New Bedford officials celebrate pier, trade accomplishments

NEW BEDFORD — Tuesday was a big day on the city’s waterfront.
A ribbon-cutting to celebrate the successful completion of three infrastructure improvement projects drew state and local officials to the State Pier at the same time as a two-day international conference designed to increase commerce through the port concluded at the Fairfield Inn’s Waypoint Event Center.
“It’s a nice synergy in that we are discussing trade opportunities at the summit while the renovations at the State Pier will support the import of commodities that’s going to launch with our Mexmar service,” said Harbor Development Commission executive director Kristin Decas.
A new partnership between New Bedford and the port of Tuxpan, in the state of Veracruz on Mexico’s Gulf Coast, is currently being finalized, with the first freighter bringing Mexican produce to the region expected to dock at State Pier within the next two weeks, Decas said.
The events brought Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray to the city. Cutting the ribbon on the $3.3 million pier renovation project, Murray said: “Bringing international cargo to New Bedford is what we want to grow and expand, so I want to thank all the partners who have worked so hard to make this happen.”
Both warehouse facilities on the pier were completely renovated, new office space was added and heating was installed in the larger building to prevent fresh produce from freezing in the winter, officials said.
The governor’s Seaport Advisory Council, which Murray chairs, provided $2.3 million in funds for the upgrade, with $1 million coming from the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s waterways program. DCR Commissioner Edward M. Lambert, Jr., New Bedford Mayor Scott W. Lang and state reps. Antonio F.D. Cabral, D-New Bedford, and Christopher Markey, D-Dartmouth, also spoke at the ceremony.
“In the ’80s, we had 45 cargo vessels coming. When I took office, we had 10 ships a year. Now we’re over 30, and I expect that to increase greatly in the future,” Lang said.
The port improvements will allow year-round produce to come through New Bedford, officials say.
This notion was confirmed by Gerardo Patino of ProMexico, a Mexican government agency charged with developing international trade. “We have so many climate zones we can grow tomatoes year round,” he said, speaking at the summit. Mexico was eager to develop more trade with the U.S., Patino said. “This is a time when we should be building bridges, not walls between our two countries.”
Addressing the summit, Kenneth Parkinson, director of North America Port Infrastructure LLC, noted that 14 million people live within a short distance by truck from the Whaling City. “You have the ability to become the gateway for imports into New England,” he told the assembly.
Environmental police also gathered at the pier for the official opening of a new dock, reserved for law enforcement and firefighting vessels. The floating dock, secured by an iron fence, has water and electric hookups and can accommodate up to five vessels.
This $318,000 project was funded by a combination of federal stimulus money and state funds.
Finally, Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Mary Griffin spoke at another official event at nearby Coast Guard Park to recognize the completion of upgrades to four landing spots around the waterfront to accommodate visiting boaters. This comes along with the recent addition of a new pump-out station, she said. “New Bedford Harbor is a destination for boaters and anglers and these improvements will ensure that it’s accessible for years to come,” she said.
Murray also announced Tuesday that the Seaport Advisory Council approved $100,000 to support the engineering and permitting for the rehabilitation of marine structures at Battleship Cove in Fall River.
October 19, 2011 12:00 AM
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