Seven months into the COVID-19 global pandemic, with closures and restrictions all around us, the Port of New York and New Jersey remains open and fully operational. Container volumes have rebounded sharply, consistent with the elimination of most “blank sailings.” In August, the Port returned to 2019 levels, setting a new all-time monthly container record, including a new record for intermodal rail volume. At almost 65,000 lifts, the port-wide intermodal ExpressRail system handled 7.8 percent more volume than August 2019, with overall rail volume up 1.4 percent year-to-date through August 2020.
Following the Golden Week celebration (October 1-8), just two blank sailings remain on Transpacific services calling on the Port of New York and New Jersey. Currently, projections indicate that container volume will remain strong for the rest of the year.
Maintaining cargo supply chain fluidity remains a primary objective for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the broader maritime community. Port partners are taking proactive steps to add more resources and service hours to support this untraditional peak cargo volume season. Daily communications with the Port Authority, freight railroads, and marine terminal operators are on-going to manage the strong cargo volumes and remain fluid at both the terminal gates and throughout the ExpressRail system. Actions already taken include increased weekend hours and the allocation of more labor to the ExpressRail terminals.
With respect to rail, the Port Authority is committed to working with Class One rail partners, Norfolk Southern and CSX, as well as local operator Conrail to manage the substantial intermodal volumes. Several system-enhancing investments have been identified and are underway. This assertive approach will ensure that off-port support infrastructure is scaled to accommodate anticipated cargo growth. For example, the “Wavery Loop” project is an off-site improvement that will enhance staging capacity and overall network fluidity. This Conrail project, which is estimated for completion in late 2021, will provide an additional 12,000 feet of rail staging capacity.
The Port Authority and the terminal operators, railroads, ILA Labor, New York Shipping Association, depot operators, chassis providers, and the trucking industry continue to focus on health protocols to keep the vital New York and New Jersey port complex safe, open, and fluid.