The board of harbor commissioners of the city of Wilmington, DE, opened the Port of Wilmington for commerce May 2, 1923. At the time of its 90th aniversary, the port of Wilmington's had grown from a 100-acre facility with three berths — 25-foot depth of water — and two storage sheds, to a world-class marine terminal encompassing 308 acres, offering 10 operating deep-water berths, over 1 million square feet of temperature-controlled and dry warehouse space, sophisticated cargo-handling equipment and an experienced and very capable workforce; all of which have created an impressive worldwide reputation for Delaware's port.
Imports have surpassed export cargo as manufacturing activity along the Delaware River and its hinterlands diminished. However, the port has adapted to this changed commerce paradigm and 90 years later it leads the nation in perishable cargo imports and is a top banana port for North America.
The port of Wilmington still fulfills its international supply chain responsibilities for many Delaware-based and regional companies, and the products they ship or receive, including tons of fresh fruit for local and regional retail markets.
The Port has been an economic engine for the state of Delaware and the surrounding region. In the intervening years its effects have grown considerably and it is now responsible for over 4,300 family sustaining regional jobs, $363 million in business revenue, $340 million in annual personal income and $34 million in annual regional tax revenue.
"Since its founding in 1923, the Port of Wilmington continues to generate tremendous employment opportunity and regional economic activity for Delaware," Gov. Jack Markell said in a press release. "Its strategic location, coupled with its meticulous operation as the 'Port of Personal Service' has served as a tool to attract new business to Delaware. The vast amount of imports and exports successfully travelling through the Port over the past 90 years will continue to lead to future business opportunities for our state."
The state of Delaware purchased the port from the city of Wilmington in 1995 and established the Diamond State Port Corp. to manage the Port. Since 1995, the state has invested over $187 million in port development and expansion, and it is estimated by independent economists that port activities have produced more than $403 million in local and regional tax revenue.