The Boston Harbor Association’s Working Port Priority

The Boston Harbor Association is committed to preserving and promoting Boston Harbor as a Working Port. In the last five years, as Boston’s waterfront has become more inviting to the public, efforts have intensified to utilize land once dedicated solely to maritime uses for non-water dependent uses. Escalating real estate values continue to threaten the displacement of small businesses and maritime users from the waterfront in favor of non-water dependent residential, commercial and office uses. The Boston Harbor Association’s Board of Trustees has made the promotion and protection of the Working Port and Designated Port Areas in Boston a top priority.

Thanks to a $25,000 grant from the Managers of the Boston Port & Seamen’s Aid Society, The Boston Harbor Association is the leading advocate, together with the Society and the Massachusetts Port Authority, in promotion of Boston’s Working Port. As part of the initial effort, The Boston Harbor Association is working on the development of a coalition of maritime industrial and related users to promote the Working Port.

In June 2003, TBHA released its comprehensive Designated Port Area (DPA) study, entitled Inside the Working Port: A Study of Boston’s Designated Port Areas. This report is intended to provide a framework for discussions about current and future waterfront development. It also indicates the importance of marine industry to the Greater Boston region and highlights the necessity of further incentives to promotion of the Working Port. For a free copy of the DPA report, please contact The Boston Harbor Association at 617-482-1722.

Boston Harbor’s Working Port

Designated Port Areas were first created in 1978 by the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management to encourage and promote maritime industrial interests. These unique waterfront locations boast characteristics such as deep-water access, established land transportation links, and a significant public utilities infrastructure. Four of the state’s eleven Designated Port Areas are found within Boston’s Working Port in Chelsea, East Boston, South Boston, and along the Mystic River.

Long the focus of New England’s trade and economy, Boston’s Working Port generates $8 billion in economic impact and provides 9,000 jobs annually. Current industries in the Port of Boston includes energy facilities, fish processing, automobile imports, cruise ship terminals, boat building, ship repair, and tugboat operations. Many of these industries have tremendous tradition and economic importance for Boston and the surrounding region. Massport’s Fish Pier in South Boston, the oldest continuously working fish pier in the country, is currently fully occupied, with twenty fish processors, admiralty law firms, seafood brokers, and a popular seafood restaurant. Between twelve and fifteen fishing boats dock at the Pier daily. The Fish Auction, held at 6:30 a.m. on days when fishing boats unload their catch, often sets fish prices for the New England area. More than 23 million pounds of fish are processed annually at the Fish Pier, of which 8 million arrive by fishing vessels which dock at the Pier.

Did you know that in 2002… 

  • More than 830 ships brought more than 17 million tons of cargo to the Port of Boston? 
  • Over 75,000 automobiles came by ship to the Port of Boston for the region?
  • More than 93 cruise ships and 200,000 passengers passed through the Black Falcon Cruise Terminal in South Boston? 
  • Boston was served by direct weekly outbound and inbound cargo service to Asia.
  • Top New England imports included beer & ale, wine, footwear, furniture, paper, plastic products, and fish. 
  • Top New England exports included scrap metal, waste paper, lumber, metal ware, medical equipment, and grocery products.

Chelsea Creek

Chelsea Creek is a critical component of Boston’s Working Port. The relatively small, 2.6-miles of waterfront is the entryway for nearly 70% of the fuel oil coming through Boston Harbor. The area provides storage for 100% of the jet fuel used at Boston’s Logan International Airport and is also the gateway for the road salt used by more nearly 200 communities in Massachusetts and the state-owned roadways. To accommodate these maritime-dependent industrial uses, much of the Chelsea Creek waterfront is in a Designated Port Area (DPA).

Beginning in 2001, The Boston Harbor Association helped to bring public attention to the maritime industrial uses along Chelsea Creek. At a Working Port Forum in 2001 and through free Chelsea Creek Cruises for the general public during the past two years, TBHA has successfully brought together diverse stakeholders to examine the complex issues surrounding the current and future uses of Chelsea Creek in order to create a balanced approach to planning processes. These stakeholders include harbor users, industry, citizens, environmentalists, community activists, developers and policy makers.

During Summer 2003, The Boston Harbor Association organized two free public boat cruises of Chelsea Creek and the Lower Mystic River. Over 225 attendees received unique waterside perspectives on these two waterways, highlighting maritime industrial uses and Boston’s newest Urban Wild. Guest speakers included representatives from maritime industry, energy, and open space and community organizations. To learn more similar opportunities in the future, please call TBHA at (617) 482-1722.

In addition to this public education effort, The Boston Harbor Association’s three-year old partnership with Eastern Salt Company, Inc., provided the only free trips for young people to leave from the Chelsea waterfront and travel directly to the Harbor Islands. Once on the water, participants learn about activities in Boston’s Port, basics of map use and navigation, and water quality issues. Chelsea Boys and Girls Club and the Chelsea YMCA participated in this year’s program.

The Chelsea Creek Action Group (CCAG), together with the Neighborhood of Affordable Housing and the Chelsea Green Space and Recreation Committee, has recently concluded a yearlong Visioning Process to discuss the future of Chelsea Creek. Community goals included requests for substantial open space additions and improved waterfront public access opportunities. Concerns included environmental conditions at current waterfront sites, increased local traffic, and the need for affordable housing. Additional information is available from the Chelsea Green Space and Recreational Committee at (617) 889-6080 or the Neighborhood of Affordable Housing at (617) 569-0059.