The Port of New York and New Jersey is the port district of the New York-Newark metropolitan area, encompassing the region within approximately a 40km radius of the Statue of Liberty National Monument. It includes the system of navigable waterways in the estuary along 1,050km of shoreline in the vicinity of New York City and northeastern New Jersey, as well as the region’s airports and supporting rail and roadway distribution networks.
Considered one the biggest natural harbors in the world, the port is by tonnage the third largest in the United States and the busiest on the East Coast. When ranked by the value of shipments passing through it, the port is the number two freight gateway in the United States.
In 2011, about 5,000 ships entered the harbour carrying over 40 million metric tons of cargo valued at about $208 billion. Approximately 3,200,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) of containers and 700,000 automobiles are handled at the port per year.
The Port of New York and New Jersey is the United States of America’s top gateway for international flights and its busiest center for overall passenger and air freight flights. There are two foreign-trade zones (FTZ) within the port: FTZ 1, the first in the nation, established in 1937, on the New York side of the port; and FTZ 49, on the New Jersey side.
The port district comprises all or part of seventeen counties in the region. The ten that are completely within the district are Hudson, Bergen, Essex, Union (in New Jersey), Westchester (in New York), and the five boroughs of New York City, which are coterminous with the counties of New York, Bronx, Kings, Queens, and Richmond. Abutting sections of Passaic, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, and Somerset in New Jersey, and Nassau and Rockland in New York are also within the district.
The Atlantic Ocean is to the southeast of the port. The sea at the entrance to the port is called the New York Bight; it lies between the peninsulas of Sandy Hook and Rockaway. In Lower New York Bay and its western arm, Raritan Bay, vessels orient themselves for passage to the east into Arthur Kill or Raritan River or to the north to The Narrows. To the east lies the Rockaway Inlet, which leads to Jamaica Bay. The Narrows connects to the Upper New York Bay at the mouth of the Hudson River, which is sometimes (particularly in navigation) called the North River. Large ships are able to navigate upstream to the Port of Albany-Rensselaer. To the west lies Kill van Kull, the strait leading to Newark Bay, fed by the Passaic River and Hackensack River, and the northern entrance of Arthur Kill. The Gowanus Canal and Buttermilk Channel are entered from the east. The East River is a broad strait that travels north to Newtown Creek and the Harlem River, turning east at Hell Gate before opening to Long Island Sound, which provides an outlet to the open sea.
The Sandy Hook Pilots are responsible for the navigation of larger ships through port district.
The port consists of a complex of approximately 386km of shipping channels, as well as anchorages and port facilities. Most vessels require pilotage and larger vessels require tugboat assistance for the sharper channel turns.
The natural depth of the harbour is about 17 feet (5metres) but it was deepened over the years, to a controlling depth of about 24 feet (7metres) in 1880. By 1891, the Main Ship Channel was minimally 30 feet (9metres) deep. In 1914, Ambrose Channel became the main entrance to the harbour, at 40 feet (12metres) deep and 2,000 feet (600metres) wide. During World War II the main channel was dredged to 45 feet (14metres) deep to accommodate larger ships up to Panamax size. The Army Corps of Engineers is currently contracting out deepening to 50 feet (15metres) in order to accommodate Post-Panamax container vessels, which can already pass through the Suez Canal. This has been a source of environmental concern along channels connecting the container facilities in Port Newark to the Atlantic.
At one point in 2005, there were 70 pieces of dredging equipment working to deepen the port channels, the largest fleet of dredging equipment anywhere in the world.
The channel of the Hudson is the Anchorage Channel and is approximately 50 feet deep in the midpoint of Upper Bay. A project to replace two water mains between Brooklyn and Staten Island, which will eventually allowing for dredging of the channel to nearly 100 feet (30metres), was begun in April 2012. The Army Corps has recommended that most channels in the port be maintained at 50 feet deep.
There are four container terminals in the port, whose combined volume makes it the largest on the East Coast, the third busiest in the United States, and 20th worldwide. Terminals are leased to different port operators such as A. P. Moller-Maersk Group, American Stevedoring, NYCT and Global Marine Terminal.