By Ken Mammarella
Special to Delaware Business Times
Delaware has reached a preliminary deal to lease the Port of Wilmington for 50 years to the world’s largest privately owned port operator.
The deal with the Gulftainer Group must be approved by the board of the Diamond State Port Corp. (which is voting Friday, April 6) and the state Legislature (it’s on the May 15 agenda for the Joint Committee on Capital Improvement ).
According to the preliminary agreement, Gulftainer’s subsidiary GT USA would:
- Pay royalties to the state, based on cargo volume, starting at about $6 million annually and reaching an estimated $13 million by 2027.
- Invest more than $580 million over the next nine years, including $410 million for a new container facility at the former DuPont Co. Edge Moor site, acquired by the Diamond State Port Corp. in 2016.
- Establish an Edge Moor training facility for jobs in the ports and logistics industries, with a goal of training 1,000 workers each year.
- Guarantee that the number of jobs held at the port by members of the International Longshoremen’s Association would not fall below current levels.
“We see enormous opportunity at the Port of Wilmington,” Gulftainer CEO Peter Richards said in a statement. “We want to restore the port as an important national cargo gateway, doubling cargoes, doubling revenue to the state, investing hundreds of millions of dollars and adding thousands of workers over the next decade.”
“The preliminary agreement we have on the table holds the promise of significant new investment at the port that will expand job opportunities for years to come,” Gov. John Carney said in a statement.
Gulftainer was established in 1976 and is based in the United Arab Emirates. It operates 15 ports and logistics facilities, in Brazil, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the U.S. In 2014, GT signed a 35-year lease for the Canaveral Cargo Terminal in Florida, its only American facility. The introduction of new container and containerized cargo services at Canaveral contributed to an increase in cargo volume of more than 150 percent in 2017, state officials said.
Wilmington’s port handles 6.8 million tons of cargo from 400 ships a year. It has North America’s largest on-dock cold storage complex and is the contintent’s largest banana port.