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Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Gives Update During Lehigh Valley Meeting

By Colin McEvoy on September 15, 2015

The Port of New York and New Jersey, the thitd largest port on the East Coast, visited the Lehigh Valley to discuss its record growth in both container trade and rail activity.

The Port of New York and New Jersey, the third largest port on the East Coast, visited the Lehigh Valley to discuss its record growth in both container trade and rail activity.

It has been a record-breaking year for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey .

The largest port on the East Coast, and the third-largest in the nation, has experienced record growth in both container trade and rail activity, according to Sharon McStine, manager of industry and government relations. Container volume was up by 5.4 percent in 2014, and rail activity increased by 9.3 percent

“And for the past seven months we’ve seen even more growth in our container and rail volumes,” McStine said. “Container volumes in 2015 through July was up by 13 percent, and our rail business grew by 14 percent.”

Those numbers were discussed during a discussion and luncheon the Port Authority hosted at the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem on September 10 before a crowd of about 50 business leaders, developers, and officials, including representatives from the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC).

The Port Authority and LVEDC have held active discussions in the past about the concept of a new rail intermodal service between the port and the city of Bethlehem, which would provide a critical link in the Lehigh Valley’s supply chains and provide a significant economic development tool to enhance the region’s competitiveness.

While it was not discussed in detail during the September 10 meeting, LVEDC Vice President of Economic Development and Marketing Lea B. Glembot said the partners in that venture — including Norfolk Southern Corp. and Lehigh Valley Rail Management — continue to explore how to make it happen for the local business community.

“Our role is to help facilitate those conversations,” Glembot said. “We think it would be a great thing to have an alternative to trucking into the port. We anticipate international volumes of freight moving to and from this area to increase substantially moving forward.”

Beverly Fedorko said the New York Shipping Association has hired 532 new longshore workers and 97 new checkers over the last 18 months, half of which are U.S. veterans. The port is currently in the process of hiring 161 more workers in the next several months, then will seek to hire another 300 longshore workers to create a relief workers system.

Beth Rooney, assistant director for port performance initiatives, said the Port Authority has investing heavily in infrastructure in the past decade to handle increased yearly growth and expect future growth and larger ships expected when the Bayonne Bridge is raised and expansion of the Panama Canal is completed.

That infrastructure investment — to the tune of about $6 billion — has included the expansion of roadways, deepening of canals, strengthening of berths, new intermodal rail capacity, and work on the Bayonne Bridge itself, Rooney said.

She also discussed the Port Performance Task Force, a group that released a list of 23 recommendations aimed at addressing issues negatively impacting productivity. The recommended solutions are expected to reduce truck congestion and air emissions in the port, improve customer service for truckers and other stakeholders, and enhance the flow of goods from the port to the marketplace.

The Port Authority has already begun to implement many of the recommendations, Rooney said, including plans to establish of a “gray” chassis pool. Rather than competing chassis lessors operating separate pools for interchange equipment, a new centrally-managed pool would be established. This will reduce the need for truckers to make unnecessary trips to pick up, drop off, and exchange chassis, which in turn would reduce congestion at terminal gates.

Also based on the task force recommendations, the Port Authority has published a new Truckers’ Resource Guide, and the terminal operators established a new Terminal Information Portal System (TIPS), a single consolidated web portal for all six container terminals, which contains port and terminal information and allows users to check import container availability and export booking status.

“We are monitoring key performance indicators that we receive from all the terminals on a weekly basis,” Rooney said. “We fully anticipate that with the combination of the Truckers’ Resource Guide and the use of TIPS, we should see the trouble window activity go down over time, and the efficiency and turn time improve, among other things.”

The New York Shipping Association also plans to release an updated economic impact study later this week, she said.

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