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Philadelphia Area Ports Tackle Upgrade Projects

Major ports and an integrated transportation system in Greater Philadelphia support a major logistics industry in the region.

By Livability.com on January 29, 2014

Greater Philadelphia is in it for the long haul, offering a standout transportation and logistics system that integrates its major highways, airports, rail lines and ports.

Major highways include I-95, I-76, I-295, the New Jersey Turnpike and the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which collectively allow convenient truck access to major East Coast and Midwest markets. The region’s logistics sector employs 180,000 people and includes operations for companies such as Burlington Coat Factory, DuPont, Sunoco, Sysco Food Systems, TJ Maxx and Wal-Mart.

Also serving the region is one of the nation’s largest airports – Philadelphia International Airport – while eight other international airports are within a 90-minute drive. Tier I rail carriers Canadian Pacific, CSX and Norfolk Southern are key components of the transportation infrastructure.

Going Deep

Greater Philadelphia is also enhanced by major port facilities along the Delaware River, including those operated by the South Jersey Ports Corp., Diamond State Port Corp., and the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority. All three are preparing for future growth and expansion through projects such as a major dredging of a stretch of the Delaware River that will deepen the channel.

“The channel is deepening from 40 to 45 feet to eventually handle larger ships coming from the Suez and Panama canals that are being widened,” says Sean Mahoney, Philadelphia Regional Port Authority director of marketing. “At the end of 2013, we were 60 percent done with the Delaware River deepening project and expect the endeavor to be concluded by the time the expanded Panama Canal opens in 2016.”

The port experienced its fourth straight year of double-digit cargo growth in 2013 and still has land available for new tenants, including almost 300 acres in the old Philadelphia Navy Yard, which is now under the ownership of the port authority.

Construction has begun on a 120-acre logistics complex, known as Southport Marine, that is being built to handle containers and dry bulk shipping. An access road into Southport was completed in early 2014, and full construction is now under way. That construction includes installing six high-capacity cranes as well as two berths for the larger post-Panamax vessels expected after the widening of the Panama Canal.

Making a Big Splash

Also playing a major transportation role along the Delaware River is the South Jersey Ports Corp., which has become the No. 1 port in the U.S. for handling imported wood products. South Jersey’s Camden operation also handles an array of steel products such as coil steel, slabs, wire rod, structural and pipe. Among its major tenants are Camden Yards Steel and St. Lawrence Cement as well as Del Monte Fresh Fruit.

The other key port serving Greater Philadelphia is the Port of Wilmington, which features 308 acres of land at the confluence of the Christina and Delaware rivers. Wilmington handles 400 ship arrivals and 5 million tons of cargo per year and features 1 million square feet of warehouse space – including 800,000 square feet that are refrigerated.

Its major tenants include Chiquita, Dole and Citrosuco, the world’s leading orange juice producer; as well as Hoegh Autoliners, which transports new and used U.S. automobiles to the Middle East and West Africa; and AutoPort, which processes vehicles for overseas shipment.

“We specialize in automobiles, bulk products and refrigerated perishable products, and are the largest banana port in North America and second-largest in the world,” says Tom Keefer, Diamond State Port Corp./Port of Wilmington deputy executive director. “We also export a lot of livestock, about 50,000 head each year, primarily pregnant Holstein heifers to countries like Russia, Turkey and even Iraq and Jordan.”

For fiscal year 2012-2013, Keefer says the Port of Wilmington was responsible for 5,200 jobs, $384 million in business revenue, $36 million in state and regional taxes and $360 million in personal income.

The port is served by two Class I railroads and provides convenient access for truckers, with a location about a half-mile from I-495.

“Wilmington can serve 200 million American consumers with overnight truck delivery,” Keefer says.

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