Capitol Connection: Developing Connecticut’s Seaports

May 27, 2014

With the unofficial start of summer this past weekend many of us dusted off our lounge chairs, packed our picnic baskets and flocked to the nearest beach. As we visited the shoreline and looked out over the Long Island Sound, we probably all saw something in common – many big ships gliding past the coast on the horizon.

While Connecticut may not be connected directly to the Atlantic Ocean, the Sound is still teeming with ships. But are they all headed to Connecticut ports?

Too often, the answer to that question is no.

Right now, Connecticut’s many ports are underutilized. Our state has deep historic ties to the maritime industry, but in recent years we have not focused on growing business through our valued ports.

Import volumes at our state’s three deep water ports (Bridgeport, New Haven, and New London) have fallen by more than 80 percent since 2006, according to the Department of Economic and Community Development. Connecticut’s main ports import less than 2 million tons and export less than 1 million tons annually. These figures are very small compared to our neighboring Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which moves 5.5 billion tons of cargo annually.

This year, the state hopes to change these numbers.

The Connecticut General Assembly recently passed a bill that establishes the Connecticut Port Authority, a statewide organization that will help Connecticut better manage and coordinate development of all shoreline ports.

The Connecticut Port Authority will be responsible for coordinating port development by securing private and public investments, pursuing federal and state funds for infrastructure improvements, marketing the ports to the domestic and international shipping industry, and developing strategic entrepreneurial initiatives. The Port Authority is scheduled to become fully operational in October 2015.

Not only will the Port Authority aim to grow business, it will also work to reduce congestion on our roads by directing more business through our seaports. According to the Connecticut Maritime coalition, 80,000 truck trips per year on I-95 could be eliminated if more cargo was transported through Connecticut’s seaports.

By focusing on stimulating the shipping business in Connecticut, we can open doors for local economic development, bring more business to Connecticut and create new sustainable jobs.

While we may only visit the beach a few times each year, we cannot forget the great potential that lies along our coastline. The Sound connects us to waterways around the world, and it is time we recognize our global potential.