Infrastructure remains a challenge for ship lines, says Juergen Pump, senior vice president of Hamburg Sud North America.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced last month it has decided to raise the Bayonne Bridge's roadway to increase the bridge's 151-foot clearance for ships to 215 feet, but with engineering work yet to be started the project won't be completed until years after the opening of larger locks at the Panama Canal. Pump said linking the bridge raising with the canal expansion is "misleading" because the bridge's clearance is already an impediment to commerce.
None of the Hamburg Sud's approximately 25 post-Panamax ships can fit under the Bayonne Bridge in the Port of New York and New Jersey, Pump said. Hamburg Sud's ships, some with capacities up to 7,200 20-foot equivalent units, call at Global Terminal in Bayonne, N.J., which is accessible without going under the bridge. "Otherwise we would be in serious trouble in New York," he said.
Pump made his remarks as he received the "Person of the Year" award from the New York and New Jersey Foreign Freight Forwarders and Brokers Association at the association's 94th annual dinner, held Jan. 26 in New York City.
Infrastructure also is a problem in Brazil, where Hamburg Sud is the largest carrier. Pump said congestion at Santos, the nation's principal port, requires ships to wait an average of two to three days for berths, and cargo discharged from vessels requires an average of 10 days to clear through terminals. He said it's even worse in Venezuela, where cargo clearance averages 20 days.
Despite the problems, Pump said Brazil is a vibrant market whose GDP expanded last year at 7.5 percent, three times the growth rate of the U.S. economy, and is expected to grow at a 5 percent rate this year. He also said current efforts to boost U.S. exports will help Hamburg Sud, which unlike most major carriers handles more U.S. exports than imports. "We live or die with U.S. exports," he said. "We and exports are like Siamese twins."
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