Ports along the Eastern Seaboard are putting money where their hopes are, investing in projects for better landside access by road and rail in an effort to compete for discretionary cargo. The biggest investments are in intermodal rail terminals and in tracks that can speed access to port terminals.
After investing $450 million to build ExpressRail on-dock rail terminals at four of its biggest container terminals in New Jersey and on Staten Island, the Port of New York and New Jersey authorized another $100 million in capital spending on rail operations that grew at double the rate of the port’s overall container volume.
This year, the port is building an intermodal rail terminal at Greenville Yards between Bayonne and Jersey City that will provide on-dock rail service by the end of 2014 to Global Terminal, which is being expanded into one continuous facility of 200 acres on the adjacent land where the North East Auto Marine Terminal operated.
Being built in two phases, the new rail terminal will have a capacity of 125,000 lifts per year at the completion of Phase 1 and 225,000 lifts per year in Phase 2.
The Port of New York and New Jersey hopes to boost the share of containers shipped by rail to 20 percent from its current 13 percent, as ExpressRail capacity grows from the current capacity of 1.1 million lifts per year to 1.5 million to 1.6 million lifts per year.
Rail lifts, including empties, expanded 11.2 percent year-over-year at New York-New Jersey in the first 11 months of 2011, well beyond the 5 percent increase in loaded container volume. The 39,112 lifts in March marked a single-month record for the port.
To the south, the Port of Baltimore has major intermodal connections in development.
CSX plans to build a new rail terminal on the other side of Howard Street Tunnel from the Port of Baltimore’s Seagirt terminal. CSX wants to run single-stack trains from Seagirt through the Howard Street Tunnel to the new terminal and load containers on double-stack trains bound for the new CSX rail ramp in Ohio where they will be stripped and loaded onto trains bound for their eventual destination.
“The idea is to marry up all of the freight here without worrying about its eventual destination. That means quick transit time, because they won’t sort it here,” said Jim White, executive director of the Maryland Port Administration.
Virginia Port Authority is focusing on the land side — its berths and ship channel are already 50-foot deep — where CSX and Norfolk Southern have completed several projects that extend the port’s rail reach into the mid-South and the Midwest.
Last year, NS started double-stack service to Greensboro, N.C., and the railroad already has gained business from six ocean carriers. The service, which connects with Norfolk International Terminals and APM Terminals Portsmouth through a linkup with trains at NS’s main north-south trunk line at Lynchburg, Va., expands the market for NS’s ocean services into the Southeast.
CSX started its new service to APMT Portsmouth in January. The VPA expects the service to generate a significant increase in export containers as a result of service Mediterranean Shipping Co. started this month on its Golden Gate Service from Asia via the Suez. MSC ships will make a double call at APMT Portsmouth — inbound and outbound.
The VPA is also completing work on a second rail track to APMT Portsmouth that will enable the rail terminal there to accommodate inbound and outbound trains simultaneously.
Savannah, which has two ondock rail terminals at its single-gate Garden City Terminal, is working on expanding those facilities and improving rail access by eliminating at-grade rail crossings outside the terminal. It is taking delivery of 20 new rubber-tire gantry cranes this year and four new super post-Panamax ship-to-shore cranes.
“Then the final big ticket item is we will be adding 20 additional refrigerated racks, which will accommodate 460 reefers at one time,” said Curtis Foltz, the GPA’s executive director.
Charleston has no on-dock rail at its Wando Welch Terminal or its North Charleston terminal, but is launching a pilot “virtual on-dock rail” with three carriers.
The port will coordinate truck drayage from the terminal to the rail ramp on behalf of the container lines, “so that we can make better matches of loads coming to and from the rail ramp,” said Jim Newsome, CEO of South Carolina Ports Authority.
The dray of 12 miles takes about 20 minutes, and trucks can do about five to 10 turns a day. “It’s more cost-effective for us to do it because we can reduce the number of truck moves,” he said. “Once we start it, I expect it to roll out for all lines by the end of the year.”
The Port of Miami has completed 80 percent of new track between the port, on an island in Biscayne Bay, across the existing rail bridge and the new Florida East Coast Railway intermodal container terminal being built on the mainland. The first stage will open this summer.
The new rail terminal will enable shippers to ship import containers from Miami to rail connections with CSX and Norfolk Southern in Jacksonville. “It’s a $50 million project that will take containers directly to the heartland of America within one to four days or less reaching 70 percent of the population,” said Bill Johnson, Miami port director.