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Author : Dennis Culnan


Camden, N.J. – Americans need their chocolate fix – even more in a pandemic – and it’s the South Jersey Port’s mission to help satisfy it.

On December 16, the annual flow of high-quality cocoa beans from West Africa will begin a month early when 215,000 sacks of cocoa beans are off-loaded at the Joseph A. Balzano Marine Terminal in Camden from the ship “Four Diamonds.”

“Working with our partners, Camden International Commodities Terminals and Delaware River Stevedores, we’ve become the premier cocoa bean import terminal on the East Coast,” Andy Saporito, CEO and Executive Director of SJPC.

The cocoa bean business means more jobs. In addition to the scores of full-time terminal workers, hundreds of local day-laborers are hired throughout the season to sort, store, and handle millions of sacks of cocoa beans for final processing by major confectionary companies including chocolate giants: Hershey, Mars, and Blommer.

Last year,  two million burlap bags (40,000 tons) of cocoa beans were slung off ships by DRS stevedores, onto SJPC’s patented trolleys, and hauled immediately by Champion Trucking into the CICT warehouse across the street from the Balzano Terminal.

“Our process at South Jersey Port is far more efficient than containerized beans,” Jeff Wheeler, president of CICT explained. “We eliminate that additional step of loading and unloading millions of bags of beans from containers – both here and at the source.”

“It is a seamless team effort from ship to warehouse honed over 20 years of expert experience to deliver every bean,” added Robert Palaima of Delaware River Stevedores.  

It’s hard manual work, a South Jersey Port expertise.

“It’s the hardest work on the waterfront,” Wheeler added. “We’ll be offloading 215,000 bags from the ‘Four Diamonds.’ Each bag weighs 150 pounds! Our people don’t shy away from it. They’ve developed the skills that make our terminal the most efficient handler of chocolate gold.”

“For most of our day-labor crews, it’s a family affair: fathers and sons, aunts and nieces, brother and sister, uncles and nephews. And they’re getting a nice payday before Christmas. We’re all excited when the ship comes in!”

The 14,000 tons of beans brought in by the “Four Diamonds” is the first installment on what is hoped to be a rebounding cocoa bean import business that was damaged last year by market effects of COVID-19.

Chocolate is an impulse buy and perfecting the balance of supply and demand has been extraordinarily complex as confectionary companies realign their marketing strategies from brick and mortar stores to digital in order to energize sales.

“We believe we’re going to see a significant rebound in chocolate demand, especially as vaccines against COVID come online,” said Wheeler. “Cocoa bean inventories in the U.S. are comparatively low, need to be replenished and, as consumption ticks up, so will the need for more imports.” 

The West African import season runs through April and is followed by months of imports of cocoa beans from evolving Central American growers.

Thom Johnson to retire after 33 years

The executive leadership team and the Board of the South Jersey Port Corporation recognized Thom Johnson for his 33 years of service to the Port and the community it serves at their board meeting today.  Thom joined the South Jersey Port team as a clerk on in 1987 and worked his way up through a variety of critical and challenging terminal assignments – to become a key member of the management team taking leadership roles in marketing, operations, safety and foreign trade.  

A life-long resident of Camden with an engaging personality and infectious smile, Thom understood the importance of hard work, training and education in his career objectives. So, after a full day at the Port – the graduate of Father Michael Doyle’s Sacred Heart in Camden went to Rutgers University-Camden at night to earn his Bachelor’s degree and eventually a Masters’ degree in Public Administration.

Thom will retire at the end of this year and begin the next phase of his life by using the skills he developed over the past 33 years to continue to give back to the community. He has been a valued team member and we all wish him well for his continued success.


2020 Holiday Toy Drive

Attention South Jersey Port Trucking Partners! Deliver holiday cheer this season and drop off a gift for our 2020 Holiday Toy Drive on your next stop at South Jersey Port. Donate NEW UNWRAPPED toys or books and bring a smile to a child this Holiday Season. Collection bins are located at the Balzano Marine Terminal by the check-in hallway and at the Broadway Marine Terminal next to the check-in window. Bins are open through Wednesday, December 16th. Happy Holidays.

Happy Veterans Day from the South Jersey Port Corporation

American democracy prevails under the wings of the veterans who we celebrate today. They are individuals of all races, religions, and cultures with family roots stretching around the globe and across time with an undying devotion to our nation.

They’ve fought our wars and maintained our peace for 250 years. They are our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, uncles, aunts, cousins, and co-workers. They are our American family.

We at the South Jersey Port Corporation honor them all, especially our military veteran co-workers.


John Lawrie Tubulars expands with a new lease at South Jersey Port property in Camden

John Lawrie Tubulars, specialists in the supply of steel tubulars for piling to the construction industry, has been expanding its services across America. Recent investment in a new yard and the expansion of existing sites as well as new equipment has meant the company is better placed to service the construction market now more than ever.

In May, the company expanded its footprint in Camden with an 8.5-acre lease with SJPC to complement its existing five sites across Texas, Colorado, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Oklahoma. The expansion includes both warehouse and office space.

Situated close to the excellent intermodal transportation links at South Jersey Port’s Balzano Marine Terminal, the new acreage provides John Lawrie with the additional capacity to store thousands of tons of pipe that is ready to ship to clients in the Northeast and across the country. Plans are also underway for capital investment converting the warehouse space to a state-of-the-art, full-service fabrication operation for cutting, beveling, and welding pipe to exact client specifications. The improvements are scheduled for completion by the end of this year. 

“John Lawrie is a national leader in the supply of steel pipes and we are excited to see the commitment they are making to the City of Camden with this long-term lease with the South Jersey Port Corporation,” said Executive Director & CEO Andy Saporito.  “We are committed to the highest level of customer service and working to meet the infrastructure needs of customers and support continued growth of our marine terminals”.

Continued heavy investment in inventory at John Lawrie Tubular locations gives customers a greater selection of sizes, walls, and grades of domestic steel pipe.

John Lawrie Tubulars has a clear focus on continuing to further enhance its capabilities for the supply of more products to the pipe pile, micropile, and helical pile industry. With an inventory of over 90,000 tons of ready to ship steel pipe across six national locations, John Lawrie Tubulars is ideally suited to meet the steel pipe piling requirements of construction and deep foundation markets. In-house services include beveling, plasma and saw cutting, splicing to length, inspection, as well as cleaning, blasting, profiling and adding endplates.

“It has been a pleasure working with SJPC in developing our new facility in Camden. As we continue to grow our business, we see our new Camden facility as a vital strategic location, not only to service the Northeast construction market but the Ohio Valley and Mid-Atlantic markets as well.  We look forward to a strong continued partnership with SJPC and will continue our capital investment in the Camden facility to make sure we can provide our clients with the highest quality products and service in the piling industry,” said Vic Sinclair, CEO, John Lawrie.


Grant award to help revitalize and expand rail facilities at Joseph A. Balzano Terminal

SJPC announced the approval of a $6 million Rail Freight Assistance Grant from the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) earlier this year\ to go towards improvements to facilitate and expand rail cargo transportation at the Joseph A. Balzano Marine Terminal in Camden by increasing the efficiency of load times and nearly tripling the capacity of moving rail cargo. 

The improvements provide an opportunity to expand the local economy as crucial products like steel, cocoa beans, wood, and project cargo will get to businesses and consumers in the region more easily while also providing job opportunities for residents.

“This grant is a big win for South Jersey residents and is aligned with our mission of expanding the economy in South Jersey and providing job opportunities by increasing cargo and maritime activity,” said Executive Director & CEO of SJPC, Andrew Saporito.  “We are grateful to NJDOT for recognizing the potential and providing the funding to increase our rail capacity at Balzano Marine Terminal.”

SJPC facilities play a significant role within the Delaware River complex – a transportation node with proximity to the federal shipping channel and three Class 1A railways. SJPC facilities are open to the Delaware River and the Atlantic Ocean and receive ships moving four million tons of breakbulk, bulk, and containerized cargo annually. 

“This improvement to the rail system will support and promote economic activity within New Jersey, as well as increasing the number of businesses served. It will also increase employment both directly on-site and indirectly through freight carriers associated with the port,” says Saporito.

The projects covered by the grant include expanding the port’s ability to facilitate rail cargo transportation by completely removing and replacing 7,200 feet of obsolete rail and installing three turnouts, as well as other efficiency adjustments, which allow cargo transportation access to the interior of the port. Because of the increase in efficiency of load times, it is estimated that allowing Conrail access to the inside of the port would nearly triple the capacity of rail cargo transportation.

SJPC is linked to the Port of Philadelphia – a designated strategic military port – through common waterways, economic contributions to the region, and a network of bridges, roads, rails, and waterfront attractions. The Balzano Marine Terminal, one of SJPC’s facilities, is a major gateway of commerce and trade to the Northeast US as well as the Delaware Valley Region. While the facility features both rail and highway connections, there are critical improvements needed for the infrastructure of the rail connections in particular.

“The rail lines at the terminal require repair and expansion as present conditions are inadequate to service the needs of the port,” said Richard A. Alaimo, Chairman of SJPC. “Three leading rail freight operators – CSX, Norfolk Southern, and Conrail – have rail connections that service this terminal. These carriers are no longer willing to enter the terminal because of these conditions and are relegated to track along the very fringes of the property. As a result, the infrastructure used to quickly and efficiently move cargo is compromised.” 

As the terminal is located within a Federal Opportunity Zone, the increased labor demand can provide opportunities for residents. Higher employment in this area will have a positive impact on the community and will help to drive local investment projects for other Opportunity Zone investors and increase indirect jobs associated with both the port and the community. Additionally, this project will increase throughput which will have a significant regional impact in that it creates an incentive to move more cargo through New Jersey.

Customer Spotlight: Camden International Commodities Terminals Cocoa imports soar at South Jersey Port amid the pandemic recession

The economy is changing and consumers are shopping differently. But while the pandemic is plunging the global economy into a recession, the South Jersey Port Corporation’s cocoa bean imports soared 15 to 20 percent as house-bound, virus-weary Americans comfort themselves with rich, delicious, soothing chocolate.  

“Chocolate is recession-proof and the future forecast for chocolate and cocoa imports look even more promising,” said Jeff Wheeler, Chief Operating Officer of Camden International Commodities Terminals (CICT), which imports its cocoa beans through the SJPC terminals, the bedrock of the Port of Philadelphia’s cocoa bean business.

U.S. imports of cocoa beans increased 6.7% through the first six months of 2020 when compared to the same period the previous year, according to WorldCity analysis of the latest U.S. Census Bureau data.

SJPC’s soaring cocoa bean imports contribute in large part to the total Philadelphia Ports increase which rose 13.9% to $502.8 million, solidifying the ports’ status as the nation’s top cocoa bean importer.  

The success of the SJPC’s cocoa bean business is the result of decades-long experience and expert handling of a sensitive cargo and a strong partnership with Camden International Commodities Terminals.

“The virus and the recession have turned up the stress levels and chocolate has always been a great, medication-free, inexpensive stress reliever,” Wheeler added. “But we’re looking beyond the pandemic to when the economy bounces back and we are planning for far greater growth and greater opportunities for CICT and SJPC.”

South Jersey Port Corporation is expanding to meet business needs and helping to grow New Jersey’s economy

Andy Saporito took the helm of the South Jersey Port Corporation (SJPC) last year and brought with him nearly 40 years of experience. He jumped right into ensuring the Port can serve business needs with top-notch facilities and creating a team that can execute the Port’s mission to attract cargo and maritime-related activity to foster economic development and create jobs. In his short time at SJPC, he’s surveyed the port’s facilities, equipment, and business model to ensure quality customer service for current tenants and customers. He’s also developed a clear vision to retain customers and develop a growth strategy that leverages relationships with stakeholders, the port’s team, and current and recently expanded facilities.

Expanding and improved capacity and facilities
The Paulsboro Marine Terminal (PMT) is key to South Jersey’s economy and growth at the port. PMT is the first new marine port on the Delaware River in the last 50 years. Since its opening in 2017, more than four million tons of imported steel slabs have moved through PMT, creating jobs and opportunities for the region. The second phase of construction of PMT is scheduled for completion in 2021. At full build-out, it will have three berths on the Delaware River and a barge berth on Mantua Creek. Currently, 45 acres are tenant occupied, with 140 acres of available space. The potential to develop that space is high with markets for wind energy farms expanding on the East Coast and the flexibility to service diverse cargo and other business needs.

SJPC is also prioritizing infrastructure needs across all of their terminals including Balzano and Broadway Marine Terminals in Camden and Salem Marine Terminal in Salem. The plans include rehabilitation of existing buildings and replacement of older buildings- incorporating modern facilities that can handle more cargo. The port is also looking at the use of solar energy to help attract new clients looking to boost sustainable practices in their operations.

Easy access and highway connections to the entire eastern seaboard of the United States is a major asset in attracting business to the port. This proximity to every major city in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states allows companies to move goods both quickly and economically. The port’s rail freight network also provides clients with the infrastructure they need to transport their products more efficiently. SJPC recently announced a $6 million grant to implement improvements to the rail system at the Joseph A. Balzano Marine Terminal to provide seamless dock to rail capacity. These improvements will expand the capability to easily move products like steel, cocoa beans, wood, and project cargo.

A team poised to gain new customers and service current ones
The employees at the port play a critical role in the everyday operations and success of the port. They are the stewards that drive customer satisfaction. SJPC’s team on the docks, in the warehouses, in the offices, and in transit sheds deliver 24/7, 365 days a year– in all sorts of weather– with a commitment to customers, tenants, and partners of the port.

“The SJPC has a long tradition of hard-working employees who go the extra mile for customers. Supporting our team and providing them with the tools they need is a critical part of our strategy,” said Saporito. “We’ve implemented several new hires earlier this year and a restructuring of internal operations to accomplish our goals.”

SJPC recently announced key additions to its executive team. Kevin Duffy is the new chief operating officer responsible for the overall management of the operations of the terminals, warehouse, vessels, and security. Duffy has 34 years of experience in marine terminal operations, having most recently worked at APM in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Brendan Dugan, newly-appointed director of business development, is a 40-year veteran of the maritime industry who has held senior-level positions with Ports America and the Port of Tacoma; he will head up efforts to add to the 4 million tons of cargo the port handles. Jonathan Atwood joined the team as chief of staff and external affairs, responsible for facilitating decisions of the executive team, implementing a centralized human resource function, and developing a more formal system of processes and procedures. Atwood was the chief of staff for New Jersey’s First Legislative District, where he managed three offices across two counties. Along with Executive Director & CEO Saporito and Chief Financial Officer Bruno Cellucci, SJPC has a team and organizational structure to continue to grow jobs and the economy of the region.

Businesses who have shipping or space needs can contact the port for a one-stop-shop of marine terminal services. Click here to learn how the SJPC advantage can help your business.

Update re: Phone System Outage – Service Restored Copy

***UPDATE 6/9/2020 All phone system service is restored, thank you for your patience***

The phone system outage is related to damaged fiber lines from the June 3rd storm.  Utility crews must finish clearing downed power lines before fiber restoration crews are permitted to access the site.  Please contact us via email or mobile phone in the interim. Click here for the staff directory. Thank you for your continued patience.