Intermodal infrastructure - the nuts and bolts moving from the quay to the hinterland

The problem with political promises - from either party in the US - is that the big ideas need to be translated into specific action items.

Compounding this chasm, there is a big gap between the business community and the politicians who authorize and allocate money to support such investment. So, it is noteworthy when a top executive in moving cargo represents the maritime and terminal business in front of lawmakers.

Such was the situation with James Pelliccio, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Port Newark Container Terminal (PNCT) - owned by Ports America, in turn backed by infrastructure investor Highstar Capital, who presented testimony in front of a subcommittee of the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

The meeting also saw presentations by executives from the railroad, airfreight and trucking segments. PNCT has committed to invest $500m through 2030; its investment in “rail on dock” has been noteworthy. It comes at a time that the first anniversary of the widened Panama Canal is nine months away. Another project in New York harbor, the raised roadway of the Bayonne Bridge, expected to be completed later this year, will allow larger ships bound for PNCT (and three other terminals on the New Jersey mainland) to pass under the bridge. PNCT handled approximately 1.2m teu in 2016.

While lawmakers chart the course of the bigger Infrastructure Investment programme, tagged at $1trn, Pellicio’s message emphasized the importance of two existing programmes. Pellicio, a member of Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors, an organisation made up of multiple businesses and trade organizations supporting freight mobility, extolled the benefits of the “FASTLANE” and “TIGER” competitive grant programs.

One TIGER grant project mentioned was the Port Newark Terminal Access Improvement Project, which was financed through mainly private money in a Public Private Partnership. A FASTLANE application to fund a portion of revitalising the quay area is still pending. In his testimony, Pellicio urged the Senators, and the broader US Congress to provide dedicated funding on a sustained basis, to bolster investment in infrastructure for moving cargo across modes.

In addition, he called for a Government partnership with the private sector and for a national strategy to guide infrastructure planning and subsequent funding. Existing methods of funding see difficulties “in funding large-scale infrastructure projects, spanning modes and jurisdictional borders…” he said.

Posted 14 April 2017

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Barry Parker

New York correspondent, Seatrade Maritime

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