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The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey by Bill Burns, Maritime Representative, Europe, Middle East, Africa & South Asia - Meeting of 10 February 2009

Although based in Scotland, Bill Burns covers a significant part of the world representing the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and flew back from Dubai to give his presentation to the Scottish Region. Bill began his presentation by briefly outlining the history of the Port Authority and it's main functions. Although the bi-state agency primarily a seaport operator, the authority also operates ferries, road bridges and tunnels, and 5 airports, including John F. Kennedy airport. It also operates the bus station and the local commuter rail system. One of the main projects currently underway is the redevelopment of the World Trade Centre site after the 9-11 attack. The foundations for the new 540 metre tall "Freedom Tower" have just been completed using 15,000 cubic yards of concrete.

Despite the current financial situation, the Port Authority's 2007 - 2016 budget will not be affected so the planned developments will be implemented. These projects include clearing some 160 acres of land for further development, continuing dredging operations and maintenance of existing facilities. Significant investment will also be made in switching to the use of renewable energy and on environmental initiatives. Investment in improvements to air traffic control will be made at the airports, and there will also be improvements to runways and aprons as well to accommodate additional flights.

However, the changes in the economic situation have seen major changes in the economy with the issue of house building permits down 47% and that has a corresponding effect on the demand for household goods, for example, furniture and white goods. This has led to a shift in cargo flows and one of the most noticeable is that of cargo entering the United States via the east coast ports and then being transported by rail across the country has declined from 70% to about 30% today, with a corresponding increase in the amount of cargo arriving at the west coast ports, having been shipped via the Panama Canal. Cargo traffic handled by New York grew by 3.3% in the same period.

The he Port Authority of New York and New Jersey aims to be sustainable and future developments will have this in mind. One of the major issues is that of the Bayonne Bridge. This has a limited air draught and the Corps of Engineers is carrying out a study to determine whether it would be better to rebuild the bridge or replace it with a tunnel. Sustainability is designed into development and the aim is to reduce the carbon footprint as much as possible. For example, a road haulage truck emits up to three times the amount of particulates and nitrous oxide per tonne mile that a railway locomotive. It is estimated that each container moved by rail saves 1.7 truck trips.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is not allowed to lose money, nor is it allowed to make money. Any surplus income is spent to improve the region. This has led to investments in the express rail system, the New Jersey marine terminal and investment in the railway system. All rail routes can now accommodate double stacked container trains up to 2 miles long. Train services are provided by Norfolk Southern and CSX. There is also an inter-modal incentive programme to encourage use of rail services. Anticipated benefits include the creation of jobs and increased employment. The Port Authority also has an active environmental management approach and has to comply with many environmental regulations. By working with partners and tenants of the various properties and by designing sustainability into designs it can achieve this. Providing shore power for cruise liners is beneficial, but less so for container ships. The authority also meets ISO standards.

The Authority has invested in the change over from diesel trains to electric ones and has installed solar panels on the roofs of warehouses. Currently some 37% of the warehouse roof area is now solar panels. There is also a 57% rebate on the cost of installing solar panels and there are tax incentives to install solar panels. The IRS allows the first year costs to be written off and additionally some 40% of the utility bill is saved. The ferries have been retrofitted with new engines and by reusing material dredged from the river and channels, some 130 acres of land has been reclaimed. Reclaimed material has been used in the Elders Island restoration project. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey also works with other city ports, for example, Rotterdam. It also works with companies such as AP Moller and in this case it has led to the creation of a virtual container yard. The Authority also promotes new initiatives, such as the voluntary vessel speed reduction scheme to reduce emissions.

During an interesting discussion session many questions were put to Bill Burns who answered them in a comprehensive fashion. There were also many points made on how the current economic situation was affecting freight movements around the world and on how the port is developing. At the end of the evening, the Regional Chairman thanked Bill for his presentation and the debate it had stimulated and presented him with an engraved quaich as a memento of the evening.

Further information on The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey can be found on their website at

Report by John Fender.


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