Foreign-made cars have to get here somehow, and straight to New Jersey from overseas isn't the automatic path for all of these vehicles.

But with the offer of financial incentives, and a seemingly-robotic process in place to handle everything moving in and out, the Port of New York and New Jersey is one of the top gateways in the country for vehicle imports and exports.

"In 2021, through November we handled over 425,000 automobiles," Mike Bozza, assistant director of commercial development for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, told New Jersey 101.5. "We are in the center of probably the largest consumer market in the world."

Terminals in Newark and Jersey City are the port's hubs for this around-the-clock activity. Vehicles come over on so-called ro-ro vessels (the cargo is rolled on and off, not shipped in containers), which are essentially floating parking decks.

"Some of then have up to 14 levels and they can carry over 8,500 cars," Bozza said.

The ports handle vehicles made by nearly all of the major players in the automobile business, from Ford and Nissan, to Maserati, Ferrari, and Polestar.

American cars being loaded onto the vessel Fernleaf at Port Newark's Berth 13 in March 1965. (Port Authority of New York and New Jersey)
American cars being loaded onto the vessel Fernleaf at Port Newark's Berth 13 in March 1965. (Port Authority of New York and New Jersey)
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According to a blog post by PANYNJ, the seaport's history with vehicles dates back more than six decades, beginning with Foreign Auto Preparation Service Inc.'s move to Port Newark.

Today, the port continuously ranks among the nation's top five pathways for vehicle exports and imports. Bozza said the port offers financial incentives to automakers that attract more volume to the Garden State.

Volkswagens being unloaded at Port Newark in 1963 (Port Authority of New York and New Jersey)
Volkswagens being unloaded at Port Newark in 1963 (Port Authority of New York and New Jersey)
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Once an incoming vessel is docked, a streamlined process unloads the vehicles into the auto processing facilities, where workers inspect the vehicles and make other adjustments before the vehicles are shipped to dealers throughout the country.

"Certainly a vast majority of the vehicles that come here stay in this market," Bozza said.

The terminals are also recipients of outgoing cars that make their way to New Jersey from spots such as Canada and the Midwest.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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