A change in computer systems at Maher Terminals was the rock that started the avalanche, but it was only one of several contributors to this summer’s delays at the Port of New York and New Jersey.
The mess began on June 8, when Maher launched a new Navis N4 system designed to help the port’s largest terminal handle expected growth in traffic.
Maher had successfully implemented parts of the system, which Navis has installed at 77 terminals worldwide. But when Maher’s N4 went live, it wasn’t communicating properly with other systems in the terminal’s container yard. Truck lines soon stretched more than two miles.
Congestion spread quickly. Ships diverted to other terminals, which already had full books of business. Chassis providers scrambled to reposition their equipment. Drayage dispatchers hastily rerouted trucks in a mostly futile effort to avoid congestion.
Making matters worse, other terminals were undergoing construction or implementing changes in systems and processes, and the upheaval coincided with the normally tight vacation-season supply of longshore labor.
John Nardi, president of the New York Shipping Association, said the number of available longshoremen matched last year’s total, but congestion slowed their productivity and caused a chain reaction of delays.
Maher eventually implemented changes, saying it had “scaled back select automated components of the overall system.” With its gates operating normally, Maher said it expected to be ready when two diverted weekly vessel strings return in September, and volume recovers to normal levels.
By late July, the worst delays were at Global Terminal, which has taken a weekly string of G6 alliance ships with capacities of more than 8,000 20-foot-equivalent units while completing work on a 70-acre expansion.
Tight space has required Global to stack containers higher than usual, requiring additional lifts by longshoremen operating rubber-tire gantry cranes.
Jim Devine, CEO of GCT USA, which operates Global and New York Container Terminal, said Global is working to reduce container stacks and delays, but that capacity will remain tight until construction ends next spring.
“A year from now, Global will be in great shape,” he said. The expansion project will feature rail-mounted gantry cranes operated by remote control. New truck gates serving the new and existing terminal are operating normally after early glitches, Devine said.
NYCT, meanwhile, stands to benefit from a new port authority program that will offset some of the impact of bridge toll increases that have cut deeply into the Staten Island terminal’s business.
“The future is bright. We’re just in a little thunderstorm right now,” Devine said. “People are focused on the rearview mirror, and they shouldn’t be. While we did have issues with peak volumes, we’re ramping up and making some positive moves, both short-term tweaks and strategic moves for the future.”