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GT USA Wilmington invests in massive port expansion

WILMINGTON, DE — Phenomenal changes are taking place at the Port of Wilmington.

Since 1995, The Port of Wilmington was owned and operated by the state’s Diamond State Port Corporation.PoW-Operations

While this port has been very successful — ranking among other notables as North America’s top banana port — the facility needed millions of dollars of cash infusion to reach its full potential. For a small state that’s home to fewer than one million people, that’s a stiff bill.

After an extensive period of economic studies and bidding, on Oct. 3, 2018, the DSPC formally handed over operation of the Port of Wilmington to GT USA Wilmington LLC on a 50-year contract. GT USA is the US arm of Gulftainer, the world’s largest privately owned, independent ports and logistics company.

With the Gulftainer deal, Eric Casey became the chief executive officer of GT USA Wilmington at the Port of Wilmington.

He was previously the vice president of Virginia International Terminals Inc.

Wilmington will keep perishables as its key cargo, Casey said. With that, over $100 million is being invested to upgrade the port, including the addition of a 100,000 square-foot cold storage facility.

That is double the size of an original plan with the increase based on new input from customers signaling demand.

The big news from the port is the construction of an entirely new container port where in excess of $500 million is being invested. This site, named Edgemoor, is located two miles upstream of the base port location.

Edgemoor plan is to be finished by 2025, but Casey hopes the work will be complete sooner.

As in Wilmington, Edgemoor will feature a 150,000-square-foot refrigerated warehouse.

Groundwork in the Wilmington construction is underway this summer. Edgemoor has its own entry/exit ramps from Interstate 95, and the one-time location, once operated by DuPont, also has its own rail siding. Edgemoor will handle containerized refrigerated and dry cargo.

The Port of Wilmington is spending $42 million dollars to dredge a 45-foot channel to the Edgemoor pier from the main channel of the Delaware Bay. The length of the Delaware’s main channel has been dredged to 45-feet in recent years to make these seaports available to the world’s largest container ships.

This will also soon apply to the Edgemoor terminal.

Part of the Wilmington port upgrade was announced in March when an order for cargo handling equipment was placed with multiple companies, including the placement of “an initial order of 16 terminal tractors from Terberg Tractors Americas. The fuel-efficient, low-emission equipment will be introduced in a phased manner, with delivery of the first three units scheduled for mid-June, with the subsequent deliveries scheduled for August and October.”

A May press release indicated “We will continue to enhance operations through the introduction of this and other cargo handling equipment throughout 2019 as part of the $100 million-plus modernization and improvement program at the port.”

Casey said Wilmington will continue its containerized cargo as well as its strong fruit business from Chile, Argentina and Morocco.

Currently, Dole and Chiquita have separate container distribution sections within the port, but this is being reconfigured to have one entry point, with a great deal of additional container racking infrastructure to maximize land use.

Casey noted that of all the seaports on the Delaware River, Wilmington is for cargo ships eight hours closer to the Atlantic Ocean than port competitors upstream in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

“Time is money,” Casey said, and this is among the sales points Wilmington highlights as it offers services to new customers.

Among the strengths of new Gulftainer involvement in Wilmington is the firm’s long-established role in Middle Eastern ports. The global port operator has strong relationships with “all the major” carriers, including MSC, Maersk, CMA/CGM and COSCO.

“We will offer them a brand new port with the best equipment. We’re starting with a clean palate and with an attractive site, right on the river. We’ll have a refrigerated warehouse to support refrigerated containers and six Super Post Panamax cranes.”

Casey said Wilmington currently ranks as the United States’ 22nd-largest container port. “With Edgemoor, we will definitely move up. Imagine this, in a state with one million in population. That would have been a fantasy a year ago.”

Wilmington will not abandon its specialized reefer (palletized) cargo, Casey emphasized. “But as the business moves more and more to containerization, we will be ready to handle that.”

Gulftainer’s first venture into the U.S. came in 2014 with the signing of a 35-year agreement to operate Canaveral Cargo Terminal, a multi-purpose cargo and container terminal in Florida.