CONNECTICUT PORT AUTHORITY TACKLES MARITIME OPERATIONS WITH AN ECONOMICAL APPROACH
North American ports are commonly associated with complex operations and traditional approaches. Connecticut Port Authority challenges this concept and stands out through its unique approach to handling multiple incentives from growing shipping operations and maritime development opportunities, to identifying areas of improvement for its ports and small harbors. By differentiating itself as an economic bolster for the state of Connecticut and its citizens, CPA separates itself from the larger New York and New Jersey port authorities. With its small but mighty five-person crew, CPA aims to create opportunities in infrastructure and maritime operations while spurring domestic and international growth within the three deep-water ports in its reach.
“The biggest difference between other port authorities and CPA is that it’s responsible for marketing the state’s three deep-water ports–Bridgeport, New Haven, and New London,” says CPA Executive Director Evan Matthews, “and we only have land assets in one of them. We are not your traditional landlord port where we go out and manage a real estate portfolio. We are much more engaged in economic development projects.
“Another big difference is that we have a mandate from the state legislature to also fund projects in small harbors throughout the state.”
Matthews joined the CPA team in 2016 as the first of the five-person team. Created in 2014, CPA is known for being a “quasi-public agency” in addition to being one of the newest port authorities in the nation. CPA fosters a forward-thinking environment to business development as it recently announced selection of Gateway New London LLC as the new operator for the State Pier. With May 1 as the official date for the shift in operations, CPA and Gateway will continue vetting opportunities to increase revenue, reduce costs and increase efficiencies at State Pier.
“They are a Connecticut-based company, not a global, huge company that has facilities around the world,” Matthews notes. “They’re really focused on this market and they know this market; they understand the customers and we’re hoping they bring more efficiencies to drive down costs and make their customers more competitive across their supply chains. It’s also creating new revenue for us which ultimately helps our bottom line, creates new business opportunities and cargo mixes.”
CPA recognizes the advantages that come with a smaller team of people. It’s through the utilization of close-knit communications the company has that serves as a major differentiator among larger ports, ultimately creating a unique style of competitive advantage and reducing inefficiencies for quick turnaround and decision-making for project opportunities. Time is of the essence, and CPA is no stranger on how to quickly act when opportunity presents itself.
“We can act very quickly with agility to get stuff done. We don’t have a huge amount of bureaucracy,” Matthews adds. “There’s low overhead and when we’re involved in a project, we’re not slowing it down but helping to identify hurdles, how a project can overcome roadblocks, and really move as close to private-sector speed as we can. That’s one of the advantages we have over larger ports like Boston and New York.”
Looking ahead, the company maintains its focus on maximizing opportunities through the new concession agreement with Gateway New London. CPA will continue vetting opportunities among Bridgeport, New Haven and New London by identifying strategic approaches to rebuilding shipping momentum, reviving their ports, and spurring growth for the maritime economic environment from which its citizens and ports alike can benefit.
“Our structure allows us to finance different aspects–such as issuing bonds, entering into leases, purchasing properties and accessing the state general obligation bonds in Connecticut to finance projects,” Matthews said. “We’re continuing our work in dredging our waterways and enhancing ferry operations, increasing intermodal activities, shipping and containers. There’s no container service in Connecticut and we want to change that.”
Furthermore, CPA will continue proactive planning to address the areas that are currently inactive, such as container services and international shipping. These efforts directly align with the previously published 2018 Connecticut Maritime Strategy the agency released last fall, putting a spotlight on supporting growth for the Small Harbor Improvements Project Program (SHIPP) while increasing volumes in intermodal and offshore winds business.
“We’re continuing to invest and look for ways to raise capital to make strategic investments,” Matthews says. “Right now, Bridgeport doesn’t have any international ships and we’re working to bring new shipping into Bridgeport, which would be a huge win to reactivate those old terminals that haven’t seen ships in a long time.”
Evan Matthews is the executive director of the Connecticut Port Authority (CPA). He was appointed to the post in September 2016. The CPA is a quasi-public agency that is responsible for marketing and coordinating the development of the state’s maritime economy.
Evan oversees and directs all business development, marketing, finance and outreach activities of the authority. He is also responsible for developing a strategic plan to grow the volume of cargo activity in the ports, as well as coordinating and strengthening the state’s maritime policies.
Prior to his work at CPA, Evan served as port director for the Port of Davisville, the public port operated by the Quonset Development Corp. in Rhode Island. He has also worked for the Port of Seattle, Foss Maritime, Foss Environmental Services Corp. and Todd Pacific Shipyards in Seattle, Washington.
Evan serves on the Board of Directors of the International Association of Port and Maritime Executives (IAMPE) and is president of the North Atlantic Ports Association, a regional association of ports. He is also a member of the Connecticut Pilot Commission, Connecticut Maritime Association and Coalition for New England Companies for Trade (CONECT).
Evan received a master’s in Marine Affairs and Graduate Certificate in Global Trade and Transportation Logistics from the University of Washington in Seattle, and a Bachelor of Arts from Hamilton College in Clinton, New York.