General Business

Increasing Cargo Volumes Means Greater Port Investments

The Port of New York and New Jersey is moving forward with infrastructure projects to meet the region’s growing demands.

More than a century after New York and New Jersey joined forces to develop the ports of the Hudson and East rivers, this East Coast port region remains one of the world’s largest and most important cargo hubs. Situated in the middle of the leading US consumer market, the Port of New York and New Jersey moves more than $200 billion worth of cargo annually and is responsible for about 830,000 direct and supporting jobs in Tri-State region. And, with activity only promising to double – or even triple – in the next quarter century, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) is moving forward with critical infrastructure projects to pave the way for record cargo volumes.

“The Port of New York and New Jersey is the East Coast’s busiest port and one of the top three busiest in the country, as partners across the supply chain recognize the moves we’ve made to stay ahead of the curve on efficiency and reliability,” says Port Director Bethann Rooney. “After a record-breaking 2022, we’re making enhancements to our ship, truck, and rail networks as we position ourselves to absorb even more cargo traffic in the years to come.”

These enhancements are being done in accordance with the Port Master Plan 2050, a comprehensive blueprint released by the PANYNJ in 2019. First is the Port Street Corridor Improvement Project, which will modernize one of two main highway interchanges leading into the Port Newark–Elizabeth Port Authority Marine Terminals complex at an estimated cost of $220 million. The project, expected to be completed in 2028, is designed to provide a safer, more efficient route for about 70,000 trucks that serve the complex weekly, reducing serious crashes and saving an estimated 700,000 hours of travel time for vehicles using the northern entrance during its first year of operation.

Second is the Southbound Connector, which will correct the problem of trains only being able to exit to the right from the port’s four on-dock rail terminals. An additional outlet will be added for the complex’s freight rail network to allow trains from the ExpressRail Elizabeth Terminal to turn left and head south, increasing capacity and flexibility for the port’s on-dock system and potentially boosting daily train trips from 8 to 14. This project, which received a $6 million grant from the New Jersey Department of Transportation, is expected to be completed in 2025.

Additionally, in line with what Rooney calls the port’s “aggressive climate and sustainability goals,” the agency is installing four direct current (DC) fast chargers at its Port Newark Information Center, so electric trucks can get an “opportunity charge” before leaving the area to deliver containers to final customers. The PANYNJ also continues working with marine terminal operators and other partners to transition to electric material handling equipment where possible – with 89 of 91 ship-to-shore and rail-mounted gantry cranes across the New York-New Jersey port complex now being fully electric.

COVID-19 and Supply Chain Disruptions

While all US ports suffered from supply chain issues due to COVID-19, Rooney says the PANYNJ benefited from significant capital investments made before the pandemic, including dredging the port’s navigational channels to 50 feet (2016) in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and raising the roadway of the Bayonne Bridge (2017) to allow port access for the world’s largest container vessels. Also helpful was teamwork facilitated through the Council on Port Performance, which gathers all partners across the supply chain together for regular meetings to allow port stakeholders to “maximize visibility, efficiency, and reliability through constant communication,” according to Rooney.

“Thanks to this deep level of collaboration, the port largely avoided the major issues and backups seen at other US ports during the pandemic,” she says. “Last year brought record activity to the Port of New York and New Jersey as it leapfrogged over West Coast ports to lead the country in cargo volume during the peak shipping period ahead of the holidays.”

According to John Nardi, president of the Shipping Association of New York & New Jersey, global supply chain disruptions have been reduced considerably, as volumes have returned to pre-COVID 2019 levels. Warehouses have enough room to handle current freight levels; truckers have excess capacity and surplus chassis; and the over ordering of goods during the pandemic has resulted in a working down of inventories rather than growth from new orders.

“The lack of supply chain capacity during the COVID volume surge caused container dwell times on the marine terminals to triple in some cases, which severely reduced available capacity at the terminals as the freight did not move,” he says. “This has all been cleared up.”

Other Port-Related Efforts

In addition, the port is partnering with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to deepen federal waterways around the port from 50 to 55 feet, as well as widen several key channels to improve safety and efficiency for arriving vessels while allowing the port to welcome larger container ships. These projects are expected to take 15 years to complete once funding is appropriated and construction begins.

The Port Authority’s private-sector partners also continue to make significant investments, such as new wharf infrastructure, additional ship-to-shore cranes and yard handling equipment, and technology to speed transaction time and move goods efficiently.

One of these is APM Terminals Elizabeth, which has invested more than $200 million in recent years to improve its operational strategy and customer experience. In addition to modernizing IT systems and installing new truck gates, APMT has invested in 10 ZPMC Super-Post Panamax ship-to-shore (STS) cranes to replace older STS cranes. The first four cranes arrived in 2018 and two new cranes were delivered in September, with the remaining four expected by the first quarter of 2025.

“These larger cranes are needed as we expect an increase in the amount of ultra-large container vessels (ULCVs) calling on the Port of New York and New Jersey. More ULCVs require terminals to be equipped with larger cranes to work them safely and efficiently,” says Giovanni Antonuccio, APMT’s director of customer engagement. “We expect these larger vessels to carry more volume to the port on fewer vessels as they can collectively carry more goods on a single port call.”

To access more business news, visit NJB News Now.

Related Articles: