The federal government has awarded $50 million to construct a container yard at the Port of Wilmington.
It’s the latest investment announcement for the port, which has gone through multiple operators in the last decade.
The container yard will feature all-electric operations, a truck gate complex, terminal buildings, a 100,000-square-foot warehouse and inspection platform.
The port was built by Wilmington and opened in 1923. It was turned over to the state in 1995. In 2016, the Diamond State Port Corp., a corporate entity of the state that owns the port, bought the adjacent Chemours Edge Moor site for expansion.
“A 2016 strategic plan concluded it had to spend $300 million in the next 20 years ‘just to keep pace with current customers and natural growth,’ ” Delaware Business Times reported in 2018.
So, with much fanfare, the state announced a deal for Gulftainer, the world’s largest privately owned port operator, to run the port. Gulftainer signed a 50-year lease and planned to invest more than $580 million on improvements and expansion, Delaware Business Times reported.
By 2020, when Out & About looked at Gulftainer’s plans, the investment figure had grown to $670 million.
“Under the terms of the original concession agreement, GT USA Wilmington was required to spend $250 million to advance the Edgemoor project by the end of 2020,” Delaware Business Times reported this summer.
Things did not turn out as predicted.
GTA USA Wilmington, the Gulftainer subsidiary that was running the port, “suffered continuous losses, … defended itself against a string of lawsuits, … dealt with turnover in nearly all executive positions” and missed at least $3 million in lease payments, DelawareOnline reported in 2022.
Enstructure, a Massachusetts company that owns and operates 21 marine terminals, took over in July.
Enstructure’s 55-year lease calls for an annual concession that’s less than the $3 million that Gulftainer didn’t pay, but it’s indexed to rise with to inflation or port revenues, Delaware Business Times reported.
“Included in the estimated funding commitments is $65 million in upgrades at the Port of Wilmington over the next five years, depending on operational growth.”
Enstructure was asked for comment on how the federal funding will affect its plans.
The state was asked how much it has invested in the port since that strategic plan.
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