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Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Gives Update in Lehigh Valley

By Colin McEvoy on September 12, 2016

Representatives from the Port of New York and New Jersey gave an update last week at the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem.

Representatives from the Port of New York and New Jersey gave an update last week at the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is experiencing record growth, outpacing previous years and capturing 15.8 percent of the United States market share.

That growth was among the topics of discussion at a luncheon the Port Authority hosted at the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem hosted on Sept. 9 before a crowd of more than 75 business leaders, developers, and officials, including representatives from the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC).

Matthew Tuerk, LVEDC Vice President of Economic Development and Marketing, was invited to speak at the event, where he discussed the strong desire among the Lehigh Valley business community for international access to the port.

Tuerk described the economic growth from the past few years in the Lehigh Valley economy has experienced in recent years, with its $35.4 billion GDP and annual imports reaching about $4.3 billion. As the economy continues to grow, Tuerk said trade will become increasingly important for the region, with the Port of New York and New Jersey serving as a vital export route for Lehigh Valley companies.

“International access to the port would offer us an entry point that we currently do not have, and having it would make the Lehigh Valley an even more attractive region for companies to make an investment,” he said. “We know there are challenges, we know there are hurdles, but we believe this community is large enough, and the interest is strong enough, that we can overcome them.”

The largest port on the East Coast, and the third-largest in the nation, the Port of New York and New Jersey reaches 23 million local consumers and 100 million more within 36-hour reach. In 2015, the port handled 3.7 million containers and total cargo valued at $203 billion.

The port also experienced a 21.5 percent increase in vehicles handled, rising from 392,704 in 2014, to 477,170 in 2015, according to the port. Top export countries for the port are China, India, and the United Kingdom.

Bethann Rooney, assistant director of the port department, said four years ago, 85 percent of the ships calling the Port of New York and New Jersey were 6,000-TEU vessels or smaller. TEU stands for twenty-foot equivalent units, a standard-size container.

Today, only 30 percent of those ships are 6,000-TEU, and more than one-third of port calls are 8,000- to 9,000-TEU. When the Bayonne Bridge is raised, it will grow to 12,000- and 14,000.

“The industry is changing quite a bit, and I think we will all know that,” Rooney said. “The supply chain is changing.”

Construction is still ongoing for the raising of the Bayonne Bridge, a $1.3 billion project that will raise the navigational clearance under the crossing to 215 feet, allow larger, modern ships to travel underneath. Rooney said all the infrastructure is now in place to handle the new roadway.

This month, the port also completed a $2.3 billion project to deepen the harbor by 50 feet to accommodate larger, deeper-draft vessels. Thirty-eight miles of 50-foot channels have been installed, Rooney said, improving navigational safety and allowing the port to accommodate the next generations of larger cargo vessels.

The port has experienced an increase of 13 percent over 2012 in the number of full-time jobs generated by the port in 2015. According to the New York Shipping Association, the port provides 336,300 full-time jobs in the region, including 190,110 direct jobs, as well as $21.1 billion in personal income and about $53.5 billion in business income.

The ExpressRail system, which has three rail facilities serving all six container terminals, set a new record in 2015, handling 522,244 containers, an increase of 12.2 percent over the previous year, according to the port. A fourth in-dock rail terminal is soon planned to be developed, Rooney said.

As a result of the port’s Clean Air Strategy, the port decreased emissions in criteria air pollutants by an average of 41.5 percent tons per year and 37.3 percent of all pollutants in tons per year, despite a 13 percent increase in cargo volume during the same timeframe.

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