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New York-New Jersey Ports Set Record Cargo Volume in 2018

The Port of New York and New Jersey achieved 7 percent cargo growth in 2018, surpassing the 7-million-container mark for first time and strengthening its position as the busiest port on East Coast.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which manages the area’s port facilities, said during 2018 they handled 7.18 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs), maintaining the position as third busiest port complex in the U.S. following Los Angeles and Long Beach. Cargo growth was boosted by an 8.2 percent increase in imported goods, including clothing, furniture and electronics, over the previous record for imports set in 2017.

Part of this growth has come from the expansion of the Panama Canal in 2016 that allowed for larger ships and others to travel more quickly in the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean crossing, and made the Asia-to-New York route more viable. The Panama Canal closed its 2018 fiscal year with a record 442.1 million Panama Canal tons, which was a 9.5 percent increase from the previous year.

The Port Authority’s facilities processed 33 percent of all containers on the East Coast of North America, a 2.8 percent increase in market share over last year. In addition to cargo containers, the port also set a new all-time record for cargo handled by rail, moving 645,760 containers by that mode, up 13.8 percent over the previous record set in 2017.

The Port Authority said the growth partially can be attributed to the completion in June 2017 of the Bayonne Bridge Navigational Clearance Project that raised the clearance under the bridge to 215 feet from 151 feet, allowing the world’s largest container ships to pass under it and serve port terminals in New York and New Jersey. Since the bridge project was completed, the port has seen a large increase in the size of vessels calling on the port. Nearly 30 percent of all containerized cargo at the port is now carried on vessels with the capacity to handle 9,000 or more TEUs.

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To accommodate the record cargo growth, the Port Authority recently announced a major expansion of the rail network serving the ports as part of the agency’s five-year strategic goal to expand rail capacity for cargo destined for outside the region. The expansion will reduce congestion and emissions on local roads from decreased truck traffic and convey goods to their final destination more efficiently and at lower cost.

The new ExpressRail Port Jersey facility culminates a $600-million Port Authority capital investment program dating back to the 1990s that established direct rail access to on-dock and near-dock intermodal rail services at all of its major marine terminals. The opening of the final rail facility will allow the port to reach its goal of handling more than 900,000 rail lifts in 2023, the equivalent of more than 1.5 million fewer truck trips traveling through the local roads.

“We are pleased that our facilities, which were built to handle customer and cargo levels from a bygone era, are able to support the record activity we are seeing today,” Port Authority executive director Rick Cotton said. “We are committed to rebuild and invest to [ensure] the agency can meet future growth as well as provide facilities of the quality that the region deserves.”