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Accommodating cargo growth through the pandemic – at APM Terminals Elizabeth

APM Terminals participated in the Port of New York and New Jersey’s 20th annual Port Industry Day at Liberty State Park, New Jersey, on September 12, 2022, which brought together stakeholders of the port along with distinguished speakers including FMC Chairman Dan Maffei and FMC Commissioner Rebecca Dye, White House Supply Chain Task Force Port Envoy General Stephen Lyons (USA-Ret.) and Administrator of the U.S. Maritime Administration Rear Admiral Ann Phillips (US Navy Ret.). Topics addressed policy issues affecting ports, cargo growth and improving cargo handling efficiency.

Bethann Rooney, Director of the Port Department at The Port Authority of New York/New Jersey participated in a panel exploring “Accommodating Cargo Growth,” which was moderated by John Nardi, President of The Shipping Association of New York and New Jersey. Director Rooney began by recognizing all the terminal operators for doing an excellent job in setting the stage for the port’s success. She also noted the under-utilized gate capacity in the port’s terminals as an opportunity for improvement in the port community. Evening and weekend extra gates are expensive and terminal operators spent $30 million in the past 20 months. She also cited the 60 acres of on and off-dock container storage capacity added on by terminal operators and the Port Authority to adapt to record pandemic volume storage demands.

“Our port is unique in that time and time again our port stakeholders always step up and truly work together through collaboration, coordination and communication for the good of the whole,” said Bethann Rooney, director of the Port Department at The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. “Throughout the overlay of the COVID-19 pandemic, we gathered remotely yet regularly to discuss our collective challenges and to provide visibility into the regional supply chain as a whole, but those relationships do not end when the crisis is over. We are extremely grateful that we were able to bring together several hundred partners and stakeholders of the port in person to once again talk through the national and global logistics challenges now facing our port as well as what we are all doing to address those issues.”

Courtney Robinson, APM Terminals Elizabeth’s Chief Operating Officer opening comments praised Bethann Rooney for galvanizing the terminal operators to work together for the good of the port which has been a success since the start of the February 2022 weekly calls the Port Authority initiated. He highlighted the extraordinary cargo growth driven by the pandemic. “We were constantly adjusting and expanding our operations to serve this growth – with increased cargo volumes at our berth and at our truck gates. Our Labor partners in the ILA deserve special praise for handling the record cargo volumes. They were cooperative and available at all times.”

At APM Terminals Elizabeth, cargo volumes were flat 2019-2020 due to COVID-19, but cargo volume soared by 27% over the last two years and yard utilization grew 25%. Notably, container dwell time (the amount of time a full container sits at the terminal awaiting pickup) increased by 61% since the start of the pandemic. In the first half of 2022, import loads sat more than six days on average. Extended gates were offered throughout the year. Despite strong demand for Saturday gates the actual usage during the pandemic was only 10% of weekly transactions from the shipper and trucking communities. Equally important, Maersk added an offdock drayage program in Q2 2022 which reduced the dwell time on the container terminal, freeing up capacity, increasing fluidity and reducing customers’ storage charges (which are more expensive on waterfront property).

To address this record demand, APM Terminals Elizabeth implemented multiple efforts including investing in more equipment, more infrastructure and keeping extended gates open longer hours at night and on weekends. In the container storage yard, $18.9m in upgrades were undertaken to expand storage capacity, adding space for 250,000 TEUs by the end of 2022. Equipment and facility investments were made including six, new ship-to-shore cranes (two in 2023, four in 2024), six toploaders and the expedited conversion of the diesel container handling fleet to electric equipment in 2023. A terminal appointment system was implemented two years ago in response to the call for more appointments and to aid empty container evacuation. At present, 17,000 weekly appointments for empty equipment are being offered. Queue time for truckers was reduced by 63% and truck gate processing time went from three minutes to 40 seconds.

Tom Heimgartner, Chairman of the Association of Bi-State Motor Carriers who was speaker at the event recognized all the terminal operators for their unprecedented effort to help the trucking community through the record volumes. He called for more flexibility on gates, appointment systems and increased evacuation of empty containers to free up terminal space.

Mr. Robinson finished his remarks by stating “The pandemic is still here and changing all the time. Supply chain disruption will continue to be a normal part of global supply chains this year and every year. Integrated supply chain models are still the best playbook for business agility. We want to thank all our customers – in particular the truckers for being patient, understanding and partnering with us to radically transform our customer experience.”
Source: APM Terminals

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