State Pier could become hub for smaller cargo ships, says federal maritime head

August 20, 2018

New London — The head of the federal Maritime Administration made a short visit to State Pier Monday, saying the city’s deepwater port could be a hub for smaller shippers as “gateway ports” such as New York focus on container ships.

Retired Navy Rear Adm. Mark H. Buzby, who was appointed by President Donald Trump to be the federal Maritime Administrator and sworn in on Aug. 8, 2017, stopped at the state-owned facility as part of a visit to southeastern Connecticut with U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District.

Buzby also visited other entities that have received funding from the Maritime Administration such as the Mystic Seaport, which has received several Maritime Heritage Grants, and Cross Sound Ferry, which received a 8.3 million federal grant awarded in 2014 to upgrade the Connecticut portion of the New England Central Rail corridor will be a “force multiplier.” The rail line connects to State Pier and the upgrades will allow for heavier loads of cargo to be carried by rail from the port north, as far as the border between Vermont and Canada.

“Intermodal connection is a selling point,” Courtney said.

Mayor Michael Passero mentioned to Buzby the prospect of New London becoming a hub for the burgeoning offshore wind industry. The city is marketing the 12-acre Thames River Apartments complex on Crystal Avenue, which for decades housed low-income families, as an area that could be developed in conjunction with port activity.

In less than two weeks, the port authority will have responses to its request for proposals to run pier operations. It anticipates announcing its selection of a firm in mid-September.

The port authority is waiting to invest $15 million in state funding slated for pier improvements until a port operator is chosen so it can leverage the funding. The next operator is also expected to make an investment, and that will be discussed as part of contract negotiations, port authority’s board Chairman Scott Bates told Buzby.