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American Shipper

Cape Fear terminal plans put on hold

Cape Fear terminal plans put on hold

   The North Carolina State Ports Authority said Wednesday it is placing on hold plans to build a new, deep-draft container terminal 19 miles downstream from the existing Port of Wilmington.

   In a statement the authority said it “has heard and respects the concerns voiced by local communities and our elected officials and is placing the proposed North Carolina International Terminal (NCIT) project on hold.”

   “Together, in concert with residents and elected officials, the N.C. State Ports Authority will examine how to keep North Carolina's ports competitive and continue its mission to enhance the economy of the entire state,” the agency added. But it added that it believes “access to a deepwater port is important to keeping North Carolina globally competitive. We will examine all options beyond the NCIT.”

   In late 2005, the state paid $30 million for 600 acres of industrial property on the Cape Fear River, just 3.5 miles from the Atlantic Coast and 14 miles from the sea buoy and adjacent to Sunny Point Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point, the nation's largest ammunition shipping point on the East Coast.

   As envisioned the terminal would have been able to handle six to eight times as much traffic as Wilmington, but the state was confident there would be demand for the new facility.

   But the project has been opposed by local residents, which formed a group called No Port Southport N.C. Inc., and expressed concern about the project. Among the issues they raised were the size of the project and damage to the environment.

   While port officials believe the new port could help grow the state’s economy by giving the region’s businesses access to the large new containerships expected to call the East Coast with the expansion of the Panama Canal, the group complained the new port could “aggravate a serious trade deficit with Asia, and to cause further loss of jobs and manufacturing capability in both North Carolina and the nation.”

   In June Rep Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., also announced Thursday he is opposed to the building of the proposed NCIT in Brunswick County.

   He citied concerns that:

   ' The terminal was near both the Progress Energy Brunswick Nuclear Power Plant and the Military Ocean Terminal at Sunny Point, “facilities that pose a tempting target of terrorist attack.”

   ' The port would require a massive expansion of roads and rails posing “questions of safety on the roads and economic damage to property values.”

   ' Potential environmental impacts and the impact on the quality of life of the people of Brunswick County.

   ' The cost of the project which he said would cost “several billion for the actual construction,” adding the question of how it would be funded had not been answered. ' Chris Dupin