I went inside the East Coast’s largest port and saw how a backlog of goods are moved amid the never-ending chaos of ships, trucks, and trains

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

  • The Port of New York and New Jersey has seen cargo volumes skyrocket during the pandemic.
  • An increase in e-commerce purchases during the pandemic has resulted in a backlog of goods.
  • Larger and larger ships are coming to the East Coast’s largest port to help keep goods moving.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Welcome to America’s front door.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

The Port of New York and New Jersey is the East Coast’s largest port with container terminals on each side of New York Habor that serve 46.3 million people within a four-hour driving radius.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

A combination of ships, trucks, and trains all converge here to transport a myriad of goods. And in recent months, business has been booming.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

A backlog of consumer goods built up during the pandemic contributed to higher than normal shipping levels as locked-down consumers fueled an e-commerce craze.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Read More: The US is facing a supply-chain crisis as 21 cargo ships float off the coast of LA waiting to dock

It’s up to the port to help get consumers the items they ordered and keep global trade running smoothly.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

I went behind the scenes in the controlled chaos of the Port of New York and New Jersey. Here’s what I saw.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

It all starts with a customer. A consumer business on one side of the world buys a product that’s built on the other.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

One way to transport those products is via ocean shipping. Goods are put into a container that’s then loaded onto an ocean-faring ship and sent across the globe.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Cargo volumes in 2020 actually started off worse than 2019 by a small variance but then rapidly worsened in the early months of the pandemic. In August, however, volumes jumped and the port quickly outpaced its 2019 volume from August through December.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

A total of five months in 2020 saw what is normally eight months’ worth of volume.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

A ship’s capacity is measured in 20-foot-equivalent units, or TEUs. One 20-foot container equals one TEU while a larger 40-foot container would be two TEUs.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

The Port of New York and New Jersey handled 7.5 million TEUs in 2020.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Containerized shipping was actually created at the Port of New York and New Jersey in 1956. Before that, goods were offloaded onto trucks and driven long distances across the US.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Now, one ship can visit multiple ports, picking up and dropping off containers as it goes.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Consolidation in the ocean shipping industry has resulted in fewer companies. Common names at this port are Maersk, CMA CGM, and Ocean Network Express.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Read More: 22 companies cashing in on the brutal log-jam at America’s busiest ports

Sharing agreements allow shipping companies to use space on each other’s boats. An Evergreen container on a CMA CGM ship isn’t uncommon, for example.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Containers are cheap enough to buy at a cost of around $3,500 apiece. Tens of millions of these containers could be found across the world from the decks of container ships to the backs of trucks and to ports like this one.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

They’re almost constantly in motion and identified by tracking numbers. Containers will often travel empty on container ships and companies will determine whether it’s worth it to ship the containers empty or just buy another one.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Just like an airport, this port has its own privately-owned terminals where containers are loaded and unloaded from ships. The north side of the Elizabeth Channel, for example, is home to Port Newark Container Terminal while the south side is home to Maher Terminals.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Massive cranes greet the ships and immediately begin offloading and loading containers in a real-world game of Tetris.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Handling the containers are port workers known as longshoremen. The union positions are highly sought after thanks to good pay and benefits.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

The typical progression for a longshoreman is starting as a baggage handler for cruise lines and then becoming an automobile driver for the car ships. From there, each longshoreman can choose their own specialty and hone their craft.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

The Port of New York and New Jersey doesn’t just handle containers, however, and other major imports and exports include automobiles…

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Cement…

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

And edible oils. .

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Even scrap metal is a valuable commodity.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Cruise ship terminals are also under the port’s purview but traffic in that sector has been almost entirely quiet for most of 2020 due to the pandemic.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Trucks are weighed when they enter the port and credentials, known as transportation worker identification credentials, are checked. They’ll then meet with a longshoreman to arrange a spot to pick up their load.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

The terminal’s computer system then relays a message to another longshoreman, who then retrieves the container. Each truck is different and one can drop off one load and immediately pick up another one.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

But not all pull the double duty. Some trucks are just picking up while others are just dropping off.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

The process looks like a lot of waiting around but trucks should be in and out of the port in under two hours.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Around 80% of truck drivers are owner-operators, giving them more freedom than a fleet driver for an established company.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

The trucks and rail lines that serve the port can bring goods as far as Tennessee, the Midwest, and Canada. Chicago, for example, is just a two-day rail trip from here.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Around 18% of cargo moves out of the port by rail. Some trains leave the port after being given a mile’s worth of the 20 and 40-foot containers.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Larger and larger ships have been arriving at this port since the pandemic began.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

One such ship is the CMA CGM Marco Polo, a container vessel with a maximum capacity of 16,022 TEUs. It’s the largest ship to visit the East Coast that can now access the Port of New York and New Jersey because of recent port improvements.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Read More: The largest container ship to ever visit the East Coast just arrived at the Port of New York and New Jersey: Meet the Marco Polo

Standing in the way between the port and larger ships, historically, has been the Bayonne Bridge, which connects Bayonne, New Jersey and Staten Island, New York. While ships have grown in size, the bridge has remained the same for nearly 90 years.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

That was until the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey spent $1.7 billion to raise the bridge’s roadway to allow larger ships to pass underneath. The new clearance of the bridge is now 215 feet and ships as large as 18,000 TEUs can pass underneath.

CMA CGM Marco Polo arrival
The CMA CGM Marco Polo arriving at the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Source: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

The port has been seeing a steady stream of larger and larger ships ever since. The CMA CGM Brazil broke the port’s record in September, only to have the CMA CGM Marco Polo break it again in May.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

The CMA CGM Marco Polo is considered a “New Panamax” ship since it’s greater than 12,500 TEUs. Standard “Panamax” ships were once the largest ships that the Panama Canal could accommodate until larger locks were added in the 2010s.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Containers are stacked up on top of each other 200 feet high, with even more below deck.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

During offloading, a constant flow of these intermediary trucks approach the ship to receive containers.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Containers are plucked from the ship by a crane that’s operated by a longshoreman sitting 200 feet off of the ground.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

The longshoreman has an overhead view to make collecting the containers easier.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

The massive containers are quickly whisked through the air by the crane as if weightless.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

The longshoreman then lowers the crane, aligning the container with the truck below.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Once it’s dropped onto the truck, the container is secured and the truck drives off. It’s less than 30 seconds from the time the container is secured until the time the truck is on its way.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

The process continues until all of the containers are offloaded.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

The ship then receives a new load of containers to transport to the other side of the world. Foreign-flagged ships can’t move goods between two US ports under the Jones Act.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Exports from the US include cotton, forest products, agricultural supplies, and foodstuffs, to name a few.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Around 4,700 containers are being dropped and loaded, just under one-third of the CMA CGM Marco Polo’s total capacity.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

From the bridge of the Marco Polo, it’s containers for as far as the eye can see. The Port of New York and New Jersey never shut down operations during the pandemic.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Larger ships coming to the port also requires larger cranes.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

The APM Terminals-operated cranes services the Marco Polo are a staggering 209 feet tall.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

A maximum of seven cranes was assigned to the Marco Polo at its peak to help expedite the unloading process.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Not every container is searched by US Customs and Border Protection when they enter the country. The agency instead uses complex algorithms to detect anomalies that prompt searches.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Inspectors, for example, can look at the weight of a container and see if it matches up with the cargo listed on a manifest. If it doesn’t, that prompts a search.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Human smuggling isn’t a major issue on the East Coast compared to the West Coast, which has closer proximity to Asia, but ships do have to be on the lookout for stowaways.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Now that the Port of New York and New Jersey has proven it can handle larger ships, it’s only a matter of time before the record set by the Marco Polo will be shattered.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

And New York Harbor will continue to receive some of the largest ships in the world.

Port of New York and New Jersey visit
Touring the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The largest container ship to ever visit the East Coast just arrived at the Port of New York and New Jersey: Meet the Marco Polo

CMA CGM Marco Polo arrival
The CMA CGM Marco Polo arriving at the Port of New York and New Jersey.

  • The CMA CGM Marco Polo is the largest container ship to visit the US East Coast.
  • It can carry a total of 16,022 containers that ship goods such as furniture, foodstuffs, and clothing.
  • Its arrival was possible due to a $1.7 billion project to raise the roadway of the Bayonne Bridge.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A new record was just set at the Port of New York and New Jersey.

The CMA CGM Marco Polo arrived in New York Harbor on Thursday morning after completing a three-week journey from China through the Suez Canal. It’s the largest container vessel to ever visit, or call, the East Coast of the US and was the largest in the world when it was built in 2013.

A total of 16,022 20-foot-equivalent containers, also known as TEUs, can fit on the ship that’s roughly the size of the Empire State Building. That many containers could cover 61 miles if put in a straight line, almost the width of New Jersey.

Inside the containers are a variety of consumer goods including home goods, furniture, and construction materials, bound for US customers. Over 10,000 shipping companies and customers are represented by the containers on the ship.

CMA CGM Marco Polo arrival
The CMA CGM Marco Polo arriving at the Port of New York and New Jersey.

While it’s in the port, 5,000 TEUs will be offloaded onto a constant stream of trucks and then transported either by road or rail to their final destinations. Over 140 million people are served by the Port of New York and New Jersey and even destinations as far as Chicago are a short two-day train ride away.

Once the offloading process is complete, new containers will be put on the ship to be delivered at other ports of call as the Marco Polo continues its around-the-world journey. Popular exports from the US include cotton, forest products, agricultural supplies, and foodstuffs.

Before arriving in the US, the ship made stops in Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Canada as part of CMA CGM’s Columbus JAX service. The Port of Savannah in Georgia will be the last port of call before the long trip back to Asia.

A record-setting pandemic

The Port of New York and New Jersey just celebrated a similar milestone in September when the CMA CGM Brazil broke the record now being broken by the Marco Polo.

Larger mega-ships have only recently been able to access the East Coast’s largest port since 2019. Standing in the way between the port and the massive freighters has been the Bayonne Bridge, connecting Bayonne, New Jersey with Staten Island, New York.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey spent $1.7 billion to raise the roadway of the bridge and allow larger ships to pass underneath. Engineers also dredged the bottom of the Kill van Kull, using explosives to break up the bedrock below, to increase the depth of the port’s waterways to 50 feet.

CMA CGM Marco Polo arrival
The CMA CGM Marco Polo arriving at the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Ships with capacities as much as 18,000 TEUs can now access the Port of New York and New Jersey, giving shipping companies another option when serving the US. Some ships have been choosing to call the East Coast port instead of waiting in the backlog of ships outside the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, as Insider’s Brittany Chang saw firsthand.

Read More: 22 companies cashing in on the brutal log-jam at America’s busiest ports

And the Bayonne Bridge project was completed not a moment too soon. A backlog of consumer goods like furniture has been building up during the pandemic, and larger ships are required to meet the newfound demand.

The Marco Polo is just one ship that’s helping chip away at that backlog so consumers can receive the long-awaited goods they’ve ordered during the e-commerce boom of the pandemic.

Read More: The untold story of how the furniture industry crashed during the pandemic – and how smart players are rethinking it now

And while the Marco Polo’s arrival is a monumental occasion for the port, the ever-growing demand for mega-ships will likely mean an even larger ship may break the record once again in a few month’s time.

Read the original article on Business Insider