Attractions of port property
Issues: the Bayonne Bridge lift has helped volumes but there are other challenges on the horizon. Credit: Alec Perkins
COMMENT: For ports around the US, the news is good. With an economy that’s chugging along very nicely, volumes of imports are projected to reach record levels as transits and port calls of neo-panamax ships become commonplace, writes Barry Parker
The Bayonne Bridge project is finally in the home stretch and vessels exceeding 10,000 teu from Maersk, Zim and OOCL have been able to reach the docks with the greater vertical clearance.
But logistics, which includes scheduling, docking, and getting cargo on/off the vessels and into/out of terminals, is tricky stuff in New York/New Jersey, as well at ports all down the US East Coast.
At a time when pundits are suggesting that infrastructure fixes have been put on the Trump administration’s backburner - a sentiment I'm not sure I agree with, but we'll save that for another article - surface transportation is just barely limping on.
And there are other changes on the horizon which port planners ignore at their peril. For example, the real estate market for warehouses and such is booming. The property business magazine Commercial Observer, owned by President Trump’s son in law Jared Kushner, recently opined: “All of a sudden, developers are clamoring for warehouse space in the five boroughs and New Jersey. Prices and rents are skyrocketing.” It also noted: “E-commerce giants like Amazon and Wayfair are driving up demand for industrial property as they search for warehouse space to store and distribute their inventory.”
We will leave it to the high priced consultants and real estate guys like Cushman & Wakefield to get into the specifics of this boom, in particular ports. But, suffice to say, e-commerce is shifting distribution patterns, and shifting them rapidly. The Observer article goes on to describe a builder who purchased land on the Arthur Kill who is now "putting up four buildings with 3.2m square feet of space on the western shore of Staten Island, right beneath the Goethals Bridge and just south of the New York Container Terminal”.
Containerised cargo will certainly still need to move to hinterlands a thousand miles westward, but the epicenter of the retail boom caused by the Amazon and others is in dense urban areas. Port planners should get ahead of this trend, which is no longer a trickle but more of a tidal wave, bringing with it the impediments of congestion and sometimes failed local infrastructure.