No halt for construction

No halt for construction

Port Director Richard Larrabee says last year's record cargo volume through the Port of New York and New Jersey would have been impressive under any circumstances. He says it's especially remarkable when "almost everything in this port is under construction."

"It's kind of like having the family over for a big dinner and you've just started renovation of your kitchen," Larrabee said.

The port's overall container volume last year, including empty boxes, rose 8.5 percent to nearly 4.1 million TEUs. Loaded containers increased 7.9 percent to 2.8 million TEUs, with imports accounting for 70 percent of that total. Automobile shipments increased 5.9 percent to 625,798 units, making New York-New Jersey the nation's largest automobile port. For the first time, the value of goods shipped through the port topped $100 billion.

The jump in volume comes amid continued redevelopment of container terminals in New Jersey and on Staten Island, deepening of port channels and expansion of intermodal rail facilities.

Terminals at the Port Newark-Port Elizabeth complex, which handles most of the port's containers, are being reconfigured and expanded through land swaps and additions. When the work is finished, Maher Terminals will have 445 acres of contiguous space; APM Terminals, 350 acres; and PNCT, 175.

Much of that work is already complete. "By September or October, you'll be able to see what we'll look like for the next 25 years," said Brian Maher, chief executive of Maher Terminals, which will have more than 600 acres, including off-dock storage.

A few years ago, port officials were saying they'd need large tracts of additional land to handle growth in cargo volume. Now they say improved terminal design, with increased stacking of containers, will allow the increase to be handled with existing acreage.

Like other ports, New York-New Jersey has struggled with truck traffic during peak periods. "We're very much a truck-dependent port," Larrabee said. "Eighty-four percent of our containers go out by truck."

To deal with future growth, the port has made expansion of rail facilities a priority. "We see rail as the next big issue for us," Larrabee said. The port's rail volume is projected to increase at an annual rate of 7 to 8 percent over the next 10 to 15 years, with rail's share of port container volume doubling to approximately 25 percent.

The port's ExpressRail terminal, designed for 150,000 lifts a year, handled 232,000 in 2003. A first phase of expansion is set for completion by the end of 2005, and additional expansions are planned over the rest of the decade. On-dock rail service is being extended to all of the port's main container terminals.

Dredging is another priority. Approximately 30 percent of the nearly $1 billion in the port's capital-improvement program for the next five years is for deepening port channels. The Corps of Engineers will provide $225 million during the next two years - 20 percent of its channel-development budget.

The Kill van Kull and Newark Bay channels to the Newark-Elizabeth terminals are expected to be deepened to 45 feet by this summer or early fall and to 50 feet by 2009. The Howland Hook and Port Jersey channels are scheduled to be deepened to 41 feet by next year.

Much of the port's increase in cargo volume is coming from Asia, which last year accounted for 41 percent of the port's general-cargo imports and exports. It was the first time Asia had topped Europe as the port's top origin and destination for cargo.

Larrabee and Anthony Coscia, port authority chairman, said the bi-state port retained much of the additional cargo it attracted during the disruptions that accompanied West Coast longshore negotiations._