After a severe summer squall tore across New York Harbor, ripping open the sky with streaks of lightning, city, state and federal officials stepped hesitantly out onto the rain-drenched pavement from the shelter of Global Terminal on June 23.
Dressed in business suits and other attire more appropriate for the office than the waterfront, they seemed to stand out against a backdrop of moving container freight and construction equipment that weaved across the surface of what will shortly become the most important cargo facility in the New York area, part of a $350 million upgrade that will allow the newest and largest container freight ships to unload prior to the raising of the Bayonne Bridge.
The facility, which straddles the Bayonne-Jersey City border, is in the process of expanding its operations into the former Greenville rail yards, which the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey purchased in 2007.
This not only will increase the capacity of cargo received but will also, thanks to an $11.4 million U.S. Department of Transportation TIGER Grant, develop a system for unloading ships. Cargo will be put directly onto train cars, a move officials say will reduce truck traffic on local highways.
U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood joined in the conference and US Senator Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg, Rep. Albio Sires and Mayor Mark Smith to present the check.
TIGER grant supports economic growth
Government representatives were excited and optimistic about the expansion system.
“This means a future of continued growth for the port,” said Menendez. “By expanding the rail capacity in and out of the terminal, the grant helps the largest port on the east coast compete for new business from the Panama Canal expansion project. The bottom line is: we are keeping jobs right here in New Jersey.”
LaHood said with this investment to Global, the TIGER program has funded projects in 24 U.S. ports under the Obama administration.
“This project deserves this funding because it will create jobs, create capacity and it will enable this port to grow,” he said. “This will allow cargo to move from ship to train and will reduce travel time.”
Lautenberg said, “Shippers will be able to load cargo onto rail cars for the first time. That means fewer trucks crowding our roads and less pollution in the air.”
He said he and Menendez had worked with the Obama administration to raise the Bayonne Bridge.
“We are going to work tirelessly to raise the bridge so that any container ship can do business with us,” he said. “Shipping is critical to our regional economy and our way of life.”
Global worked closely with the City of Bayonne to obtain this grant, last year appearing before the city council as part of the application process.
“This is good news for Global Terminal, but also good news for the residents of Bayonne and Jersey City,” said Mayor Mark Smith. “It will increase capacity and still reduce the impact of truck traffic on our streets and highways.”
The enhancement of the rail facility will be a significant offering to customers of the expanded Global facility, scheduled to open in 2014. The terminal will feature new container handling technology that will achieve higher efficiency while improving safety and security for the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), AFL-CIO workforce. The technologically advanced marine terminal will also improve the competitiveness of the Port of New York and New Jersey with its ability to handle the largest container vessels at greater throughput density per acre.
Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy, who attended the ceremony, said it had important impacts on his town.
“This TIGER federal grant is going to allow a great operation that is already up and running along the Bayonne-Jersey City border to continue, Global Terminal to expand its operation, and us to hook into new railroad facilities that the Port Authority is going to be constructing. It will be a great way to get freight in and get freight out, and get diesel truck traffic off our streets.”
Reduced use of trucks will also reduce pollution to communities where people live and work. TIGER funds will be used to procure two double-cantilever rail mounted gantry cranes, which will load and unload double-stack rail cars in the 32-car rail car working intermodal yard.
“The DOT TIGER funds places us a giant step closer to the total Global expansion, the total development of Port Jersey peninsula and a superb example of how public and private funding can work together to help such projects evolve,” said James Devine, president and CEO of Global Container Terminals USA.
“We are going to work tirelessly to raise the bridge so that any container port ship can do business with us.” – Senator Robert Menendez
More jobs, more revenue
At Global, the existing 100-acre marine container terminal is being expanded an additional 70 acres. The existing vessel berth will be modernized, and there will be an expansion of two additional berths. With 50 feet of water depth at its new berths, Global Terminal will be able to handle the largest container vessels in the world.
The terminal development project is expected to create construction-related jobs over the next three years. It will generate new high-technology longshoremen positions and contribute significantly to the more than $6.4 billion in additional personal and business income the port is expected to generate from capital investments through 2017. The new terminal development project is expected to create 250 construction-related jobs. It will ultimately create 50 new permanent well-paying, advanced longshoremen positions annually.
According to Menendez, the port supported about 279,200 jobs in the New Jersey and New York area, while generating about $37 billion in business income.
“This is huge,” said Rep. Albio Sires. “It means 300 jobs here. It means they will increase capacity by 55 percent. They are going to move 250,000 more containers a year.”
Sires said this was a move to “get ready for the future,” and noted that once the Panama Canal has finished widening to accommodate larger ships – a project expected to be complete in 2014 – these large ships bound for the east coast will need deeper waterways to accommodate them. While the state and federal governments have committed themselves to raising the Bayonne Bridge in order to allow these ships to pass under them to access Port Newark and Port Elizabeth, the ships may arrive before that work is completed, and thus Global becomes the only port in this complex capable of handling these ships.
“That’s why it’s so important that we get this done,” Sires said.