Heidenreich Backs Ro-Ro Alliance
Comparison of CO2 Emissions between Coastal RoRo Transport and Truck Transport
DET NORSKE VERITAS - June 15, 2010

Editorial: Ships instead of trucks

The Providence Journal
01:00 AM EDT on Thursday, May 1, 2008

The clogging of roadways is a feature of life in the Northeast, adding to the cost of goods, wasting time and fuel, and spewing pollution. Route 95 between Washington and Boston, "the Main Street of the East Coast," is the prime example.

Long an inconvenience, heavy traffic on Route 95 is now creating enormous problems. In December a massive accident, in East Lyme, Conn., involving a diesel tanker truck, a tractor-trailer and four autos, killed three and spilled 9,000 gallons of diesel fuel. It blocked traffic on Route 95 for 20 hours.

Much of the congestion and hazard can be traced to the freight-hauling 18-wheelers coming out of the Port of New York and New Jersey, the most important terminus for containerized cargoes in the Northeast. Trucks loaded with containerized cargoes pour onto Route 95 whenever a ship from China or Rotterdam or Singapore unloads its cargo in or around Gotham, leading to what insiders call the "Hudson bottleneck."
In addition to the traffic, transporting cargoes over the road is monumentally inefficient and polluting, and imposes heavy wear and tear on the roadways. Transporting cargo by train would be better, but the Northeast Corridor, which parallels Route 95, is devoted largely to Amtrak, which serves the noble purpose of getting people and cars off Route 95. (The East Coast urgently needs more rail lines.)

The rail and road infrastructure outside of New York City is nearing capacity, and there is no ready prospect of improvement — or even a particularly good idea of how to go about it. A plan to double-deck Route 95 along much of its length through Connecticut was hooted down by affluent residents of Fairfield County. As the deterioration of the Route 95 bridge over the Blackstone River in Pawtucket shows, there is evidence of the infrastructure's alarming decay. The result is economic stagnation.

There is an alternative, however, that would get hundreds of trucks off the highway every day. The very underused ports of southeastern New England — Providence, Quonset, Fall River and New Bedford — are promising transshipment points for cargoes from New York to points elsewhere in New England. Tugs and barges, or better, a fleet of small, fast container ships, would unload overseas containers from sea-going container ships in New York, and bring them east through Long Island and Block Island sounds to ports in Narragansett Bay or Buzzards Bay, where they would be loaded onto trucks and trains. A barge can carry 150 containers, an 18-wheeler just one. They would also pick up cargoes bound overseas for transshipment to New York.

Recently a group organized by the Washington-based Short Sea Cooperative Program, representing shipping interests in the region, toured the Port of Providence and liked what it saw. Providence is drawing the most attention because it is a transportation hub with an extensive highway and rail infrastructure for dispersing cargoes throughout New England; Quonset is a close second.

In Providence, the shore-side infrastructure that the plan requires is largely in place. The port, with its piers, mile-long bulkhead and recently redredged channel, now chiefly used — underused, more accurately — for such bulk cargoes as scrap metal, pulpwood and road salt, has plenty of space for loading trucks and trains. Because containers would be rolled off barges or specially designed ships, there would be no need for the looming overhead cranes (which we rather like, actually) that are a feature of most container ports.

The main infrastructure that would need to be developed is the fleet of fast, maneuverable and fuel-efficient ships to carry the containers from New York. That could have the added benefit of helping revitalize our region's once vibrant shipbuilding business.

Short-sea shipping, which has an extensive track record in Europe, is a relatively new concept in America, but has great promise to make commerce in the region safer, more energy-and-time-efficient and less environmentally damaging.