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The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) set a new cargo record in 2014's first half and is on pace to hit a high-water mark for the full year.The port handled 1,583,449 containers in the period, up from 1,523,273 containers in the same 2013 period and 35,000 containers ahead of the first-half record set in 2012. The authority also reported a 4 percent gain in container traffic, a 5.4 percent increase in loaded imports and a 14.3 percent hike in empty containers compared with first-half 2013 figures.ExpressRail — PANYNJ's ship-to-rail system serving New York and New Jersey marine terminals — recorded a 5.1 percent increase in total lifts through the first half. More than 14 percent of total traffic currently is transported by rail, authority officials said in a press release. PANYNJ has spent more than $600 million on ExpressRail to address the need for increased on-dock rail services to maintain the port's competitiveness, improve efficiency and reduce emissions, they said.To spur future long-term improvements, the agency formed a Port Performance Task Force in December 2013 to explore ways to improve efficiency and service reliability. The task force recently released a report that includes 23 recommendations for reducing truck congestion and air emissions, improving customer service for truckers and other port stakeholders, and enhancing the flow of goods."Improving port infrastructure … and boosting productivity by implementing recommendations made by the Port Performance Task Force are critical to handling the growth in international cargo coming to the port," said PANYNJ Executive Director Pat Foye. "That's why we are investing more than $1 billion to ensure that our port maintains its competitiveness and drives job growth for the region."In response to the report, a new group of port stakeholders was formed – the Council on Port Performance – that will immediately began the planning process to implement the task force's recommendations, he said.