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Infrastructure
Monday | 15 January, 2018 | 10:29 am

Liquid commerce

Written by By Corinna Petry

Above: Cranes arrive at the Port of Prince Rupert, British Columbia, as part of an effort to expand cargo handling capacity, especially containers offloading from larger vessels.

Renewing and rebuilding harbors and marine structures smooths pathways for internal shipping, international trade

January 2018 - From St. John, New Brunswick, to Long Beach, California, and from Jacksonville, Florida, to Prince Rupert, British Columbia, public and private investments are helping seaports and inland waterways repair and replace facilities, add capacity and in all ways prepare for growth in ship and barge traffic across North America.

A policy paper by the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), Alexandria, Virginia, estimates $66 billion is needed over the next decade for port related infrastructure to secure economic and job growth and to keep U.S. ports competitive on the global stage.

“The amount of freight moved in the U.S. is projected to grow 15 percent by 2045 and America’s trade volume is expected to quadruple after 2030,” the AAPA study states.

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Locks are crucial within the inland waterway system. Here, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers practices rappelling for maintenance of a Mississippi River lock in the St. Louis District.

The Association of Canadian Port Authorities (ACPA), with 18 member ports, petitioned Parliament to budget C$1.9 billion for the rehabilitation of existing port assets during 2017. “With every 1 million metric tons of new cargo at Canada’s ports generating 300 new jobs, we are barely scratching the surface of our true potential,” ACPA President Wendy Zatylny stated, adding, “Remaining competitive in a rapidly changing world will require us to strengthen our port facilities and improve their supply chain efficiencies.”

Some state and provincial port authorities have been very hands on, either by directly financing improvement projects or by providing tax incentives to private entities to expand and cargo movement business expansion.

The types of projects seeing daylight vary widely. They include installing enormous cranes; erecting warehouses; dredging deeper channels to accept larger ocean vessels; and the laying down ship-to-rail spurs.

Detailing all the existing plans across North America through 2020 would be impossible for the space here allotted, so we’ll highlight those that reflect trade flows and volumes.

Deep South

“We’re expanding on all fronts,” Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) Director Griff Lynch said during an October speech. “We’re building the new infrastructure necessary to continue processing cargo with world-class efficiency.”

Georgia ports’ tonnage volumes grew 8.3 percent in fiscal 2017, including the exports of 607,000 passenger vehicle and machinery units. Lynch announced a $128 million Mega-Rail Project so the Port of Savannah can better handle 10,000-foot -long unit trains, which will help move shipments to inland markets—to Memphis, St. Louis, Chicago and the Ohio Valley—more rapidly. Construction is expected to begin this quarter with completion scheduled at the end of 2020.

The Port of Savannah has 10 Super Post-Panamax ship-to-shore cranes on order, for a total of 36 cranes. Four will arrive in 2018, and the final six by 2020. Having 36 cranes on dock will allow Garden City Terminal to move 1,300 containers per hour on and off vessels.

Overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project will deepen the outer and inner harbors. The completion date is late 2020. It will allow the largest vessels calling on Savannah to take on heavier loads and to transit the river without waiting for high tide.

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Two container cranes barge up the St. Johns River from one Port of Jacksonville terminal to another to service LNG-powered vessels. Jacksonville tenants are investing millions in ships and equipment as LNG becomes a preferred fuel for the maritime industry.

Sunshine state

The Port of Jacksonville said in November it expected to begin building a new automobile processing terminal, adding 100-plus acres of processing and storage space. In May 2017, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers allocated funds to begin dredging Jacksonville’s harbor in order to deepen the federal shipping channel to 47 feet.

“We are … working tirelessly to ensure our port remains competitive in the rapidly expanding Asian trade lane, continues to generate high-quality jobs for the citizens of Northeast Florida and remains ready to serve in the interest of national security,” Port CEO Eric Green says.

The port has recorded an average of 21 percent year-over-year growth in Asian cargo volumes during each of the past five years.

Big Easy

Experts project a significant increase in container volume from the Gulf region between 2017 and 2020, “mostly fueled by the exports of petrochemical resins produced in Louisiana,” Port of New Orleans President and CEO Brandy Christian says. The port envisions greater opportunities with the largest ocean carriers in the world including service to Asia and South America. Breakbulk business grew 17 percent from 2016 to 2017, led by trade in steel and nonferrous metals.

The port expected to acquire, at the end of 2017, the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad, which it expects will improve intermodal capabilities and improve access to six Class I railroads. “Industry wide, shippers who must have rail benefit from more seamless logistics solutions,” Christian says.

Houston Ship Channel

In August, Terminal Link Texas broke ground on a 25-acre yard in which to stack empty containers at the Port of Houston. The yard will open in July. Houston container volumes grew 11 percent during the first three quarters of 2017. Growth is expected to continue as nearby petrochemical facilities produce more materials for export.

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In addition to iron ore, coking coal, scrap, coils and limestone, Burns Harbor handles project cargo like windmill components and equipment for pure physics research.

The Port of Houston Commission recently authorized an agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation to build and operate a rail spur to facilitate future intermodal service to the Bayport Container Terminal. Houston also took delivery of three Super Post-Panamax wharf cranes in November.

Pacific Northwest

The Lower Columbia River Federal Navigation Channel is a 600-foot-wide, 43-foot-deep, 106-mile-long waterway that runs through the Columbia River from its mouth near Astoria, Oregon, to Vancouver, Washington. On it, commercial vessels move commodities like grain, fertilizer, logs, automobiles and steel.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and five lower Columbia River ports have begun developing a long-term maintenance plan for the channel to ensure the channel remains operational at 43 feet depth for at least 20 years.

The Port of Coos Bay, Oregon, plans to widen and deepen its commercial navigation channel to allow existing and projected future cargo vessels to have less restricted access to berths and terminals, reducing delays and increasing the efficiency of port operations. Currently in the engineering and design phase, the project will cost up to $400 million, funded with public and private resources. Dredging activities are slated to begin in late 2019 and conclude in 2022.

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The Army Corps of Engineers dredged the Port Jersey Channel to deepen shipping lanes to 50 feet to accommodate larger cargo vessels.

‘O Canada’

The Halterm International Container Terminal in the port of Halifax, Nova Scotia, is extending its container and reefer handling capabilities with $10 million worth of new equipment to support its existing five ship-to-shore crane operation and add 40 percent more capacity.

“The Halifax supply chain reaches far inland and to the U.S. Midwest,” says Halterm CEO Kim Holtermand.

Quebec’s provincial government granted $40 million last spring to the Montréal Port Authority for an infrastructure upgrade. A couple of the funded projects focus on marine and intermodal freight transportation infrastructures.

Since August 2017, the Port of Prince Rupert, British Columbia, can now accommodate the largest container vessels in the world, following DP World’s expansion of its Fairview Container Terminal that increases the port’s container-handling capacity.

The terminal has a second vessel berth serviced by three new “big ship-ready” Malacca-max cranes, allowing 20,000-plus TEU vessels to access the terminal. Prince Rupert provides the closest proximity to Asia and direct access to the most reliable rail network reach of any terminal on Canada’s West Coast, advocates say.

The Port of St. John, New Brunswick, launched a $205 modernization program last April. Two cargo terminals will be consolidated, a multimodal yard will be built, both enabling the facility to receive ships up to new Panamax size. The contract includes dredging of the main channel.

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The Port of Savannah, above, has 10 Super Post-Panamax ship-to-shore cranes on order, for a total of 36 cranes. Four will arrive in 2018, and the final six by 2020.

Inland multimodal

The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor won a $9.85 million federal grant to foster a $19.7 million expansion. The port will build a 2.3-acre cargo terminal with multimodal connections for handling transfers between ships, barges, rail cars and trucks. In addition, 4.4 miles will be added to the port’s 14-mile rail network. Two new yards will create storage for 165 railcars and accommodate a 90-car unit train.

Separately, Metro Ports, a stevedoring service, opened a new bulk terminal at Burns Harbor in July, handling steel, coke and coal, bauxite and other commodities. Burns Harbor ship traffic was up nearly 20 percent for the first nine months of 2017. The port serves the largest steel-producing region in North America.

Downstate, in September, Indiana’s port agency preliminarily agreed to purchase up to 725 acres of land along the Ohio River in Lawrenceburg and Aurora as the site of a potential fourth state port.

Without adequate investment in U.S. infrastructure, the American Society of Civil Engineers foresees a potential $4 trillion loss in GDP by 2025 and a cost to U.S. business and consumers of $575 billion, among other detriments.

We are seeing work proceed despite thin funding and, fingers crossed, this may prevent the obsolescence of North America’s waterborne freight prowess. MM

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