Thursday, July 14, 2016

Largest ship ever to dock in NJ is a sign of the future

The largest ship ever to call at the Port of New York and New Jersey docked this week after sailing from China through the newly widened Panama Canal.

Paul Berger reports for The Record

The arrival of the MOL Benefactor at Bayonne’s Global Container Terminals marks the beginning of what promises to be a succession of progressively larger ships calling at the busiest port on the East Coast.

Standing on the dock Friday with the ship looming behind him, Global’s president, John Atkins, said larger ships are more efficient, making goods cheaper and marking “a win for the consumer, for business owners and our local economy.”

Bethann Rooney, assistant director of port commerce for the Port Authority, said: “Whether you are buying a car or going to Wal-Mart or Home Depot this weekend, there are costs passed on to the consumer for shipping.”

The new Panama Canal opened June 26, offering passage to ships able to carry more than twice as many containers as before. The arrival of these super ships in the New York area is crucial for container ports along the East Coast as well as for the businesses and consumers who rely upon them.

But the port faces major challenges to accommodate its new oversized visitors, which measure up to 1,200 feet long and 160 feet wide.

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The bi-state agency has invested $6 billion dredging harbor channels, expanding roadways and adding rail capacity to accommodate these enormous vessels and their cargo. Terminal operators like Global have invested hundreds of millions of dollars more in special cranes and other dockside facilities.

But because of delays to the $1.3 billion project to raise the Bayonne Bridge, which spans the waterway between Bayonne and Staten Island, the new class of ships still cannot reach two of the port’s major container terminals at Newark and Elizabeth.

Shipping companies won’t send their largest ships to the Eastern seaboard unless they can call at New York and New Jersey, which lies within 250 miles of 15 percent of the U.S. population, said Walter Kemmsies an economist and ports expert at investment management company Jones Lang LaSalle.

“New York is the must-call port,” Kemmsies said.

Following the widening of the canal, Maersk Line, a leading global shipping company with offices in Madison, hopes to expand its Asia to U.S. East Coast routes. But a spokeswoman said that because Maersk uses terminals at Newark and Elizabeth the company will wait until the Bayonne Bridge has been raised before beginning those services.

Currently, some smaller ships sail within feet of the bridge roadway. The Port Authority project to raise the roadway from 151 to 215 feet should have been completed around now. But it has been delayed by more than one year and is currently estimated to be ready in late 2017, missing the shipping industry’s third-quarter peak season when stores stock up for the holidays.

A longer-term concern is whether the port can cope with the large number of trucks needed to service the thousands of additional containers delivered by each ship. The average ship calling at the port last year had a capacity of about 3,000 containers. The MOL Benefactor’s capacity is about 6,000.

In the coming years, the port expects to welcome ships too big even for the widened Panama Canal — they will come through the Suez Canal — with a capacity of between 8,200 and 10,500 containers.

Read the full story here

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