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Megaships in New York Area Ports Could Mean Lower Costs for Clothing

Here come the big ships.

The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey’s $1.6 million project to raise the Bayonne Bridge is ahead of schedule and is set to be completed by June 30.

This will allow the new class of environmentally friendly mega container vessels to pass beneath the span, gaining access to the Ports of Newark, Elizabeth and Staten Island.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said this week that the existing lower roadway of the bridge, which had prevented larger ships from entering the East Coast’s busiest port terminals after passing through the recently widened Panama or Suez Canals, will be removed six months ahead of its recently revised year-end schedule.

“The ‘Raise the Roadway’ project is a true game-changer for the port, one of the state’s and this region’s most significant job creators, employing 336,000 people and generating billions of dollars in economic activity,” Christie said at a press conference at Port Elizabeth. “With the lifting of the bridge’s navigational restrictions, we expect these numbers to continue to grow and shipping lines to begin to send their larger ships to this port. As a result, more businesses will seek to locate in the port area to create jobs, especially in the skilled trades, while garnering the benefits being close to the port can bring. These businesses already generate nearly $53.5 billion in economic activity.”

The Bayonne Bridge currently has a navigational clearance of 151 feet, limiting the size of the vessels that can travel under it to about 8,000 to 9,000 TEUs, or 20-foot equivalent, cargo size containers. The newly raised roadway will provide a clearance of 215 feet—the same as the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge—allowing ships with up to 18,000 TEUs to pass below to access terminals located in New Jersey and Staten Island. The largest ship currently able to navigate the waters below the bridge is 9,800 TEUs.

“‘Raise the Roadway’ is a visionary project, accomplishing what once seemed impossible for the long-term benefit of our regional economy,” Port Authority chairman John Degnan said. “It began with the unprecedented accomplishment of building a new roadway through an existing bridge structure, with traffic continuing to flow on a lower roadway. Removal of the lower roadway will make it one of the most important American infrastructure projects in history to facilitate global trade.”

What does this mean for sourcing?

Larger ships will reduce operating costs for shipping lines, which can ultimately result in lower prices for standard consumer goods sold in the New York-New Jersey region and beyond, such as clothing, beverages and furniture.

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Raise the Roadway, coupled with last year’s completion of the Port Authority and federal government’s shared investment in the $2.1 billion 50-foot navigation channel deepening project, $600 million of Port Authority investment spent on on-dock rail projects and billions of dollars spent by private sector terminal operators, will allow the Port of New York and New Jersey to remain the most attractive East Coast option for shippers in transporting their cargo, the Port Authority said.

The Port of New York and New Jersey is the busiest port on the East Coast and the third busiest in the country after California’s Los Angeles and Long Beach facilities.

The expanded Panama Canal has made it easier for these larger ships to traverse directly from Asian routes to East Coast ports.

This week, the Panama Canal welcomed the largest vessel in dimension and capacity to transit the expanded canal since it was inaugurated in June 2016. The 13,092 TEU Neopanamax container ship COSCO Development, which measures 366 meters in length and 48.2 meters in beam, began its voyage in Asia, and will soon become the largest ship to arrive on the U.S. East Coast when it calls at several ports there next week.

To put the scale of this enormous ship into perspective, its length is equivalent to one Eiffel Tower or eight Statues of Liberty.

The vessel is deployed on the new OCEAN Alliance’s weekly South Atlantic Express service, connecting Asia-U.S. East Coast ports via the Panama Canal. The SAX service is comprised of 11 vessels ranging in size from 11,000 to 13,000 TEUs. The Alliance includes China COSCO Shipping, Orient Overseas Container Lines, CMA CGM Group and Evergreen, which are among the Panama Canal’s top customers by volume.