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Port Report: New York-New Jersey is big ship ready and cargo hungry

Yang Ming at the Port of New York and New Jersey (Photo: PANYNJ)

As ocean carriers bring in ever-larger container ships to the U.S., the Port of New York and New Jersey says it is ready to handle them.

Last week, the YM World made its first U.S. East Coast port call at Global Container Terminal in Bayonne, New Jersey.

The ultra-large container ship, owned by Taiwan’s Yang Ming, carries the equivalent of 14,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) of marine containers.

Originally part of a vessel service from the Far East to Mediterranean, the YM World was on a service that mostly had ships ranging from 8,000 to 9,000 TEU.

The YM World’s arrival is one of many at New York-New Jersey involving vessels that size since the 2017 raising of the Bayonne Bridge, which allowed for passage of ultra-large container ships.

The YM World also made call at Norfolk, Savannah and Charleston. But New York-New Jersey can currently handle up to nine vessels of similar size at one time, said Nicholas Raspanti, a manager of cargo marketing for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

In comparison, the Port of Savannah said it plans to be able to handle six vessels of 14,000-TEU size by 2024.

The ability to handle more, larger ships makes New York-New Jersey the first port of call for up to 75 percent of vessels coming to the U.S. East Coast.

In addition to serving the local market, the ships are bringing more freight headed for inland markets such as Chicago or the Ohio Valley.

Thanks to the region’s density, 44 million customers can be reached via a four-hour truck trip. With additional rail capacity, another 125 million consumers are within a 36-hour rail trip.

Speaking at a conference hosted by the local chapter of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, Raspanti said the Port of New York and New Jersey is “very appealing to shippers because they can come here first into our network, get on a truck and get out to distribution center or on to rail out to a warehouse before the vessel leaves the port or ties up at another port.”

Loaded imports into New York-New Jersey did see better growth in 2018, growing 8.2 percent to 3.7 million TEU. That compares to overall container volume of 7.2 million, up 7 percent last year.

(Source: PANYNJ)

It’s difficult to tell how much of the inbound volume was discretionary. But Raspanti said New York-New Jersey hopes to attract as much as 5 million TEU annually in discretionary cargo by 2050.

The key to attracting that freight will be the $32 billion the port plans in capital projects through 2027.

One big project is the ExpressRail facility at GCT Bayonne, which is expected to be fully completed in June. With that project, five of New York-New Jersey’s marine terminals will have on- or near-dock rail.

While still primarily a truck port, rail volumes are growing as shippers seek to reach inland markets. Rail lifts account for 18 percent of the inbound cargo, the highest percentage since 2016.  

Total rail lifts hit 646,000 last year at New York-New Jersey. But with capacity for 1.5 million rail lifts, “it keeps us competitive in the discretionary cargo market,” Raspanti said.

He said ongoing projects to maintain and widen improve the 50-foot depth of the Kill Van Kull waterway linking the major terminals to New York Harbor and improve the berthing around the terminals will also be key to keeping up big ship traffic.  

The North Atlantic Marine Highway Alliance, announced in 2018, is another project that could attract more discretionary cargo, Raspanti said.

The project that aims to use barges to move containers to other coastal markets will “better use our waterway network get truck off the road and not beat up this region’s infrastructure.”

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