BOSTON – The Port of Boston is completing $26 million in upgrades aimed at making it a more hospitable and efficient place for cruise passengers and cargo shippers.

The upgrades boost the port’s ability to load and unload multiple cargo vessels and get passengers on and off cruise liners — such as the Boston-to-Bermuda ship that turned around Friday.

“We’re trying to ensure Boston remains competitive, because this is a very competitive business and the ships can go elsewhere if they can get a better deal,” said Tom Kinton, chief executive officer of the Massachusetts Port Authority.

Some of the work is already done. Fresh paint and flooring at the Black Falcon Cruise Terminal is completed, as is the unglamorous — but necessary — reinforcement of concrete footings used by the giant lifts at the Conley Container Terminal.

The rest will be finished by September, in time for the busy fall cruise season and in anticipation of a doubling in worldwide cargo shipping by 2020. A new passenger boarding lounge is planned for the third floor at Black Falcon, as are additional elevators and a people mover for those getting off cruise ships.

“Pixie-stick” lights will hang from the vaulted, exposed-beam ceiling, illuminating the floor of the new departure area. Three hundred seats will replace the folding metal chairs used now in makeshift waiting areas. And giant transom and wall windows will offer natural lighting and a look at the ships tied outside.

The Conley terminal is getting a new pair of harborside cranes, for six total, which will allow it to load and unload two full-size container vessels simultaneously. A cargo-tracking system will enable truckers to use the Internet to see if their container has cleared Customs and is ready to be dropped onto their trailer chassis.

Kinton said local companies rely on getting materials in Boston to keep shipping costs, and prices, lower. That has a ripple effect across the regional economy. Massport’s maritime operations employ 2,200 people directly, from longshoremen and supervisors to security forces and electricians, as well as 30,000 jobs indirectly.

The port has an estimated $450 million in annual economic impact.

Boston’s port has been busy since before the city’s founding in 1630. Today, Massport owns, operates and leases about 500 acres in Charlestown, East Boston and South Boston.

The most prominent locations are the Black Falcon terminal in South Boston and the Conley, located across an inlet, where airliners appear to skim past Conley’s cranes as they fly toward Logan International Airport.


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