The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is spending $10 million to study solutions to the Bayonne Bridge’s ship-clearance problems as it seeks solutions to a key barrier to port’s growth, the agency’s top seaport official said.
The study, commissioned earlier this year, “is going to significantly improve our ability to succeed with whatever that ultimate solution is,” said Rick Larrabee, the port authority’s director of port commerce.
Larrabee spoke Monday at The Journal of Commerce’s East Coast Maritime conference. Susan Bass Levin, the port authority’s deputy chair, told the conference the port authority “will solve the problem of the Bayonne Bridge.”
The bridge spans Kill van Kull, the channel leading to the port’s busiest container terminals. With clearance of about 151 feet, the span is too low for the newest generation of large container ships – and even some of earlier generations. (See video, http://www.joc.com/taxonomy/term/86/1)
Larrabee said vessels with capacities of up to 6,700 TEUs have fit under the bridge, but Anil Vitarana, president of United Arab Agencies, said ships with capacities of 4,000 have had trouble with clearance.
Vitarana said these ships have had to lower masts, take on ballast water and sail in on low tide – and he said the recession-driven slump of cargo has made things even difficult by causing vessels to sail high in the water.
Solutions under discussion include building a new bridge, replacing it with a tunnel or raising the existing span. Costs are estimated at $1.5 billion to $3 billion, depending on which plan is selected.
Larrabee said he understands the urgency to fix the problem but said the study, to be completed in 18 months, “is absolutely critical to us to narrow it down and to be able to move forward with confidence that we’ve got the right solution.”