By Deputy Director Steve Coleman, Media Relations

Nearly 60 years ago, entrepreneurial businessman Malcom McLean developed and launched an innovative shipping concept when he transported cargo in steel containers for the first time from the Port of New York and New Jersey to Texas.

When McLean strapped 58 boxes to a converted World War II tanker named the Ideal X on April 26, 1956, he revolutionized the method in which everyday goods like clothing, furniture, food products and other necessities of life move around the globe.  What was crystal clear to McLean, even during the formative years of maritime shipping, was that not everything fits in a 40-foot steel shipping box.

Over the next decades, everything from circus animals to PATH cars, subway cars, helicopters, giant steel beams and yachts have passed through the East Coast’s largest seaport.  As far back as 1971, a traveling circus with 19 elephants crossed the Atlantic Ocean from Southampton, England to New York aboard the Atlantic Champagne.  The animals traveled by sea to their new employers in Miami, the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus.  Provisions on board the ship included: 600 gallons of water, 300 loaves of bread and 8 tons of hay.


More than 20 years later, Port Commerce Assistant Director Beth Rooney recalled her first encounter with unusual cargo. During those days, Rooney’s responsibilities were operations and leasing at the New Jersey Marine Terminals.  She watched in awe as several thousand pigs and sheep led by shepherds paraded down the gangway of a ship and onto waiting trucks.  “Having traveled to ports all over the world on commercial ships, it was something I had never seen before and haven’t seen since,” says Rooney.

In recent years, shipping line ACL/Grimaldi has transported 99 giant beams, some as long as 56 feet, from Luxembourg to the Port of New York and New Jersey for installation in One World Trade Center, including the signature first beam installed in the tallest tower in the Western Hemisphere.

Port tenant Harbor Freight Transport, a family-owned business started in 1947 and run by father-son team Steve Liberti and Stephen Liberti Jr., handles most unusual cargo these days, including shipments of NJ Transit subway cars, Airbus aircraft wings, Wall Street Bull replicas and even a giant Marilyn Monroe statue.  When asked to recall the most unusual shipment his company has handled in recent memory:  The elder Liberti didn’t hesitate –a cadaver on its way to a Caribbean medical school.


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