NEW YORK PORTS - The Port of New York and New Jersey’s continuing capacity crunch

By: | at 08:00 PM | Channel(s): Ports & Terminals  

Efficiency and productivity key to handling growing volumesBy Peter A. Buxbaum, AJOTIt is the perennial problem faced by the port of New York and New Jersey: how to accommodate strong cargo growth in a region with little opportunity for waterfront expansion.
The rate of cargo growth at the port moderated to four percent last year, down from seven percent to 10% growth rates in recent years, while volumes continued to set records. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey expects cargo growth rates averaging seven percent per year for the next 10 years, according to Richard Larrabee, the director of port commerce, and that means continuing to hunt for ways to expand capacity.
In recent years, the Port Authority embarked on a plan to reconfigure the port’s terminal capacity by rationalizing facilities, making them more efficient, and expanding container handling, staging, and storing capabilities. That project is now almost complete.
The focus now has shifted to other ways to enhance capacity: investments in technology which improve operational efficiency, enhancing on-dock rail facilities to promote more seamless cargo movements, and relocating distribution facilities off port, in order to make room for more maritime terminal operations.
“We will see continued investments in new technologies and equipment that will increase the productivity of terminal operations at the port,” said Larrabee, in an exclusive interview with the AJOT.
Operations at terminals such as the Port Newark Container Terminal in New Jersey and the Howland Hook Marine Terminal on New York’s Staten Island have seen productivity in the last eight years double from 1,300 containers per acre per year to over 2,600. “Over the next ten years, productivity could increase to 4,500 and 5,000 containers per acre per year,” said Larrabee. “That will add substantially to our piers’ ability to handle more cargo.”
Another productivity boost could come in the from expanding terminal gate hours. “We have seen a willingness on the part of terminal operators to do this when it makes sense,” said Larrabee.
An effort at Maher Terminals to expand weekend gate hours last year did not attract sufficient business and was curtailed, Larrabee related, while Howland Hook recently announced it would keep its gate open until 9 PM during the week. “We hope the trucking community takes advantage of this,” he said. “It makes sense a lot of sense and it is useful to all the port’s stakeholders.”
The Port Authority is in the process of investing $600 million to expand rail capacity at the port, a project that is scheduled to be completed by 2012. Part of that project includes building additional storage track for breaking down and building trains.
“By early next year we expect rail capacity to be increased to 950,000 lifts,” said Larrabee. “Even during the current economic downturn, rail business continues to grow and continues to break records on a monthly basis. Clearly it is becoming the mode of choice for moving discretionary cargo.”
The port continues to serve primarily a local market. Eighty percent of cargo offloaded at the port is delivered to destinations within 150 miles from the port for which delivery by rail is not cost effective. “If we get to 25% rail moves we would consider that a success,” Larrabee said.
Local markets are served by over-the-road moves, and local roadways will be enhanced with a $400 million capital infusion from the Port Authority over the next ten years. Related to that project is the concept of moving distribution facilities away from the immediate port area in order to make room for additional terminal capacity. Such a scheme would require, among other things, roadway enhancements in order to accommodate the additional moves from port to warehouse.
The Liberty Cargo Project, pushed by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and funded at the level of $88 million in the most recent Congressional surface transportation bill, attempts to address this issue by attempting to expand e

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Peter Buxbaum has been writing about international trade and transportation, as well as security, defense, technology, and foreign policy, for over 20 years. Besides contributing to the AJOT, Buxbaum's work has appeared in such leading publications as [em]Fortune, Forbes, Chief Executive, Computerworld, and Jane's Defence Weekly[/em]. He was educated at Columbia University.