By Richard M. Larrabee
Director, Port Commerce Department
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
The Port of New York and New Jersey, much like the nation and our region, has been severely impacted by the unstable economy but as we close out 2011, we are encouraged by positive economic indicators such as real GDP growth of 2.4 percent in the New York-New Jersey region in the third quarter as we continue to invest in job-creating projects that position our port for future growth. Cargo volumes are slowly rising, and we are working hard to maintain our status as the premier port on the East Coast, which now supports more than 279,000 jobs in the New York-New Jersey region and $5.2 billion in economic activity.
Containerized cargo volumes were up 3.9 percent through November, and we anticipate steady growth to continue over the next several years. That is why it’s critical that we look to the future now and make the critical port investments that are necessary not just to accommodate current demand but to also attract new business opportunities, especially as competition among ports for dominance in the global marketplace intensifies.
The Port Authority’s Board approved preliminary plans to invest $345.9 million in the port in 2012 exceeding the $230 million budgeted in 2011. These investments mean the creation of thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in economic activity.
One of our key priorities during the upcoming year will be to greatly improve the port’s internal road network in the New Jersey Marine Terminals, which will make truck movements on and off the port safer, more efficient and environmentally sustainable. Key road projects will begin during the year to upgrade Port Street, Corbin Street and Brewster Road; three critical thoroughfares that were built decades ago at the beginning of containerization, when port traffic was only a fraction of what it is today.
In addition, we will continue our 50-foot channel-deepening project, which will provide larger post-Panamax ships (i.e. – larger than 6,000 TEUs) with the ability to access our port terminals. This project is scheduled to be completed by 2014.
We will continue our ongoing investment in the port’s ExpressRail system, which just hit a milestone by reporting increases in cargo volume handled for 22 consecutive months.
In addition to our public-sector investment, we reached an agreement this past June on a restructured lease with Port Newark Container Terminal that calls for $500 million in private investment at the existing terminal, upgrading it to a state-of-the-art facility. As a part of this agreement, the Port Authority was able to secure Mediterranean Shipping Company, the world’s second largest shipping company, as an anchor tenant, with lease guarantees related to an increased commitment of annual shipping volumes
And we are continuing our initiative to raise the roadway of the Bayonne Bridge to make sure we can accommodate the new, larger ships that want to call the Port of NY & NJ once the Panama Canal improvements are completed in a few years. This project is now in the design stage and will begin construction in the near future.
As we move forward, the investments we make today will pay dividends tomorrow and we strive to maintain our competitive advantage, which is why international shippers continue to make our port their number one choice when making decisions on where their goods will be shipped.
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