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Port logistics system flawed; future unclear

An Internet-based network that integrates sources of freight location and status for users of the Port of New York and New Jersey underwent an unsuccessful trial period, according to a report released by the Federal Highway Administration.

The system was dogged by unreliable and untimely data that ultimately led to users abandoning the troubled system, the report concludes.

The Freight Information Real-time System for Transport (FIRST) was a joint venture headed by the Port Authority designed to help port users with planning and logistics. Its goals were to reduce truck queues at terminal gates, reduce unnecessary trips by trucks to the port, reduce truck emissions, and streamline overall port operations.

Truckers using the site noted that the data is not timely, thorough, or accurate. Since its launch in 2001, use of the container-tracking feature dropped from more than 1,000 web hits per month to slightly more than 100 per month.

FIRST added—rather than reduced—the workload for port workers as they responded to inquiries resulting from data issues. Drivers had to refer to multiple sources to obtain information, and the system did not live up to its promise of becoming a "one-stop-shop for all port community members."

As of March 2003, only 1% of the known motor carriers in the Port of New York and New Jersey were registered with the system. Terminal operators and ocean carriers began starting their own web sites and saw little incentive for sharing their data with the system.

The future of the system remains in question as sources of additional funding are unsubstantiated.

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