Source: Base map from Google Earth.
The Port Elizabeth intermodal complex is part of the facilities of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. This is where in 1956, containerization began. The complex comprises two major terminals; Maher Terminal (acquired by the German financial firm RREEF in 2007 and sold to Macquarie Infrastructure in 2016) and APM Terminal (a branch of Maersk shipping company). Maher Terminal is the largest intermodal port terminal on the North American East Coast with an annual capacity of about 2.4 million TEU. From 1998, it went through a series of substantial renovations, including the combination of two terminals (Maher Fleet Street Terminal and Maher Tripoli Street Terminal) into one, a process that was completed in 2004. In 2008, gate renovations were completed, making it one of the most efficient in North America and handling 10,000 movements per day. Both terminals are adjacent to an on-dock rail facility that expanded to 18 tracks in 2007 (serviced by CSX, NS, and CP). In 2020, APMT opened a new reconfigured gate system, allowing it to handle 5,000 movements per day.
Maher Terminal also undertook investments in information technologies, notably an entirely paperless gate system, a terminal management system, an empty container storage system using GPS, and a chassis pool. For the latter, Maher was one of the first terminal operators to establish an off-site chassis pool. Initially, chassis pools were for terminal users since they represented a captive market. But as vessel-sharing agreements have grown over the years, Maher’s customers began calling other facilities, such as the adjacent APM Terminal, so locating the equipment pool outside the gates became critical. This also conveyed the benefit of freeing terminal space and thus expanding capacity.
Both terminal operators have different terminal management strategies for their container yards. While Maher uses straddle carriers to move containers between stacking piles, APM uses overhead rubber-tired gantry cranes (RTGs). The disadvantage of using straddle carriers is a lower stacking density since only two full containers can be stacked, which is related to more space consumption by the stacking piles. The advantage is a faster average container retrieval. Therefore, one must be cautious about linking terminal efficiency and stacking density since lower density can be linked with a terminal design aiming at high throughput. Looking at the gate system and the stacking configuration clearly underlines the trucking orientation of the Maher terminal. The advantages of RTG are a higher stacking density and a higher utilization level of the terminal’s real estate assets. However, container retrieval can be longer and would involve more re-handles.
Adjacent to the terminals and chassis pools are also several transloading facilities that are transferring the contents of maritime containers into domestic containers (and vice versa). These activities are mostly for cargo bound further inland since local cargo tends to be brought directly from the maritime terminal to the distribution center.