A Kick in the Bridges

For the past year or so we’ve been hearing that certain bridges in the approaches to the New York /New Jersey container terminals are too low. Unless these bridges are raised/replaced, the complaint goes, major carriers will refuse to send their giant mega-ships with their loads of TEUs to the port’s terminals – when the widening of the Panama Canal is completed.

The mega-ships that carriers and port officials are speaking about are the 12,000, 15,000 and 18,000-TEU monsters that are on order at Asian shipyards, in spite of the fact that “overcapacity” is already requiring carriers to lay up hundreds of smaller but perfectly seaworthy vessels. But when the widening of the Panama Canal is finished this “overcapacity”will then pay off.

“Slow-steaming”, another brainstorm, is the way to keep some of the “overcapacity” at sea, we’re being told. The idea being that it’s cheaper to keep a vessel in operation than it is to lay it up – the lesser of two evils, you know. But when the widening of the Panama canal is completed, carriers will need this “overcapacity” and will be spared the cost of putting those vessels back in service.

If you believe this garbage being put out by the authorities, well, then you might be interested in buying one of the bridges that the carriers are complaining about. Like maybe the one in Brooklyn?

Here’s the latest. Not only are the bridges too low for the carriers’ liking, but now we’re hearing that the bridge “tolls” are too high. At least that’s APL’s complaint – according to port officials.

“STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – The departure of a multinational shipping line from Staten Island is emerging as Exhibit ‘A’ in the effort to show why Port Authority bridge toll hikes are bad for the borough’s economy.

“APL Limited has opted out of renewing its lease and will vacate the New York Container terminal in Mariners harbor next July over space considerations and the prospect of ongoing toll hikes on PA bridges, Terminal CEO Jim Devine said.” –

APL, it should be noted, accounts for about 37 percent of the port’s business.

It should also be noted that ships don’t pay tolls at toll bridges. Over-the-road vehicles do. So is this a non-sequitur, or what? Just occasionally, can’t we hear something sensible from the maritime industry? Do you suppose that APL (the provider of 37 percent of the port’s business) would leave if they were making money at the port? And don’t you think that if there was any chance of a business upswing, carriers would designate some of their smaller ships to service the NY/NJ terminals – like the ones that are now being laid up? No jobs – no paychecks – no consumers – no demand – no APL. Get it?

Yeah, but when the widening of the Panama Canal is completed, those new 18,000-TEU leviathans will need higher bridges so they can bring a lot of nothing to the Port of NY/NJ. Get it?