Boat makes milestone pass under Bayonne Bridge

BY Michael Hill, Correspondent |

The Theodore Roosevelt is carrying more than 14,000 containers, the most ever for a cargo vessel to pass under the Bayonne Bridge. The bridge was recently raised 64-feet to accommodate bigger ships that can carry up to 18,000 containers.

“It truly is an engineering marvel. This is the first time a project of this nature has ever been done: rebuilding a bridge while you’re operating a bridge. I like to use the analogy it’s like performing open heart surgery on a runner as he’s running his marathon,” said Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Chief of Major Capital Projects Steve Plate.

“It’s a modern day miracle,” said Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole.

Along the way, the miracle had some bumps in the form of noise complaints and more. But, there was applause Thursday for the raised bridge and the Port Authority having dredged the shipping canal 50-feet so vessels like the Roosevelt could sail to ports in New Jersey and New York. The Roosevelt is making its maiden voyage to America’s biggest East Coast ports.

With all the hoopla and the ceremony to mark the milestone of the raising of the Bayonne Bridge, what does it really mean in terms of dollars and cents and jobs for the area?

“It’s almost 400,000 jobs we’re talking about. We’re talking about $54 billion in economic gain in the region. Over $7 billion in taxes — between federal, state and income — are going to be accumulated. This is huge. This is a real game changer,” said O’Toole.

“We have the wealthiest consumer market in the world and we’re ready to serve it. We’ve spent billions of dollars modernizing the port over the last 20 or so years, and we’re ready to get to work,” said James Cobb, director of governmental affairs for New York Shipping Association.

The vessel is carrying everything from clothes, furniture, beer and much more for a growing East Coast market. Literally tons of products made in Asia that sail on bigger and bigger boats through the widened Panama Canal.

But is there a need for bigger and bigger container ships like this? “Well, there’s not that much growth in cargo. However the more you can put on one vessel, the per unit cost goes down. So it’s the economies of scales that makes the difference,” said CEO of Panama Canal Authority Jorge Quijano.

But, more goods on bigger boats could mean more trucks to and from the ports and more pollution and more problems for those with respiratory issues.

“There’s been a lot of investment by the Port Authority and our terminal operators here in the port to develop on-dock rail services at all of the terminals, so that will get a lot of the trucks off the road,” said Cobb.

On how this ship is more environmentally friendly than other, smaller ships, CMA CGM America President Marc Bourdon said, “First of all, it’s a brand new ship, so it’s fitted with the latest technology. The engines are extremely efficient. They’re powerful, but their level of emissions is very low,” said Bourdon.

With low emissions, they are already exceeding the standards of the International Maritime Organization, according to the Roosevelt’s owner.

“What message are you sending with vessels like this, in a port like this, in a state like this, in a region like this to the rest of the rest of the industry? This is the place to come,” said

Cobb says the message is that this is the place to come. “It’s the beginning of a great economic opportunity for the whole Northeast region that New York and New Jersey are the prime beneficiaries of. But it’s a great day. It’s a great day.”