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Cargo ship enters New Bedford Add Video

The cargo freighter "CAPE BELLE" registered to Monrovia enters New Bedford-Fairhaven Harbor, Sun Nov 9 11AM. The ship was escorted by a New Bedford Police Boat and assisted by tug "Miss Yvette" registered in Boston,MA. It later was tied up on the north side of the New Bedford-Fairhaven Bridge. www.westislandweather.com By BECKY W. EVANS Standard-Times staff writer November 30, 2008 6:00 AM Most Viewed Stories * India violence hits home * Fire on Tremont Street causes minor damage * Police arrest two New Bedford teens for West End armed robbery, car chase * Wallet found, turned in at Rite Aid * Harbor dredging shows good results as more, bigger cargo ships turn to New Bedford's port * Federal judge rules that state's ban against Internet wine sales is discriminatory * Black Friday in SouthCoast: 'It was crazy' Just as the city's majestic whaling ships once loomed large on the waterfront, another type of vessel is drawing attention to New Bedford Harbor and helping to stimulate the local economy. Welcome to the age of the refrigerated cargo vessel. As many as 12 of the vessels, which measure about 450 feet in length overall, are expected to arrive in port this winter (three have already come and gone). The massive ships, known as "reefers," will be carrying clementines, oranges and other citrus fruit grown in Morocco and bound for buyers in Toronto, Montreal and the Canadian Maritimes. Each vessel will unload its cargo at Maritime Terminal Inc., creating about 50 jobs for longshoremen and warehouse workers, said Pierre Bernier, who manages the freight forwarding division at the cold-storage facility on MacArthur Boulevard. More than 1,100 trucks will visit the terminal over the next three months to load and transport the fruit to Canada, he said. About five of the 12 vessels will create additional jobs when they are restocked with frozen herring and mackerel caught by New Bedford fishermen and processed locally, Mr. Bernier said. The vessels will carry the exports back across the Atlantic to Western Africa, he said. The vessels' port presence will be felt throughout the local economy from gear and repair shops to ice and fuel docks, said Kristin Decas, executive director of the New Bedford Harbor Development Commission. "They will contribute to economic growth through the use of our amenities here in the port. Whether it's the support services or the restaurants ... it's just a real win for the port," Ms. Decas said. When the refrigerated cargo vessel Cape Belle broke down in Buzzards Bay earlier this month, a local tug boat towed the ship into port for repair. Overall, the incident probably contributed $50,000 to the local economy, Mr. Bernier said. He estimates that each reefer that makes a port call injects about $1 million into the New Bedford economy. Attracting refrigerated cargo vessels to the port is "an important component of our effort at trying to expand import and export trade," Ms. Decas said. The HDC is working on a report that will quantify the economic impact of the port's current maritime activities, she said. It also will outline economic opportunities in global and domestic markets that the port could capitalize on in the future. A three-phase navigational dredging project (the third phase is likely to begin in late December) in New Bedford Harbor has paved the way for the refrigerated cargo vessels, which draw 20 to 24 feet of water. The first and second phases of the state-funded project, which began in January 2005, restored the depth of the federal channel and other parts of the harbor to 30 feet. Decades of accumulated sediment and toxic sludge had made parts of the harbor too difficult for large vessels to navigate. "It brought the channel to the necessary depth to accommodate these cargo ships," Ms. Decas said. "It increased our competitiveness in the global market." The city is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop a plan for dredging shallow portions of the federal channel in the outer harbor and Buzzards Bay. Ms. Decas said the goal is to make the depth of the shipping lanes consistent with the 30-foot depth of the inner harbor. Currently, refrigerated cargo ships must occasionally wait for the tide to rise so they have enough water to navigate the channel in the outer harbor, she said. Due in part to dredging, refrigerated cargo vessel traffic at Maritime Terminal is growing, Mr. Bernier said. The company's shipping program increased 35 percent from last year, he said, noting that about 5 more vessels will make port calls this year. New Bedford competes for the vessels with the ports of Wilmington, Del. and Philadelphia. The Whaling City has an edge on the competition, however, given its closer location to Morocco and Canada, Mr. Bernier said. He credited Teamsters Union Local 59 and Longshoremen's Union Local ILA 1413 for supplying a capable labor force that helps make the port competitive. "We have a good setup with them," he said. "They do a really good job." Philip Sullivan, vice president and business agent for New Bedford's local Teamsters, said the union has about 14 workers employed at Maritime Terminal's warehouse during the shipping season. He said the work brought in by the cargo ships allows the workers to earn a lot of overtime pay "just in time for Christmas." It takes one to three days to unload the fruit from the refrigerated cargo vessels. "You try to unload it as quickly as possible because of the perishable project," Mr. Sullivan said. The greatest challenge to further expansion of Maritime Terminal's shipping business is the New Bedford-Fairhaven Bridge, Mr Bernier said. "Every time a ship comes in and out, it is an obstacle," he said. The Brazilian Reefer, which unloaded citrus in New Bedford earlier this month, had to dock at State Pier instead of Maritime Terminal because "she was too wide" to fit through the bridge opening, he said. The swing-span bridge, which was built in 1906, pivots open to create two passages. One opening is 88 feet wide and the other is 92 feet wide. The narrow openings make it difficult and dangerous for some of the larger vessels to pass through, especially in strong winds, Mr. Bernier said. According to Ms. Decas, New Bedford and Fairhaven are looking at alternatives to the bridge. The towns are working on the scope for an environmental impact report that would examine three alternatives: no action; moving the bridge; or replacing the bridge with a double-leaf bascule bridge. Ms. Decas said the bascule bridge appears to be the most "common-sense approach" because it could be done within a more reasonable time frame and at a more reasonable cost than moving the bridge. It is too early in the process to know how much the bridge would cost, she said. The double-leaf bascule bridge would have two connecting platforms that each would be lifted by a counterweight, creating a single, wide path through which reefers and other large vessels could pass. Ms. Decas said the new bridge would "open up huge opportunities" for the North Terminal area, a 50-acre marine industrial site to the north of the current bridge. The refrigerated cargo vessels that make port calls in New Bedford hail from countries around the globe such as Lithuania, Liberia and the Bahamas. As it welcomes foreign vessels and crewmen, Maritime Terminal must adhere to new security measures established by the Maritime Transportation Security Act and Accountability for Every Port Act. As of Oct. 15, the Coast Guard is requiring truck drivers, vendors, contractors and other workers at certain port facilities in the Northeast to carry Transportation Worker Identification Credentials, known as TWIC. Mr. Bernier said adapting to the new rules has taken considerable effort. "It is challenging, but so far, so good," he said. New Bedford Police Sgt. Jill Simmons said her port security unit is present when the massive cargo ships make their way in the early morning from the outer harbor, through the hurricane barrier and down to Maritime Terminal. The unit sends out a patrol boat that follows the ship and communicates with commercial or recreational vessels that might get in the way. "Basically, we are running traffic control," she said. "We go out and meet them and peek around the corners." The unit also is on hand in case anyone were to jump off the cargo ship and try to swim to shore, she said. Although it requires extra work, Sgt. Simmons said she is happy to see the cargo ships enter the harbor. "It's a great thing, because it's pumping a ton of money into the economy," she said. Contact Becky W. Evans at

Posted by MLBaron on November 9, 2008 at 6:56 AM 2005 Views

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