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The Port of Boston

Economic Changes Affect Port ActivityThe Port today ---> Click to enlarge
During the 1960’s, containerization and environmental standards had a major effect on the port. Containerization was resisted by Boston stevedores, leading to the early dominance of New York Harbor as port for merchandise. The general cargo ships that would spend days in Boston discharging cargoes in bags and slings disappeared by the late 1970’s. By the time Boston embraced containerization, only a small fraction of the local trade was available to the port. The coal trade was substanitally replaced by petroleum products in the residential, commercial, and electric utility market and electric light replaced gas light. Boston area reserves of sand and gravel were depleted and substantially replaced by material from distant suburbs and New Hampshire, which was delivered by train and truck. The movement of garbage to Harbor Islands ceased as trash was incinerated and later delivered to local landfills. In addition, the closure of the Boston Navy Yard and the gradual decline of the activity at the Bethlehem Steel/General Dynamics Shipyard in Quincy also reduced tug demand.

The Port Today
Today approximately 20 large tugs and 20 smaller tugs serve the needs of Boston Harbor. In addition, the majority of petroleum products, cement, sewage treatment chlorine, and containers are delivered by coastal tugs and barges to the port. While the volume of ship traffic has decreased, the size of ships has increased, requiring larger more powerful tugs to safely guide ships to berth. Ship traffic today includes ships delivering petroleum products, containers, gypsum, salt, loading scrap, cement, automobiles, and cruise passengers. Barge traffic within the harbor includes building materials, petroleum products, cement, processed sewage sludge, and construction vehicles.