NY-NJ Port’s Arthur Kill turning basin may not handle mega-ship traffic.
Ports along the East Coast of the United States have spent billions in the last decade preparing for an influx of the larger container ships that will transit the Panama Canal’s new locks when they open to commercial traffic. The Port of New York and New Jersey alone is spending $3.4 billion to deepen its channel to 50 feet and raise the clearance beneath the Bayonne Bridge.
But there is another potential bottleneck – the Arthur Kill turning basin, where those neo-Panamax ships have to turn to starboard to reach the terminals in Newark, Elizabeth and Staten Island, reported the Journal of Commerce. Until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completes a study of the area, the size of ships at the four big container terminals on the western side of the New York-New Jersey harbor could be limited.
When the new Panama Canal locks are inaugurated on June 26, they will be able to handle container ships with capacities of up to 14,000 TEUs, or 20-ft. equivalent containers, versus the 5,000-TEU maximum vessels that currently transit the century-old locks. Pending the results of the Corps’ study, it might be necessary to dredge the basin, requiring new funding and an environmental impact study.
The chiefs of many East Coast gateway ports said they are ready to handle 12,000-plus TEU ships, but the shipping lines want to be able to include a NY-NJ call before they commit the larger ships to their East Coast rotations. From Panama to Port Elizabeth, canal expansion continues to create a ripple effect roiling the waters for maritime shippers.