Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Trade deficit leaves container surplus



By Steve Strunsky
The Associated Press

NEWARK, N.J. - They stand like empty Everests of trade, mountains of shipping containers stacked seven or eight high, over hundreds of acres of industrial land around the East Coast's busiest port.

The shipping container surplus around Port Newark and the adjacent Port Authority Marine Terminal at Elizabeth is a byproduct of the U.S. trade deficit.

Because of the deficit, the port takes in and unloads more containers than it can fill up and ship out. And because it's cheaper for freight companies to buy new containers overseas than to ship empties back from the United States to be reloaded, the result is the stockpiling that has altered the landscape.

Despite the short-term economic advantages of stockpiling, planners say the containers could have negative long-term effects on the environment, traffic, employment and even the viability of the port itself by discouraging the cleanup and development of contaminated lots where the containers are stacked.

Newark City Councilman Augusto Amador worked with one storage company, Palmer Industries, to move more than 1,000 containers stacked along the Passaic River. And he said the city is looking into limiting the height of container stacks, as long as jobs at the port aren't affected.

Indicative of the nation's trade deficit, the Newark-Elizabeth complex unloaded more than 1.6 million full containers in the first 11 months of 2002, and shipped out 688,000, said Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the ports.

Coleman said the agency does not track the number of empties around the port.




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