Pennsylvania state officials will spend $300 million to double container capacity at the Port of Philadelphia by 2020, preparing its cargo terminals to handle deeper-draft vessels expected from the improved Panama Canal, Governor Tom Wolf announced on Nov. 22.
The three-year program will steer investment funds to the port's infrastructure, warehousing, and equipment needs between 2017 and 2020, with a goal to double container capacity and position the port for future growth, state officials said.
The plan ranks among the largest investments by a state on the East Coast, and will impact three of the busiest sectors of the Port of Philadelphia, including the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal, the port's automobile-handling operation, and the Tioga Marine Terminal. These improvements will provide increased break-bulk (non-containerized) cargo capacity and bring a substantial increase in automobile-handling capacity, according to officials of the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority (PRPA).
The bulk of the funds—about $200 million—will flow to the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal, the Port of Philadelphia's largest maritime facility. These improvements will include four new electric post-Panamax container cranes; the relocation of warehouses to facilitate container growth and the construction of new warehouses; and a deeper 45-foot depth at the terminal's marginal berths, to match the new 45-foot depth of the Delaware River's main channel.
Plans also call for modifying the terminal to support electrification of existing diesel cranes and cold-ironing capabilities at the terminal (the ability to provide power without requiring vessels to burn fuel while docked).
Together, these improvements will increase container-handling capacity, with a 900,000 TEU capacity immediately resulting from the improvements, scalable to exceed 1.2 million TEU capacity in the future, a significant improvement over the terminal's current 400,000-plus TEU capacity, officials said.
Another $90 million of the funds will be dedicated to the port's automobile import/export facility, which currently processes 150,000 cars and employs more than 300 direct workers to bring Hyundai and Kia automobiles on vessels for eventual distribution to dealerships throughout the region.
Improvements to the port's automobile-handling operation will include the addition of 155 paved and fenced acres above the flood plain at the port's Southport site; the conversion of the former seaplane hangar at Southport into a second auto-processing site; enhancements at the main auto-processing site at Pier 98 Annex; and the establishment of a framework that provides flexibility for use of the land the Port needs for containers and automobiles, as determined by market demands.
The final portion of the funds will steer $12 million to the Tioga Marine Terminal for improvements to the main on-dock warehouse that has been handling and processing Brazilian wood pulp cargoes since 2014. A second warehouse at Tioga will be converted into a food-grade warehouse, allowing the Port increase its wood pulp volumes to meet the demands of Pennsylvania companies requiring wood pulp. Improved rail access and the purchase of a second mobile harbor crane will also add capacity for Tioga Marine Terminal.
In addition to accelerating logistics, the overall investment is forecast to create thousands of jobs and increase tax revenues, according to the state. A total direct job increase of 70 percent is projected from the current level of 3,124, bringing the number to a projected 5,378 direct jobs. Total employment at the Port will also increase, from 10,341 to 17,020, and state and local tax revenues generated are forecast to increase from the current $69.6 million to $108.4 million annually.