Their ship’s come in
New plan calls for investment in state’s ports
HARTFORD — State port officials want to reinvest in Connecticut’s deep-water ports and small harbors, long a forgotten stepchild among the state’s infrastructure priorities, to boost economic development, create jobs and lure cruise ships.
The Connecticut Port Authority last week released a five-year plan for the state’s large ports in Bridgeport, New Haven and New London, and the smaller ports in cities such as Milford, Norwalk and Stamford.
“Connecticut’s ports and harbors represent tremendous untapped economic potential,” said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who signed legislation several years ago creating a statewide port authority.
“This Maritime Strategy will help ensure that we make targeted, smart investments in our marine infrastructure that will help strengthen our coastal communities and create jobs,” Malloy said.
Evan Matthews, port authority executive director, said the state’s ports are beginning to attract interest after a die off in activity following the Great Recession that began in 2007.
“The marketplace is beginning to notice that the state of Connecticut now has a focused approach to growing the maritime economy,” Mathews said.
“It is critically important that we build on this momentum and this fiveyear strategy sends a clear signal that Connecticut understands the value of its maritime assets and is committed to integrating its ports and small harbors with the state’s transportation system,” Mathews added.
The five-year plan focuses on the State Pier in New London, which is being retrofitted to serve as a material staging and shipping point for offshore wind power projects near Block Island. The state is seeking a new operator for the pier and has already invested $15 to revitalize the facility.
Other portions of the plan pledge to build more commercial volume in the state’s underutilized ports, fund needed dredging operations, support smaller ports and harbors and devise ways to lessen highway truck traffic by moving specific goods through the ports.
The port authority also plans to focus on enhancing ferry service in Bridgeport and New London and work with cruise service operators and booking agents to bring more cruise ships to Connecticut.
The plan does not make specific promises for funding or back any project, other than efforts already under way to improve the State Pier.
Scott Bates, CPA chairman, said the port plan is a guiding document for the coming years.
“The five-year strategy we are delivering builds on that foundation and prioritizes our goals for our partners, stakeholders and policy makers,” Bates said.
The plan notes that in 2017 over 2.2 million metric tons of non-containerized goods were imported through Connecticut’s deep water ports, including petroleum products brought into New Haven and Bridgeport.
Not recession proof
Bates said port officials are also considering how to connect rail service and the ports.
“We see potential in places like the Naugatuck Valley as an inland port,’ Bates said.
“There are emerging markets, like wind energy,” Bates said. “There is real potential there. We are uniquely suited to take advantage of that. We have robust ferry service in new London and Bridgeport and an opportunity in the cruise industry.”
Catherine Smith, commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development and co-port authority director, said the recession took its toll on the ports.
“The ports suffered greatly after the Great Recession,” Smith said.
“There are many opportunities, whether in the wind industry or to help with our highways,” she said. “The plan lays out the best opportunities.”
Two jet skiers cross paths with a fishing boat in New Haven Harbor near Lighthouse Point Park in June.