Short Sea Shipping in NYHarbor!

Posted in harbor shipping, short sea shipping, water access, waterfront by bowsprite on 2010/04/18

I love how that sounds! It would be, more accurately Very Short Sea Shipping, or simply, Harbor Shipping.
And expanding harbor shipping is only one suggestion for the Department of City Planning, who welcomes your voice in their Comprehensive Waterfront Plan for 2020. So, get involved!

Currently, our freight comes in as containerized cargo to New Jersey (Port Elizabeth, Port Newark, Jersey City-Bayonne), Staten Island (Howland Hook), and Brooklyn (Red Hook).  Everything is then mostly trucked around, with only some things moving off by rail.

Short Sea Shipping is the use of smaller vessels to bring goods from the central container terminals to various little ports around our city to get it all off the streets, and to you, via the water.

Your computer. Your clothing. Your chair. Your shoes. Your cup. The beverage in your cup (unless it’s good ol’ NYC tap–the best!). The dinner you will have tonight (unless you grew it yourself on your fire escape or illegally shot it in the park):  all these things we consume do not truly reflect what it cost to bring to you if we were to factor in the work and maintenance on roads, bridges, tunnels alone. (Not even going onto the topic of stress on the Mothership, yet.)

We are behind. Roughly 40% of freight in Europe moves by short sea shipping. And in Hongkong: mid-stream operation. Thanks, Carolina.

We currently have no little ports around our city, no working piers, limited usable docks, nowhere for feederships and lighters to tie up, some stevedores, but, no cranes for longshoremen to operate, nor storage facilities or transit sheds to hold the break bulk. (Notice, above, how many piers there were in 1933? A bit of history here on how we lost it.)

However, we have the water. NYC is richly blessed with waterways that can transport stuff into the hinterlands.

Here is what it might look like. As long as I am allowing my imagination to run amok and it is all theoretical, I shall be generous:

the newtown creek floating market & pick up point

oh, and while i’m fantasizing:

But here are the ones who know much more: America’s Marine Highways and Deep Water Writing‘s good starter package!


Thank you, Department of City Planning, for opening the dialog for  VISION 2020 (clever!)

A very good write-up of the evening’s 4+ hr meeting was made by Frogma, found here, with interesting comments.

I regret to say, their ‘before’ slides were WAAAAAAY better than what they envision in the ‘after’ ones:



They proudly showed slides of “increased waterfront access,” but it looks exactly like the “waterfront access” we have now, which–getting to work for me–is:
• look to be sure no parks police are nearby
• climb over metal rail
• step on boat at the safest moment, or jump down if boarding at low tide.

It was put so well at the meeting from a commentator: we’d like not just ‘waterfront access’, but water access.
Yes! please, and thank you!


where to get it: skysails, trailer bikes, cargo bikes, tallship

(the Le Havre adventure/drawings! coming! coming!!)

34 Responses

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    • bowsprite said, on 2010/04/18 at 07:40

      don’t shoot! i’m just a parrot with a bottle of ink.

    • bowsprite said, on 2010/04/18 at 07:47

      wow, that mural is cool! one good fantasy: we’ve never had such good visibility. You can’t see your fingers when you’re pulling a freestyle.

  1. Hudsonian said, on 2010/04/18 at 07:24

    My economic geography couse taught me that break bulk costs render infeasible short cargo trips by ship. But that was so 20th century! And it fails to consider the subsidized costs and inefficiencies and unhealthful effects of fossil fuel-powered rubber wheels rolling on asphalt.

    Behold the marine highway. No carbon was released in its construction. Low maintenance. Job creating. Its sparkling diamonds so beautiful to look at.

    Thank you Bowsprite for inspiring a 21st century vision to catapault us into a green and healthy future.

  2. […] Scott C crosses Cape Cod, a staple of shortseashipping in the sixth […]

  3. co said, on 2010/04/18 at 12:22

    I would love this!!!!! it brings our city back to its island roots!! love love love!!!

  4. Vagabonde said, on 2010/04/18 at 19:59

    I like the plan. Most of all I like the floating market – reminds me of Thailand. The future is scary though with too many people.

  5. Maritime Monday 210 said, on 2010/04/18 at 22:37

    […] more » […]

  6. O Docker said, on 2010/04/19 at 01:42

    Wow, if only most city planners had that much imagination!

    It could be a while before cars are banned from Manhattan, but why is it that most cities in Europe, big and small, have been able to create no-car zones downtown for pedestrians, shopping, and night life while U.S. cities find it so hard to do so?

    And a cautionary note: don’t try to say ‘short sea shipping’ unless you’re stone sober.

  7. Jeff said, on 2010/04/19 at 04:36

    The more I see SSS discussed the more hopeful I am that we’ll start catching up with our neighbors across the pond. There are some obstacles, trucking lobbies, harbor and wharfage infrastructure, higher costs of domestic vessel construction but the benefits outweigh the challenges ten fold.

    Great graphics. It’s nice to know I’m not alone when when I get all fired up and preach the short seas sermon.

  8. bonnie said, on 2010/04/19 at 07:37


    I’m not opposed to waterfront development per se – but boy, it should be done sensitively. What they did in Yonkers made me sick. As far as I’m concerned, they sold one of their chief public treasures to the highest bidder.

  9. tugster said, on 2010/04/19 at 10:34

    am just curious: what date was the top foto taken?

  10. tugster said, on 2010/04/19 at 22:43

    you don’t know how glad i am to see queens labeled. now if only i could find the princesses.

  11. bonnie said, on 2010/04/19 at 22:45

    That was FANTASTIC. I was so glad it was sent with a warning about the timesucking potential – I waited until I got home to even look!

  12. Torie Black said, on 2010/04/20 at 20:38

    I love how you have blanked out the land masses here and brought the water to life in your illustrations. It makes me think of the water in a different way, rather than just space to breathe around this crazy island. It shouldn’t just be used to add ‘has water views’ to some real estates website, it has a life and a soul – I will never take it for granted again!

  13. tugster said, on 2010/04/20 at 21:42

    this reminds me of the “sixth boro” concept: from the water, you have “land mass views”

  14. […] goods into the boro from the agricultural north.  Bowsprite reflects on overlapping ideas  here. If looking for specific "word" in archives, search […]

  15. Mage B said, on 2010/04/22 at 10:09

    I flat out love this entry. Graphically it grabs me and makes me think. The ’30’s picture shows rows of ocean liners….a concept long lost to the 707. Now if you could get the Teamsters turned on to short sea shipping, you could get it to work again. Politics is all.

    Stay warm and dry this spring day. And thank you for putting so much passion into this entry.

  16. Dennis said, on 2010/04/22 at 19:24

    Great post – lots of ideas to think about. Your plan is very ambitious. Don’t want to burst the bubble here, but I don’t think car-free Manhattan is happening even in 2040. Love the microbrewery idea and the graphics. Thank you!

  17. Paul said, on 2010/04/23 at 12:47

    Just some words of praise – this is a wonderful blog – keep up the good postings and wonderful watercolors.

  18. Pat said, on 2010/04/26 at 13:23

    I wonder whether a living, breathing waterfront might attract more people to live in the city?

  19. tugster said, on 2010/04/28 at 15:33

    on a light note . . . i was wondering whether you name (or someone else already has named) your colors. for example, in the last two images above, the greens come in a rich array. like pond scum green, moss, lichens . . . and the first image above is right out of the 50s for me . . . melamine green and korean war khaki. does you assign names? the colors are distinctive.

  20. Michael said, on 2010/04/30 at 10:49

    sign me up for the newton creek market! This is wonderful.

    • bowsprite said, on 2010/05/09 at 09:03

      you’re signed up, Pecs! you wanna schelp apples, haul beer, or take away recycled carton?

  21. alice O said, on 2010/05/03 at 08:13

    salut mon cartograf favori– not that you lack for what to do, but me and the galleons were talking . . . it’d be fab to have a map showing wrecks, shipgraveyards, and mermaid-isles of the sixth boro in case we ever get routed thru the kills, coney island creek, or the hackensack . . . chat soon.

  22. Mage Bailey said, on 2010/05/05 at 10:45

    Yes, you are a wonderful parrot with a bottle of ink. Yes, too, water access every where. We have a lot of that here, thank heavens or thanks to the state of CA Coastal Commission that mandates access.

  23. […] In 1934 only the gray stone (I believe it’s 20 Exchange Place)  building (behind and just to the left of the white cupola) making up this skyline as seen from off Battery Park City existed.  On the waterfront were piers and more piers.  Danish vessel Adriatic ID, rather than sailing past Manhattan, would likely have docked there.    From Levinson, “the city’s piers–283 of them at mid century with 98 of them able to handle ocean-going vessels–were strung out along the Manhattan and Brooklyn waterfronts.”  Bowsprite has a foto (third image down) of all these piers in this post. […]

  24. William J. Smith 111 said, on 2010/05/30 at 07:02

    I have been working on a business plan to establish a short sea shipping company , anyone who would like to get involved and or collaborate on this please feel free to contact me.

  25. maxmulhern said, on 2010/06/05 at 03:54

    Nice drawings!

    I have spent about 3 weeks altogether with my boat tied up to a crumbling cement wall on the Long Island City side of Newtown Creek just West of the first bridge. We stopped there en route from NJ to Maine so that the family could visit Manhattan. Last summer I was even featured in an unglamorous article in the Daily News which discussed this stopover spot.

    I find your idea for water trade / shipping in the NYC area as timely and ingenius. Good luck with that project.

    By the way, the creek is clean as long as it isn’t raining. Its the run off from the substandard NYC sewer system that pollutes the river during rainfall and the following week after the rainfall.


    • bowsprite said, on 2010/06/05 at 06:13

      So COOL! part of your very glorious article’s url is “just_sittin_on_the_dock_in_the_sludge”! Thank you, Max! intrepid, resourceful spirit!! thank goodness there are still some places left to tie up free and unhassled. Pity it’s on top of

      an estimated 17 million to 30 million gallons of oil, benzene, naptha and other carcinogenic chemicals

      While surveying around a dredging there last year, we DID pass some little boats which we tried not to wake (water wake). PooH! that air, when stirred up, did not smell good, and I did worry about folks who were dredging there days on end. The bucket digs up the bottom, lifts it up with water pouring out, and the spoil is dumped in a scow–and who knows what is spewed into the air? It smelled foul.

      Nevertheless, fair winds, fair air, fair water and SAFE harbors ’til you detox in Maine! what a lovely trip it sounds/sounded like! a trip of opposite extremes! bon voyage!!

  26. Capt. Mike said, on 2010/06/14 at 07:11


    BIANKA will be in the harbor this week to be part of the flotilla that is greeting Reid Stowe on June 17thm Hope you have your sketch book and camera ready.

  27. Ship Freight said, on 2010/08/31 at 07:17

    It is a very good content… Thanks friend….

  28. Edges « tugster: a waterblog said, on 2010/12/16 at 13:29

    […] single exposure . . . .  of bowsprite’s  not-for-navigation chart above my desk drew me into the edge of unreality thanks to the apparition of a curvedness of […]

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