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July 9 2018

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July 9 2018 | The Journal of Commerce 11 Cover Story www.joc.com A YEAR AFTER the elevated Bayonne Bridge opened, the darkest predic- tions of disruption and delays from mega-ship calls at the Port of New York and New Jersey have not mate- rialized. The port has weathered the bigger ships, an 8 percent increase in cargo volumes, and 18 percent growth in rail lifts in stride. Despite concerns that the intense bursts of cargo exchange triggered by mega-ship calls could stress port resources and systems, the port has seen no notable rise in congestion, truck backups at termi- nal gates, or chassis access problems in the wake of the opening, accord- ing to port truckers, shippers, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the New York Shipping Association (NYSA). The $1.6 billion bridge elevation, which opened June 8, 2017, raised the span from 151 feet to 215 feet, allowing ships of more than 9,500 TEU to reach Maher Terminals, Port Newark Container Terminal (PNCT), Global Container Terminals (GCT) New York, and APM Terminals for the first time. Prior to the bridge raising, ships of that size could only call at GCT Bayonne. Since the elevation, amid healthy US and global economies and strong cargo volume numbers nationwide, the port has seen a near doubling in the number of calls by ships of 10,000 TEU or more. And the port's share of East Coast-loaded cargo, on the decline since 2010, has ticked up, although the port's share of Asian loaded cargo imported to the East Coast continues to slip. The first-year experience prompted an upbeat assessment from port officials. Molly Campbell, port director, called it "a good story, and it's good for the port," saying the port has seen a "continuing cascade of the larger ships." Truckers agree that mega-vessel arrivals appear to have triggered few problems, although some question whether the volume increase has yet to really test the port. "The real issue is we have not seen any major impact," said Jeff Bader, president of the Association of Bi-State Motor Carriers. Although cargo volumes are clearly up and his members are busy, he said, the big ships arriving do not appear to have been loaded to capacity. Port authority figures show that although the size of vessels has increased — the largest to date were 14,414-TEU ships on a monthly CMA CGM rotation from China — the volume of cargo discharged and loaded from the biggest ships has not changed much from the typical volume of an 8,000-TEU or 9,000- TEU ship. In 2017, vessels of 10,000 TEU to 11,000 TEU loaded or unloaded between 45 to 54 percent of their capacity, or between 4,500 TEU and 5,940 TEU, according to port authority figures. In 2018, eight of the top 10 vessel exchanges were on vessels of 13,000 TEU, which handled cargo equal to 46 percent of the capacity, or about 6,000 TEU, port figures show. All of those volumes are below the average figure for an 8,000-TEU to 9,000-TEU ship at the port, which in 2017 loaded or unloaded 75 percent of its capacity, or between 6,000 TEU to 6,750 TEU, port figures show. Don Pisano, president of Amer- ican Coffee Corp., which imports about 2,000 TEU per year, raised concerns about the port's efficiency in the past, but said he has seen little impact from the bridge raising. "Of course, the port's volume has increased overall," he said. "But I have not heard of any significant increase in delays at the terminals. Just the usual daily suffering," he added, referring to sporadic conges- tion and some excessive wait times at terminal gates, depending on the terminal. The director of global logistics at a major retailer said the shipper has seen "positive impact" from the bridge raising, including "quite sig- nificant year-over-year savings" on shipping rates among carriers using bigger ships. "Overall, our local drayage remains fluid, while gate times vary by terminal and by week," the shipper said, adding that the retailer had seen "operational delays" on rail loads to the Ohio Valley. It hasn't been clear, however, if that is related to the arrival of bigger ships. "Peak season will, of course, be very telling, and [will] answer many of the questions," about the port's efficiency, he said. Shutterstock.com

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