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  December 16th, 2015 | Written by

Why We Love These 20 Ports

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  • The Advantages Of Some Top American #Ports, And What They Have On The Horizon

They say love is a fickle thing, but our affection for these ports runs deep—as deep, perhaps, as the ports themselves. From the Atlantic to the Pacific, and all across the Gulf, the 20 ports below stand out for their commitment to excellence and status as hubs for international trade and innovation in the global sea-freight sector. Below, officials share what makes their ports stand out from the competition.

“Going green” is more than just corporate jargon at the Port of Long Beach; it’s a way of life, says port CEO Jon Slangerup. The Southern California port effectively reduced diesel emissions by 82 percent from 2005 to 2013—a major milestone in its quest to become the world’s first zero-emissions port. Green initiatives aside, the Port of Long Beach is a major hub for Chinese trade and distinguishes itself as the “fastest, most direct route from East Asia to most U.S. markets,” Slangerup says. Long Beach will soon boast another title: home to Middle Harbor, North America’s most technologically advanced container terminal. Completion is slated for 2016.

The Port of Long Beach’s twin port—together, they handle 40 percent of all U.S. imports—the Port of Los Angeles is the nation’s top container port. Ensuring that the port has the capacity to remain in the No.1 spot led officials to embark on a $1.2 billion infrastructure improvement program, reveals port spokesman Phillip Sanfield. Key initiatives include the TraPac Container Terminal Expansion—a five-year project that will deepen the terminal’s berths, install new cranes and build a new on-dock rail facility—as well as the Transportation Improvements Program that, Sanfield says, will improve freeway access to port facilities and eliminate traffic movement conflicts.

Handling more than 98 percent of the containerized traffic that enters Northern California, the Port of Oakland is a global hub for wine, high-tech and agricultural goods. Port spokesman Roberto Bernardo believes the port’s volumes will only grow in the future, thanks to the redevelopment of the former Oakland Army Base into a major logistics and warehousing center. Phase 1 of the $500 million project is nearly complete, Bernardo says, and involves the construction of a new rail yard connected to both Union Pacific and BNSF Railway. “We envision a state-of-the-art global trade and logistics center to make the port more globally competitive,” he says.

Innovation and renovation are two of the Port of Houston’s guiding principles, says port spokeswoman Lisa Ashley. Every five years, port authorities invest $1 billion in infrastructure improvements—the most recent involves dredging channels at the Barbours Cut and Bayport Container terminals to accommodate the port’s four new Super Post-Panamax cranes. “[Our goal] is to be considered America’s distribution hub for the next generation,” Ashley says, a status propelled by the port’s favorable geographic position. “With a reach of nearly 40 million consumers in 500 miles, we consider the Port of Houston as the gateway to all of the U.S. and North America,” she says.

America’s largest tonnage port district, the Port of South Louisiana extends 54 miles along the Mississippi River and is connected to three Class I railroads. “Cost and time are our advantages,” says executive director Paul Aucoin. He reveals that the port is currently benefiting from $25 billion in corporate investments—many of which are from foreign companies—that will create 2,753 direct jobs with an average salary of $66,000. The Port of South Louisiana is also undertaking a market study to determine the profitability of a container port within its jurisdiction. “We’re confident that the results will be positive,” Aucoin says.


PORT OF NEW ORLEANS Talk about having connections—Port of New Orleans is served by six Class I railroads, 16 barge lines, 50 ocean carriers and 75 truck lines.
PORT OF NEW ORLEANS Talk about having connections—Port of New Orleans is served by six Class I railroads, 16 barge lines, 50 ocean carriers and 75 truck lines.

What sets the Port of New Orleans apart from the competition is intermodality, says President and CEO Gary LaGrange. “We’re America’s most intermodal port,” he says, served by six Class I railroads, 16 barge lines, 50 ocean carriers and 75 truck lines. The Port of New Orleans has been lavished with more than $500 million in infrastructure and terminal enhancements in the past decade with a further $40 million currently being invested in the Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal’s handling capabilities. Such advancements are needed due to “surging demand” for refrigerated cargo, LaGrange says, a direct result of banana giant Chiquita’s resumption of services to New Orleans after a 40-year hiatus.

As good as 2014 was for the Port of New York and New Jersey—container volumes swelled 5.4 percent, year-over-year—officials say the future is even brighter. Thanks to a host of new investments, such as raising the Bayonne Bridge by 64 feet and deepening the port’s harbor to 50 feet, the East Coast’s busiest port will soon be
able to handle the world’s largest ships, port spokesman Lenis Rodrigues reveals. All marine terminals are also benefitting from expanded on-dock rail access—a move, Rodrigues says, that “increases speed and efficiency by which cargo moves once it reaches the port while simultaneously reducing congestion and air emissions.”

Cars are the Port of Baltimore’s bread and butter, maintains communications director Richard Scher. “Nearly every auto manufacturer in the world brings their cars through Baltimore,” he says, attributing that to port’s geography and strong cargo infrastructure. The closest East Coast port to the Midwest, the Port of Baltimore is only one of two in the region (the other of which is listed above) capable of handling Super Post-Panamex ships. Add this to the fact that the port boasts the region’s fastest truck turn times and handled record-breaking container volumes in 2015, and Scher says it’s easy to see why Baltimore is in a “very competitive” position.

PORTMIAMI PortMiami has a new interstate tunnel and an on-dock intermodal rail partnership with Florida East Coast Railway, which links the port to 70 percent of the U.S. population in four days or less.
PORTMIAMI PortMiami has a new interstate tunnel and an on-dock intermodal rail partnership with Florida East Coast Railway, which links the port to 70 percent of the U.S. population in four days or less.

September was a banner month for PortMiami, reveals port spokeswoman Andria Muniz-Amador. In addition to commemorating the completion of its deep dredge project—a feat, Muniz-Amador says, that makes PortMiami the only global logistics hub south of Virginia capable of handling fully laden Post-Panamax vessels—the port celebrated its new interstate tunnel and on-dock intermodal rail partnership with Florida East Coast Railway. Muniz-Amador calls the latter achievement a major win for PortMiami, linking it to 70 percent of the U.S. population in four days or less.

“We are continuously working to put the infrastructure in place to provide the world’s top ocean carriers the best quality of service,” she says.

Improving shipping efficiency and ensuring that the port has the capacity to handle the influx of container traffic to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, led officials to initiate a number of infrastructure enhancements. Port Everglades, which is a key gateway for Latin American and Caribbean trade, now boasts the 43-acre Florida East Coast Railway intermodal hub, as well as a $42.5 million overpass to connect the east end of Interstate 595 directly to the port’s main entrance. “Landside congestion plagues many seaports, but Port Everglades is fortunate to have direct interstate highway access that keeps commerce on the move,” says CEO Steve Cernak.

Flexibility is one of Port Tampa Bay’s biggest strengths, says spokesman Andrew Forbes, with the port able to handle a “full array” of cargo volumes. This capability will only grow in 2016, thanks to the delivery of two Post-Panamex cranes, which should be fully operational by late spring, and new berth construction at the port’s Eastport Development. Port Tampa Bay will also soon feature a large refrigerated warehouse—an addition that Forbes says could reestablish it as a hub for temperature-sensitive freight. Renovations to the onsite Port Redwing may diversify the port’s handling capabilities even further, with the 150-acre site projected to become a steel industry cluster.

In September, German automaker Porsche announced JAXPORT as its port of entry for Southeastern-bound goods—a move that came seven months after Volkswagen selected it as its Southeastern distribution hub. Spokeswoman Nancy Rubin says one of JAXPORT’s biggest draws is its geography, with the Jacksonville, Florida, port situated at the heart of the U.S. transportation corridor and boasting access to three Class I railroads and three major interstates. Rubin expects the port’s new $30 million intermodal container transfer facility—slated to open in early 2016—to similarly entice shippers, in addition to “complementing existing on-dock rail facilities and enhancing the competitiveness of the adjacent TraPac Container Terminal.”

Fiscal-year 2015 saw the Port of Virginia handle more than 2.5 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of cargo—a volume that places the port among the nation’s top five. Retaining this status led authorities to embark upon a 10-year, $2 billion infrastructure improvement plan in July, which will reinvest in the port’s six terminals, as well as its cargo conveyance systems. Virginia Port Authority CEO John Reinhart says this undertaking, along with the port’s federal authorization to dredge to 55 feet, will ensure that the Port of Virginia “increases its capacity and [retains] its competitive position on the U.S. East Coast.”

Early 2016 marks a significant milestone for the Port of Galveston: Luxury automaker BMW will open its onsite vehicle distribution center, a facility that will import and process approximately 32,500 vehicles annually. “This [center] helps the port achieve its mission of being the economic engine for the city of Galveston and the local region,” says port director Michael Mierzwa. The Port of Galveston, which impacts Texas’ economy by more than $3.8 billion a year, is buoyed by the presence of two Class I railroads and a strong highway network, Mierzwa says. And he expects Grimaldi Lines’ new roll-on/roll-off service linking Galveston to West Africa to further boost port operations.

For a port that aims to become the “Energy Port of America,” it’s no surprise that the Port of Corpus Christi is the preferred harbor for wind turbine components. The Texas port’s chief commercial officer Jarl Pedersen says that achieving this and other goals led to a $1 billion infrastructure investment program, which will initiate a series of renovations over the next decade. Key improvements include deepening the ship channel to 52 feet and building a new rail yard with 8,500-foot-long sidings that can accommodate eight unit trains; Phase Two of the latter initiative is currently under way, Pedersen reveals.

A lack of congestion is one of Port Canaveral’s biggest assets, with only one stoplight between Interstate 95 and the port dock. Other major draws to the Central Florida port are coming soon; Port Canaveral is currently constructing a 246,240-square-foot inland port facility (part of the multitenant Titusville Logistics Center), as well as developing a major logistics park with up to 3 million square feet of warehousing space. Phase 1 of the logistics park is slated for mid-2017 completion while the inland port facility will open in early 2016. CEO John Walsh calls the latter facility, in particular, “a critical step in Port Canaveral’s plan to attract more container business.”

Situated in the “Hostess City of the South,” the Port of Savannah is undergoing renovations to accommodate its visitors even more. Thanks to the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, the port’s 18.5-mile outer harbor will be deepened to 49 feet at low tide; a future contract involves dredging the inner harbor to 47 feet. “Improving our harbor will better accommodate Super Post-Panamax vessels,” says Georgia Ports Authority spokesman Edward Fulford, “which offer cost savings to shipping lines, American retailers and U.S. manufacturers marketing goods overseas.” The Port of Savannah will also soon welcome four new ship-to-shore cranes, bringing its total number of electric-powered container cranes to 26—the most of any U.S. terminal.

One half of the Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA)—the ports of Seattle and Tacoma finalized their cargo partnership in August—the Port of Tacoma is a major hub for Alaskan and Asian trade. Buoying business, says NWSA CEO John Wolfe, is the Port of Tacoma’s transportation infrastructure, which offers direct access to two Class I railroads and “excellent” connections to the West Coast’s second-largest concentration of distribution centers. “And we’re grateful to the Washington legislature, which recently passed a $16.2 billion transportation investment package that will improve freight mobility beyond our terminal gates,” Wolfe says—as well as help the NWSA achieve its goal of doubling container volumes by 2025.

Convenience, reliability and service are the cornerstones of Massport’s success, maintains acting Port Director Lisa Wieland. And Massport—which owns and operates the Port of Boston’s Conley Terminal—is currently investing in infrastructure improvements to ensure than none of these values are compromised. Along with deepening the Boston Harbor’s channels—a $350 million undertaking—Massport is constructing a $75 million freight corridor that will take truck traffic off of residential streets and facilitate future growth—a project slated to launch in 2017. “Plus,” Wieland says, “we’ve recently received a Northeast Diesel Collaborative Breathe Easy Leadership award for reducing diesel emissions and promoting clean transportation in the Northeast.”

The Columbia River’s first full-service port, the Washington-based Port of Longview benefits from a stellar transportation infrastructure—with access to two Class I railroads and a major interstate—as well as its proximity to key Asian markets. Growing trade volumes led port officials to recently purchase Barlow Point, a 280-acre property that sits four river miles from its main facility. “It’s extremely rare to find such a large, undeveloped piece of land on a deep-water shipping channel, and the port is finalizing a master plan so that we can best use the property to create revenue, jobs and tax dollars,” says spokeswoman Ashley Helenberg.