A Vision for Short Sea Shipping

JOHN SLADEWSKI/The Standard-Times Kristin Decas, executive director of the city’s Harbor Development Commission, says State Pier could be an ideal spot to develop the short sea shipping industry in New Bedford.

New Shipping Method Could Bring $120 Million and Jobs
Serving as Freight Transfer Point Could Prove a Boon to New Bedford
By Becky W. Evans, Standard-Times Staff Writer

Shipments of Florida oranges and New Bedford scallops would soon move from the road to the sea if a new mode of shipping domestic goods takes hold.
Under the concept, known as short sea shipping, produce, seafood, timber and other domestic goods would be transported along the East Coast by boat instead of truck, reducing traffic along the Interstate 95 corridor.
Ships would move up and down the Atlantic coast, carrying goods between Florida and Massachusetts. Trucks would meet the vessels in port, load the goods and deliver them to short-haul destinations.
Advocates of short sea shipping say moving freight along the coast will reduce congestion on the nation’s overburdened highways and rail lines. Other benefits may include reducing air pollution, preserving open space, lowering shipping costs and easing pressure on aging highway infrastructure.
Making New Bedford a short sea shipping hub would stimulate economic growth and bring jobs to the region, said Kristin Decas, the new executive director of the city’s Harbor Development Commission.
“It looks promising,” she said. “It could really work for us.”
Short sea shipping would be a “major harbor-front economic development engine” for the Port of New Bedford, Mayor Scott W. Lang said in a prepared statement.
It would “grow and diversify” the port and “enhance the markets for our fishing industry,” he said.
The estimated economic impact of developing short sea shipping operations in New Bedford and Fall River could be as high as $120 million, according to a study prepared Reeve & Associates, Yarmouthport consulting firm.
The study, funded by the Massachusetts Department of Business and Technology and Seaport Advisory Council, estimates that short sea shipping could create up to 800 jobs in and around Bristol County.
Short sea shipping could attract manufacturing plants to New Bedford, bringing much-needed jobs to SouthCoast, said Ms. Decas, who formerly worked as the council’s deputy director and program manager.
“The system would support industry here in Massachusetts and New England,” said Richard Armstrong, executive secretary and director of port development for the council.
Pierre Bernier, manager of shipping operations and logistics for Maritime International, said the New Bedford company stands to benefit from short sea shipping.
“We would like to participate in the loading and unloading of vessels,” Mr. Bernier said.
In addition, the company could store goods in its cold storage warehouses prior to shipping, he said.
Paul Buckley, CEO of Colonial Trucking in Brockton, said he would welcome the opportunity for his trucks to deliver goods from New Bedford to short-haul destinations around New England.
“We’d be interested in doing something like that,” he said.
The company currently trucks general commodities from New England to New York and New Jersey and back.
Sending the commodities to New York by vessel rather than truck would be too costly and time consuming, Mr. Buckley said.
“It’s too short of a haul,” he said.
Short sea shipping makes better sense for longer hauls, such as from New England to Virginia and farther south, he said.
Ms. Decas agreed.
She pointed to a second study by Reeve & Associates, which found that short sea shipping routes between New Bedford and Jacksonville, Fla., were more cost-effective than those between New Bedford and Bayonne, New Jersey.
Given the study’s results, Ms. Decas is working hard to woo potential port partners in Florida. In April, she will attend a short sea shipping conference in Orlando.
She predicted that New Bedford could be sending and receiving goods to and from Port Canaveral or another Florida port two years from now.
Goods would be transported on articulated tug barges of no more than 400 feet in length. Each vessel would carry 140 trailers.
Ms. Decas said she would be happy if New Bedford saw three to four short sea shipping barges per month.
“One to two per week would be amazing,” she said.
To avoid traffic congestion, Ms. Decas said trucks could move trailers off the barges and out of New Bedford late at night. To minimize local air pollution, the trucks could run on biodiesel or other alternative fuels, she said.
The study warns that “New Bedford’s current cargo facilities in terms of berth and yard capacity need to be improved to effectively support a short-sea service.”
In the long-term, reconstruction or relocation of the Route 6 bridge might be necessary if the North Terminal is developed as a berth for short sea shipping vessels, which require a paved ramp so trailers can roll on and off them.
Ms. Decas said she is confident that State Pier can handle the short sea shipping traffic with some structural improvements, a few of which are currently underway.
“Ultimately, what I would like to see happen is for New Bedford to step up State Pier into a nice state-of-the-art terminal for mixed use,” she said.
While the use of State Pier means there would be no need to change the Route 6 bridge, Ms. Decas said a haul road would have to be constructed for trucks to better access Route 195 from the pier.
Contact: revans@s-t.com
Date of Publication: February 25, 2007

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