The Port of Philadelphia - whose 21 per cent increase in loaded volume was the healthiest of the top 25 US container ports in 2017 - is looking beyond its traditional strength in refrigerated cargo to boost exports and rail-bound cargo, as it looks to fill capacity that will nearly double under its US$300 million expansion.
The port's deployment in May of two new cranes at the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal, and the opening of an extended berth that will enable the port to handle three super post-Panamax vessels at once are the first parts of the expansion. By the end of next year, the port is expected to have increased capacity from 550,000 TEU to 1 million TEU.
In addition, with all but the finishing touches completed on a dredging project to take the port channel from 40 to 45 feet, the port has already begun accepting mega-ships, with the largest - the 12,200 TEU M/V MSC Shuba B - stopping at the port recently.
With just over 2 per cent of the East Coast loaded container market, the port is facing potential competition just 30 miles down the Delaware River, with a proposed container under consideration for Wilmington by the state of Delaware, IHS Media reported.
Philadelphia officials are confident that additional capacity will be filled by future growth similar to the port's 2017 surge in cargo volume - from 299,324 loaded TEU in 2016 to 362,812 TEU. That surge stemmed in part from an increase in exports, which rose by 23.3 per cent in 2017 over the year before, stronger even than the 20.5 percent increase in imports.
The recent export surge was driven in part by goods sent by train from the Midwest on their way to Europe or South America, said Sean Mahoney, spokesperson for the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority (PhilaPort). He said the port has attracted shippers with a message that it has abundant rail capacity, an efficient port and a variety of maritime routes to get cargo to Europe and South America, he said.
Philadelphia's expansion includes another three cranes that are expected to arrive in early 2019, an additional 45 acres for stacking containers, and 365,000 square feet of new dry and refrigerated warehouse space on 29 acres of land bought by the port last year.