Starting in 2012, carmakers and ro-ro lines will have a direct link to vehicle distribution on the east side of the Hudson river for the first time. The South Brooklyn Marine Terminal (SBMT), in the Sunset Park industrial area of Brooklyn, will offer processing and technical services, managed by Axis Group.

The SBMT, a former container and later coco terminal that has been dormant since the 1980s, is in the final stages of redevelopment under the direction of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), a non-profit group that manages the city’s assets. According to NYCEDC’s Dan Zarrilli, senior vice president of asset management, the city has upgraded the terminal with an investment of nearly $60m in public money through a mixture of city, state and federal funding, plus additional private investment.

The redevelopment included a $13m extension of a rail line from the terminal to a “carfloat”, with wagons railed from the terminal to a nearby dock from which they are shipped by barge across the harbour to connect to the Class 1 rail network in New Jersey–a unique operation insofar as intermodal goes.

The terminal provides direct road and rail links to one of the country’s largest markets between the five boroughs, Long Island and Conneticut. By contrast, according to NYCEDC’s senior vice president of maritime Andrew Genn, cars imported at Newark for these markets must be moved through bridges and tunnels, with expensive tolls and heavy congestion.

Axis Group–the logistics service subsidiary of Allied, a large, union-based vehicle haulier–will manage operations and commercial activity at the terminal. Although there are no signed contracts yet, Axis Group president, Jorgé Lopez said that negotiations were underway. “Our scope is to get a ship in the first quarter of 2012,” he said. The terminal will compete with those on the New Jersey side that have traditionally handled the largest volume of new car traffic in the US.

But besides adding cost and lead-time, Genn said that the New Jersey terminals are more focused on containers than ro-ro. “Newark has closed parts of its auto terminal in recent years to develop space for container handling, which has been a trend on the New Jersey side,” said Genn. Lopez said that the terminal would also attract high-andheavy and other rolling cargo.

He even went so far as to suggest the possibility of establishing vehicle assembly in Brooklyn– not seen for at least a century–by using the processing area for knockdown-kit operations. “Such an operation would be ideal for a light truck manufacturer, as there is a 15% duty for such imports,” he said. “We believe this would be the perfect launchpad for a new manufacturer to the US from India or China, for example.”