By the middle of 2014, the Port of New York and New Jersey will have a container terminal able to handle ships carrying 10,000 20-foot equivalent container units. Global Terminal will have a berth draft of 50 feet, will have doubled its acreage, added a third berth and have on-dock rail. Most significantly, Global will be able to handle the mega-ships because it’s located in the open harbor in Jersey City, N.J., east of the Bayonne Bridge and its low air draft that prevents such vessels from reaching the port’s four other big container terminals in New Jersey and on Staten Island.
But does that mean Global Terminal will fill the gap until 2016, when the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey hopes to raise the roadbed of the Bayonne Bridge by 61 feet? Not exactly. The terminal’s expansion is being designed carefully so it doesn’t add more capacity to the overall port than the growth of volume warrants.
“We never intended to solve the Bayonne Bridge problem,” said Jim Devine, president and CEO of Global Container Terminals, the division of the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan that holds the leases on Global Terminal and Staten Island’s New York Container Terminal.
But Devine admits he wouldn’t mind picking up some calls by ships that can’t fit under the bridge. “We hopefully can take advantage of the Bayonne Bridge and be able to get a shipping line in there that we don’t have now,” he said.
Global already has picked up unscheduled calls by big ships that were on their way to unload containers at terminals on the other side of the bridge when they learned they wouldn’t be picking up enough containers to weigh them down enough to get back out. “If we can solve somebody’s problem and work a ship while doing it, God bless us, that’s what we’d like to do. But the idea is to be prudent and not to overbuild the harbor,” Devine said.
Ports up and down the East Coast are racing to prepare for the 12,000-TEU ships that will be able to transit the Panama Canal from Asia when a multibillion-dollar project to add a new set of locks is completed in late 2014. Some of those ports aren’t deep enough. Some don’t have the land. Others don’t have the land connections or population centers. New York-New Jersey’s issue, of course, is the low-hanging Bayonne Bridge.
But Rick Larrabee, port commerce director for the port authority, said at The Journal of Commerce’s Trans-Pacific Maritime Conference in Long Beach this month that the terminal’s expansion was never intended to serve as a substitute for solving the problems of the bridge’s low air draft.
Global Terminal, currently a 98-acre facility, will double in size in the next two years as it expands its berth and container yard onto adjacent land formerly occupied by the North East Auto Marine Terminal. The terminal is extending its berth by 900 feet to a total of 2,500 feet, which will accommodate three ships. The terminal has enough room to build another 1,400 feet of berth along its property, but Devine said he won’t do this for another five or six years, when the port’s volume growth justifies it. “We’re not trying to cannibalize existing operations,” he said.
The terminal has ordered two ship-to-shore cranes that reach across 22 containers, which will bring the total to eight when they are delivered late next year or early in 2014. The expansion will more than double the terminal’s annual capacity from the current 400,000 lifts to as many as 950,000.
The big hitch is opposition from the International Longshoremen’s Association to labor-saving technology that might cost union jobs, but Devine is confident this can be resolved. “The first meeting we had with the ILA was good,” he said. “There was an understanding that we’ve got to meet somewhere in the middle on this thing.”
The expansion became possible when the port authority bought out the remaining years on the auto terminal’s lease and acquired the Global Terminal property from the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, then leased the combined property back to Global Container Terminals. Global is investing more than $100 million to expand the berth, while the port authority is funding the expansion of the container yard onto the former auto terminal parking lot, which requires strengthening to support container operations.
The port authority also acquired the Greenville Rail Yard adjacent to the terminal, where it is building an intermodal ExpressRail terminal that will be completed by July 2014. The terminal will open in two phases, first with 125,000 annual container lift capacity and then expanding to 225,000. The rail terminal will have its own gate into the marine terminal, and trucks will have a separate single gate. “It will be one continuous 200-acre facility with a rail ramp next to it,” Larrabee said.
Jersey City and the port authority are working to turn the public road that currently serves the terminal into a dedicated road that enables trucks serving the container terminal and the BMW auto terminal next door to connect directly with the New Jersey Turnpike.