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See Giant Cranes, Jaunty Tugs, Enormous Container Ships
Monday, July 30, 2012 - 9:50am
Hidden Harbor Tours Reveal What Really Makes this City Tick
The triple-deck luxury yacht Zephyr pulls away from Pier 16 around 6:20pm and glides into the East River. Everyone aboard begins this Hidden Harbor Tour by gazing upward -- at magnificent bridges, the New York City skyline and the deep blue sky beyond. It's a glorious summer evening, a perfect night for exploring the working waterfront of the Port of New York and New Jersey.
Tour co-host Capt. John Doswell, executive director of the Working Harbor Committee, which sponsors the popular Hidden Harbor Tours, conjures up an image of NYC's shoreline 200 years ago, when scores of docks poked into the waterways and ships of all sizes jostled for space.
Understanding that the average New Yorker is unaware of the commercial shipping that continues to power this region's economy, the Working Harbor Committee offers these special boat tours to remind people of the port's history and its contemporary significance. "Most people don't know how much their lives are touched by the shipping industry," Mr. Doswell said. "What you are wearing or have in your apartment -- almost everything you own -- was shipped in by container ship, at a low cost and in a very green way."
Sassafras, a handsome tug owned by Vane Brothers, passes on the port side, and tour co-host Lucy Ambrosino, a Port Authority executive, calls attention to the modern-day working waterfront: the giant cranes of the Red Hook Container Terminal (above).
|At 65.5 acres, "this is the smallest of the six Port Authority terminals," she says. The largest, Maher Terminal on Newark Bay (see Port Authority map at right), is 450 acres. One of the main tenants at Red Hook is Phoenix Beverage. "So if you like your Heinekin and Red Bull," Ms. Ambrosino says, "this is how it gets to New York." People stand, crane their necks, admire the colorful cranes and the German container ship Spica.|
Zephyr dips into Erie Basin, where Hughes Marine, Reinauer and NY Water Taxi vessels are parked and where Ikea vexed the maritime community several years ago by paving over a graving dock, an essential part of the maritime service industry. Soon Zephyr is cruising across the harbor and into the Kill van Kull, a waterway leading to four of the region's six container terminals (see map above) and heavily used by commercial vessels. On the port side is Caddell Dry Dock and Repair (below) and on the starboard side are tankers moored at the oil fields of Bayonne, NJ.
Several cormorants stretch their wings atop a red buoy. An enormous container ship, the Najran, owned by the United Arab Shipping Company, passes under the Bayonne Bridge. Ms. Ambrosino notes that the Port Authority recently was approved for expedited federal financing to raise the roadbed of the bridge, in order to accommodate massive post-Panamax ships by 2014 when the widened Panama Canal reopens. Check the PA web site to see a video about the raising of the bridge roadbed.
Zephyr heads into Newark Bay. Cranes, tankers, tugs and barges are everywhere. Containers clang as they're picked up by giant grabbers and moved off each ship. "It used to take days to unload a ship," Mr. Doswell comments. "Now it takes hours." The Port of NY and NJ receives, on average, 18 ships arrivals each day. Five and a half million containers per year works out to an average of 15,000 containers delivered per day.
Soon, Zephyr turns, and by 8:30pm, the setting sun is poking rays through clouds over New Jersey as the boat returns to hubbub of a different sort at South Street Seaport.
Four more Hidden Harbor boat tours are scheduled this summer--on August 7 and 21, and September 4 and 18. Tickets are $29 for adults, $22 for seniors and $15 for children. On July 28 and October 13, join Mitch Waxman for a Staten Island Hidden Harbor walking tour, and on August 11, meet Capt. Maggie Flanagan for a Hidden Harbor walking tour of Lower Manhattan. Walking tour tickets are $20.