Container Terminals, Shipping Lanes and Dredging in the Port of NY and NJ

The Port of New York and New Jersey is the largest port on the East Coast and the third largest (after Los Angeles and Long Beach) in the United States. In 2009, the total value of all cargo imported and exported through the NY/NJ Port was $146 billion. You can view the port’s trade stats through 2009 and view a comparison of ports worldwide.

The Port Authority of NY and NJ oversees the operations of the shipping ports in our region. The following map identifies the location of these terminals. (This map is from an Army Corps of Engineers 2011 presentation about the NY/NJ harbor estuary):

Container Terminals in the Port of New York and Jersey

Container Terminals in the Port of New York and Jersey

The Port Authority contracts with private companies to manage these shipping terminals (see list of companies that manage each terminal):

New York New Jersey Container Ports

New York New Jersey Container Ports - Port Authority of NY & NJ

Pictures of Container Ports

During my bike and boat rides last year, I took pictures of all the container ports in the NY/NJ metropolitan area. On Google Picasa, you can view pictures from my bike trip to Bayonne, New Jersey and Staten Island and pictures from a boat ride to the working harbors of Brooklyn, Staten Island and Newark Bay, New Jersey. The following image is of the Elizabeth Marine Terminal that I took at sunset on a Hidden Harbor boat tour hosted by the Working Harbor Committee:

Elizabeth Marine Terminal in New Jersey

Elizabeth Marine Terminal in New Jersey

Manhattan’s Working Harbor Has Disappeared

You will notice in the above maps that none of the container ports is located in Manhattan. Until the rise of container ships (starting in the 1950s), Manhattan was the center of waterborne trade in the region. The following 1951 aerial shot shows the close proximity of working piers and sheds that jet-out from lower Manhattan’s periphery along the East River and the Hudson. Today, the lower Manhattan waterfront is no longer used for the loading and unloading of break bulk cargo, but is devoted primarily to recreational purposes and ferry terminals. (I captured the following screen shot from NYCityMapthe direct link to the below map is here):

Lower Manhattan Working Piers in 1951 - NYCityMap

Lower Manhattan Working Piers in 1951 - NYCityMap

Shipping Channels

In order for large cargo vessels to enter the NY/NJ port and dock at any of the container terminals, these ships follow the paths of established shipping channels that have sufficient depth for them to pass safely. The following two images show the locations of the main shipping channels in the Lower and Upper Bay:

Map of Shipping Channels in New York-New Jersey Harbor

Map of Shipping Channels in New York-New Jersey Harbor

Click this link or the following image to see a larger view of the port’s shipping channels:

Shipping Channels in New York/Nersey Port - Satellite View

Shipping Channels in New York/Nersey Port - Satellite View

Dredging the Shipping Lanes for Post-Panamax Vessels

The Army Corps of Engineers in conjunction with the Port Authority of NY & NJ and the states of NY and NJ is responsible for on-going efforts to dredge the harbors of the port so that container ships, tankers and large passenger vessels can safely navigate the main shipping channels. The goal of on-going dredging operations is to deepen shipping channels to fifty feet so that Post-Panamax container ships will be able to dock in the NY harbor. In 2014, the widening of the Panama Canal will be complete and the Post-Panamax container ships will begin to travel from points in Asia, through the Canal and up to the East Coast. The Port of NY/NJ will have to be at least 50 feet deep by then in order for these larger ships to berth at the container terminals.

The following image, provided by the Army Corps of Engineers, shows the current status of the 50-foot dredging effort along different sections of the navigation channels. The gray area is completed and the red area is underway. This goal is to complete this dredging project by 2012:

Dredging Shipping Channels in NY/NJ Port

Dredging Shipping Channels in NY/NJ Port

Raising the Bayonne Bridge

Dredging is not the only issue. The Bayonne Bridge, which crosses over the Kill Van Kull shipping channel and connects Staten Island to Bayonne, needs to be raised or replaced to accommodate the larger Post-Panamax ships that will enter the Newark Bay. The Port Authority of NY and NJ is recommending that the bridge be raised to increase ship clearance. The alternative option of replacing the Bayonne bridge with a new higher one is considered too expensive.

I took the following picture of the Bayonne Bridge from the Newark Bay during a Hidden Harbor tour last summer:

Bayonne Bridge

Bayonne Bridge

About Doug Fox

Doug Fox is a New York City tour guide, urban explorer and waterfront enthusiast. Email Doug at: nyctransported [at] gmail [.] com