SJPC looking for 50% steel jump in early 2021)

Cement tonnage dipped by 5% last year and gypsum by 30%, while wood products saw an increase of 35% in 2020. Cocoa beans was another commodity that did not suffer during 2020 at SJPC, actually more than tripling to 55,803 tons, as compared to the 17,452 tons handled in 2019. Last year’s cocoa numbers received a boost toward the end of the year when 215,000 150-pound sacks of beans were off-loaded from the ship Four Diamonds at the Joseph A. Balzano Marine Terminal in Camden, a facility operated by the SJPC.

Arriving on December 16, the cargo aboard the Four Diamonds meant that the annual flow of cocoa beans from West Africa began a month earlier than usual, pointing the way for another healthy year in 2021. The West African import season will run through April, to be followed by several months of imports of cocoa beans from Central American growers.

The tonnage handled in 2020 made Camden “the premier cocoa bean import terminal on the East Coast,” according to Andy Saporito, CEO and executive director of SJPC. The beans off-loaded in Camden head for final processing at regionally-based confectionary companies such as Hershey and Blommer, which are headquartered in Pennsylvania, and Mars, which is based in New Jersey.

Andy Saporito, CEO of SJPC
Andy Saporito, CEO of SJPC

The breakbulk beans handled at the South Jersey port make the logistics process “far more efficient than containerized beans,” said Jeff Wheeler, president of the Camden International Commodity Terminal. “We eliminate that additional step of loading and unloading millions of bags of beans from containers, both here and at the source.

“Cocoa bean inventories in the U.S. are comparatively low and need to be replenished,” Wheeler added. “As consumption ticks up, so will the need for more imports.”

Offshore Wind Offers Boost

Developments involving the offshore wind industry in southern New Jersey are moving rapidly. Only a few months after Governor Phil Murphy announced a plan in June 2020 to build a wind port on an artificial island in the Delaware River, came another announcement in December heralding a $250 million investment in a wind-related manufacturing facility in…

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