We in Boston are getting closer to realizing our vision of making the Port of Boston the best possible environment for servicing customer freight and passenger needs in the Northeast, and globally.
1997 was a banner year for our three main lines of business, with container volumes increasing by 13 percent, automobiles up 108 percent, and cruise passenger volumes surging 60 percent ahead of 1996 levels.
But Boston cannot afford to be lulled by this short-term turnaround in fortune.
As a smaller port undertaking tremendous infrastructure improvements, we must now work harder than ever to secure our future as a viable option for global ocean carriers.
Specifically, Boston is entering a critical phase in our $200 million strategic investment program to erase current and future infrastructure limitations.
To date, we have totally revamped the Conley Container Terminal, transforming it into the most modern container facility on the East Coast, with additional berth space, 47-foot drafts, new post-Panamax cranes, and a fully automated 10-lane gate complex.
This major investment is in preparation for our 1998 Terminal Optimization Program, which calls for the consolidation of all Port of Boston container volumes at Conley, and the creation of a dedicated autoport at the Moran/Mystic Terminal.
An integral part of our strategy is negotiation of a competitive labor cost structure to complement the infrastructure efficiencies that a dedicated terminal system will bring to our ocean carrier customers.
Boston has long proven its worth as a direct port call for trans-Atlantic container services, but we have market opportunities that are not now being taken advantage of, and I feel that they can be.
Because of our local and intermodal market profile, we are confident that Boston can offer tremendous revenue-earning opportunities to select ocean carriers, particularly as a first port inbound from Asia via the Suez and Mediterranean.
As I see it, Boston in particular is at a competitive crossroads; if we are successful with our terminal optimization strategy, all parties will gain with increased business. If not, our regional economy will suffer from fewer service options, higher transport costs, and declining employment opportunities.
The Port of Boston has continually reinvented itself over its 370-year history in order to remain competitive, and I for one am committed to success in our most important effort to date.
Harold L. Creel Jr.
In my mind, three matters stand out among the very active year the commission experienced in 1997.
Though it seems like ancient history, I am very proud of the FMC's ability last January to persuade the Transpacific Stabilization Agreement to withdraw its capacity management plan in the Asia-U.S. trades. We had communicated to the TSA that we would seriously consider taking this anti-competitive aspect of the agreement to court, and we forged a successful relationship with the shipper community to prepare for that contingency.
Of course, the ongoing matter that focused the world's attention on the FMC was its proceeding addressing Japan's failure to reform its restrictive, inefficient and costly port practices. While full credit for eventually reaching an agreement effecting reform of these long-standing practices goes to the Japanese and U.S. negotiators, it was the FMC's pressure on the Japanese carriers that pushed the Japanese government to negotiate with the requisite sense of immediacy. Finally, congressional activity kept us busy throughout the year, from fighting for a budget to working with Senate staff on potential changes to the shipping statutes we administer. I had thought 1997 would be the year legislation would be enacted. I was wrong - but what emerged by year's end was a better proposal than we had seen earlier.
What I hope for in 1998 is liberalization of restrictive foreign shipping practices in all our trades, including the prompt implementation of the agreements to reform the Japanese ports; continued adequate funding for the FMC; the enactment of reform legislation only if it is no more and no less than genuine improvement over the existing statute; and a healthy and competitive shipping industry. I also hope for the strength to resist making futile predictions which will have to be explained away a year from now!