Faced with heavy container backlog at its shared rail terminal after higher-than-expected cargo volumes, APM Terminals in the Port of New York and New Jersey is ramping up efforts to migrate. The terminal operator is draying cargo to an intermodal yard outside the port and sending containers by barge to a rail terminal in Norfolk. The two initiatives are part of the terminal’s ongoing efforts to reduce the container piles that have packed the terminal since October as a result of a cargo surge, short workweeks after the holidays, and terminal construction, which have sparked truck congestion and stifled rail terminal operations.
APM Terminals says its efforts — which have included extending gate hours, bringing in more equipment, and diverting ships to other terminals — have helped reduce pressure on the terminal. There has been “consistent improvement,” with average turn times “regularly” below 90 minutes, said David Gledhill, managing director of APM Terminals Elizabeth, LLC. A periodic bulletin sent to customers by the terminal said it has made “progress” in reducing the backlog of export containers. Truckers say that they have seen modest improvement in the face of difficult circumstances, but the terminal fluidity is still far from where they would like to see it. The unexpected cargo volumes have also backed up the terminal’s rail link — known as Millennium Marine Rail — with containers, prompting APM Terminals to ask CSX and Norfolk Southern railroads for additional containers. APM shares the link with Maher Terminals. APM told customers this week that it also has commissioned a barge to take 350 containers to Norfolk, where they will moved on by CSX. The terminal has lined up an additional barge for a similar trip next week. Shippers have said in recent weeks that their containers have endured significant delays in leaving the terminal by rail, and one shipper said it took more than two weeks to get the cargo out by rail.
Container volume through the largest East Coast container port was up 20 percent in December, with the volume of loaded TEU rising by 8.1 percent to 3.7 million TEU, compared with a 6.4 percent increase in 2017, according PIERS. December imports from China were up 22.9 percent, the figures show. Port stakeholders say that much of the cargo increase stems from shippers bringing in more cargo than planned in order to get it there before the US increases tariffs on goods from China. A key driver was the Jan. 1 deadline, after which tariffs were scheduled to increase from 10 percent to 25 percent. President Donald Trump subsequently postponed the date until March 1. Along with the scheduled vessels arriving, the port has in recent weeks seen at least six — and possibly more — “loaders,” or unscheduled ships, together carrying 15,000 additional TEU. The ship diversion, however, has provided some relief. Last week, the terminal diverted one Maersk vessel to GCT Bayonne and another to Maher Terminals. The two terminals will each get another Maersk vessel in the coming week, APM announced Thursday. The diversions have helped, but the terminal has continued to battle with high cargo volumes, and, this week, the additional problem of frigid weather, said Rob Movshin, regional manager, Northeast, at ContainerPort Group.
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