By Carol McCracken (Post # 1,427)
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree announced today that a maritime shipping company has been selected to design a new vessel that would provide cargo service between Portland and New York, with a possible stop at another port in Southern New England. The design contract, for an articulated tug-barge, was funded by a $150,000 federal grant that Pingree had pushed for.
“The design of this vessel is the key to bringing increased domestic cargo service to Maine,” Pingree said. “This type of vessel will suit the needs of shippers in Maine and New York. It could cost between 1/3 and 1/2 what a more traditional container ship would cost and use fewer crew, thus reducing capital and operational costs that could then be passed on to shippers,” according to Pingree in a press release issued today.
The agreement between the Maine Port Authority and McAllister Towing and Transportation calls for the initial design work to be completed by fall.
Last year Pingree hosted a tour of the International Marine Terminal in Portland for U.S. Maritime Administrator David Matsuda. She told Matsuda that new tug-barge design was the best option for starting a service that would move cargo between the Port of New York/New Jersey and Portland and urged him to approve federal funding for the design.
Matsuda is leaving his post at the end of this month and Pingree said she hopes his replacement takes advantage of investments in projects like this one.
“This is an excellent example of the use of a marine highway to lower costs and create jobs,” Pingree said. “I hope the next Administrator will be committed to these kind of investments and use the private-pu blic partnership that has developed in Maine as an example of what can be accomplished,” said the same press release.
Recently an Icelandic company, Eimskip, started a container service operating between Portland and Europe.
Pingree said the new tug-barge design could help restore regular container service between Portland and Europe and the Port of New York/New Jersey. Under the Jones Act, any vessel servicing a route between U.S. ports has to be American built and crewed by American seamen. The Maine Port Authority has partnered with McAllister to design a new vessel to service this route.
John Henshaw, Executive Director of the Maine Port Authority, said it’s important to spend time on the front end to design a vessel that fits the needs of our shippers.
“We always work with our shippers first,” Henshaw said. “With port infrastructure design, equipment investment, terminal layout – and in this case vessel design – we always begin with the customer.”