Port of Boston said to add $4.6b to economy

Bill Brett

Though many think of Boston’s seaport as a destination for dining, concerts, or even high-tech startups, it’s also a working port that leaders believe can grow in the years ahead.

Businesses operating there generated $1.2 billion in revenue in 2012, according to a report to be released Monday by the Massachusetts Port Authority. The report estimates that the port created $4.6 billion of overall economic value that year.

“We are trying to make the case in the broader community that this is an important part of our successful economy,” said Massport’s chief executive, Thomas P. Glynn, who commissioned the report. “Some cities have a postcard port. We have a postcard port and a working port.”


The report will help justify Massport’s efforts to attract more than $300 million in federal and state funding to dredge Boston Harbor, which would expand the port and allow bigger cargo ships to dock. Larger ships will make their way through a newly widened Panama Canal and up the East Coast by 2016, and they will require a deeper channel.

Last month, President Obama signed a law that included $216 million earmarked for the Boston Harbor project, which needs another $65 million in state money for the dredging. Massport will also fund $65 million of the costs with its own revenues, Glynn said.

Such a project would allow the port to double the number of containers it services and benefit industries in the area, such as Kraft Group, owner of the Patriots and International Forest Products LLC, a paper products business that is one of the port’s best customers.

Keeping the port viable for bigger ships is “very important to one of the most successful businesses in New England,” Glynn said.

Rob Shephard, a vice president at International Forest Products, said the company will be able to export bigger loads of pulp and recycled paper to China, one of its major overseas destinations. “It’ll be good for the recycling industry in Boston,” he said of the dredging.


With that in mind, Massport paid the consulting firm Martin Associates $50,000 to evaluate activity at the port in 2012. The firm found that revenues and employment had grown since it analyzed economic activity in the area in 2006.

Port revenues have increased modestly, by about $156 million, in the last seven years.

Employment grew from 4,927 workers to 7,091 over the same period, but about half the gain was attributed to Coast Guard employees who had not been counted in the earlier survey.

One of the areas of greatest growth was in the number of cruise ships that docked in Boston. The count for cruise passengers nearly doubled over the seven years to 380,000, from about 200,000.

Glynn said workers in the port’s domain include longshoremen, truckers, processing workers, and other blue collar employees who are typically paid good wages. He noted that the Boston-based financial giant Fidelity Investments employs fewer people in Massachusetts.

The report said that fish processors, such as North Coast Seafood and Slade Gordon, have increased their employment since 2005. Others companies, including Atlantic Capes, Channel Fish Processing, and SeaFreeze, have moved to the port area since the previous study.

Marine cargo jobs grew to 1,072 from 985 as the volume of containerized cargo rose by 300,000 tons.

Auto import and export job numbers remained flat.


Megan Woolhouse
can be reached at megan.woolhouse@globe.com.