New York’s Gateway


New York Harbor is one of the busiest harbors in the world. It is home to five shipping terminals. These terminals receive tons of cargo each year. In 2008, the ports of New York City and Bayonne, New Jersey handled 33.63 million tons of waterborne cargo valued at $152,736 million.

“[The barges] come in with everything,” said Roland Lewis, President and CEO of Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, a non-profit working to revitalize New York and New Jersey waterways. “From construction materials, to underwear, to beer.”

When cargo ships approach the bay, which starts just south of the Verrazano Bridge, they are met by the Sandy Hook Pilots. The Pilots safely guide the ships into New York City, under the Verrazano Bridge, which is the unofficial gateway to the harbor. In addition, the Pilots check the boat for safety violations.


A Sandy Hook Pilot guiding a ship into Lower New York Bay. The crew from Sandy Hook Pilots climb up the sides of these barges to check the cargo (briefly) and ensure the safety of the ship before it enters the harbor. Photo courtesy of the Sandy Hook Pilots

Once the merchandise arrives to ports, it is unloaded and distributed throughout the tri-state area and beyond. According to the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, the largest imported containerized cargo volumes were furniture, clothing, beer, and ale. The largest containerized cargo volumes for export were paper, carbon, crepe, automobiles, scrap metal, and auto parts.

Currently, there are 52 companies licensed as stevedores (people that are responsible for loading and unloading cargo ships) that operate the five ports in the bay. These companies employ 6,188 workers, which include 372 port watchmen, 323 pier superintendants, and 2,167 “deep sea” longshorepersons, among others.

“We’re taking action to expand New York’s maritime industry,” said Peter W. Davidson, Executive Director of Empire State Development, a New York State agency that provides assistance and service to businesses in order to encourage economic investment and prosperity in New York. “Waterfront businesses are a critical part of our economy, and we think it’s important to do whatever is necessary to create room for them to thrive. The Harbor should include good maritime jobs, and both recreational and educational opportunities.”

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Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor

Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance

Empire State Development


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