With less than a week before Christmas, the slowdowns reportedly have led to shortages of some consumer and commercial goods, with ships waiting outside ports to offload their goods.
But Gov. Phil Murphy, at a Dec. 17 media event at the Port of Newark, and flanked by the fully loaded cargo ship the CCNI Andes which departed from Egypt on Dec. 1, said the region largely has been spared. “We’ve been shown months-long backups of cargo ships, of cargo off-port,” the governor said. “We’ve been warned of impending shortages of any number of products.”
But, he added, “those stores and those images have all come from ports on our Pacific Coast. Here at Port Newark and Elizabeth, especially, you’re not going to find those images.”
Officials say the port accounts for about 40% of the nation’s Christmas gifts, that means “Santa Claus’s presents are on the way,” the governor added.
New Jersey Democratic U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer characterized the global supply chain delays as a “five-alarm fire.” A shipping container that would have cost up to $2,000 to transport overseas could now cost at least $22,000, he estimated.
But whereas West Coast ports have wait times of weeks or months for a ship to dock, the average wait-time at New Jersey’s ports is 2.24 days, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which oversees the Port of Newark.
Murphy credited the bistate agency’s harbor-deepening operations and the raising of the Bayonne Bridge – which allowed larger ships to pass into the port – longer hours at the port, infrastructure projects that expanded the ExpressRail Intermodal Rail System and roadways heading into the port, and a fast-tracked state approval process for truck drivers’ licenses.
The infrastructure upgrades mean even more of the largest cargo ships can anchor at the port, along with many smaller vessels, according to Bethann Rooney, deputy director of ports at the Port Authority. Rooney was present along with other Port Authority officials and the International Longshoremen’s Association, whose workers load and unload cargo from the ships.
Despite the successes, the port has been tested. Rooney estimated the docks will end up handling 22% more cargo than last year. And official figures from the agency showed that October was the 15th consecutive month during which the ports broke cargo volume records.
“The ports are operating at full capacity and full efficiency,” Murphy said.
Some near-term upgrades to bolster Port Newark’s capacity include the roadway widening and reconstruction project for the New Jersey Turnpike’s Newark-Bay Hudson County Extension, which includes the replacement of several bridges, so that cars and trucks would face fewer traffic delays.
But other long-term fixes need to be worked out, according to industry analysts. Labor shortages have affected the warehouse and trucking industries vital to moving goods out of the ports and into stores.
Manufacturer have said they hope the supply chain upheavals would persuade businesses to use domestic sources of of both raw materials and vital components for their products. And the expansion of warehouse capacity in the areas surrounding the Port of Newark is creating resistance from environmentalists and lawmakers, some of whom are aiming to enact limits on so-called warehouse sprawl in New Jersey.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]