Issue 8 2019 - FBJNA


FBJNA’s East Coast Roundup By Peter Buxbaum, John Jeter and Karen E. Thuermer

West Coast ports have traditional reigned when it comes to North American cargo volumes. But changes are occurring that give East Coast ports new advantages and a better alternative to many shippers. For one, while traditionally

it’s been faster to import goods originating from Asia to North America via West Coast ports then rail inland; trends and figures over the past decade show that East Coast ports are beginning to give the West Coast ports a run for their money. Helping that fact is the

Panama Canal expansion in 2016 plus mega investments key East Coast ports have been making in dredging,

Southeast Asia and the India subcontinent via the Suez Canal as a result of US-China trade conflicts. To stay current, here’s a

roundup of what’s happening at most East Coast ports.

Port of NY/NJ

The Port of New York and New Jersey is experiencing record cargo growth. Having surpassed the Port of Long Beach, it’s now in

the nation’s number-two

container port. NYNJ handled a record 3,041,814 TEUs during the first five months of 2019. Container volumes will


expansions, new and faster cranes, and inland connections. While not all East Coast ports are big ship ready, some are now capable of handling the larger ships and volumes


through the Panama Canal. Consequently, numerous

East Coast ports are hitting cargo growth records. These ports are also benefiting from more trade beginning to flow from

double or triple over the next 30 years—requiring the development of further container capacity at the port— and that is where NYNJ runs into a challenge. The container terminals in Ports Newark and Elizabeth, combined with Howland Hook, on Staten Island, represent as much as 90 percent of port container capacity. All of these are accessed via the Kill Van Kull, a narrow strait separating Bayonne, N.J., and

Staten Island, which has sailing restrictions for large vessels. With that in mind, the Port

Authority released its latest 30-year master plan over the summer. The master


“process has revealed the heightened criticality of the Kill Van Kull to the port’s ability to handle increasing throughput and increasing vessel size,” the document said. Translation: given the massive investments already made in this capacity, including significant intermodal rail facilities, the port is stuck with relying on these facilities to handle future NYNJ container volumes. In a nutshell, the master

plan envisions optimizing the operations of existing facilities, whose current capacity of 9 million TEU per year will be reached as soon as 10 years from now. The Port Authority will help by embarking on road improvements, increasing the capacity and efficiency of the ExpressRail intermodal system, and promoting technology implementations, such as using EZPass or GPS reader

technology, to facilitate data interchange. But terminal operators will

have to do their part as well. They, as the master plan says, “will need to invest in yard densification, berth expansions, and enhanced gate access projects, together with increased operating hours, to stay ahead of demand.”


port, which marks five

consecutive years of record- breaking growth,” reports Mike Meyran, Acting Port Director. Meyran attributed this growth

to increased demand from both importers and exporters who utilize MassPort’s congestion- free terminal that described as “convenient and reliable to conduct global trade.” “Over 2,500 businesses

utilize the Port of Boston today, contributing to the port’s $8.2 billion in annual economic

if this pattern continues ahead of tariffs announced to go into effect later this year,” Meyran says. Primary commodities

handled by the port include furniture, home décor, wine and spirits, recycled fibers, metal scrap, hides, and seafood. Three weekly services call the port, serviced by nine of the world’s largest shipping lines. “We have a direct service from

North Europe and two direct services from Asia,” he says. Massport is

investing Aerial view of Port of Halifax. (Photo by Steve Farmer.) Massport

Massachusetts Port Authority’s (Massport) Port of Boston saw YTD 2019 cargo volumes up 3% vs. the same time period in 2018. “We finished our fiscal year with over 307,000 TEUs through

impact,” says Meyran. The port saw an increase in

import cargo in Q4 2018. Like other ports, Boston experienced a fair amount of


prior to the January 1, 2019 tariffs going into effect. “We will continue to monitor the global trade outlook and see

in waterside and landside infrastructure to keep Conley Terminal competitive. “Our goal is to be big-ship ready to handle the larger ships transiting the Suez and Panama Canals,” Meyran says. “Aſter our infrastructure buildout is complete, we should be efficiently handling vessels in the 12,000-14,000 TEU range.” Massport is also working in partnership with the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on the $350 million Boston Harbor Dredging Project, which began in July 2018. Currently, that project is 60% complete with 7 million cubic yards removed to date. The project will dredge

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