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American Shipper

GAO upholds military contract to Portus

The Government Accountability Office has denied a competitor’s protest that the U.S. Transportation Command improperly awarded a contract to operate a major military port.

   The Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Tuesday upheld a U.S. military contract to Portus Services LLC of Jacksonville, Fla., to operate the Army’s largest ammunition port, denying the protest of the incumbent terminal operator.
  
Marine Terminals Corp.-East (MTCE), headquartered in Garden City, Ga., had complained the Air Force’s U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) did not follow its own rules for issuing a five-year contract for stevedoring and related terminal services at Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point, located on the Cape Fear River, a few miles east of Wilmington, N.C.
   TRANSCOM received three bids and selected the one with the lowest price that met the technical requirements.
   Portus Services offered a final price of $13.7 million compared to MTCE’s price of $17.5 million for a base year, with four one-year option periods.
   The GAO, which rules on bid protest rulings for government contracts, said MTCE’s claims about the selection process were without merit.
   One part of MTCE’s protest involved whether Portus should have received the benefit of being considered a small business contractor, but the GAO said Portus would still have rated higher even without some technical discounting as a small business.
   The GAO also agreed with TRANSCOM that Portus Services appropriately relies on the resources of related corporate entities that share assets, back-office systems and processes to create greater efficiency.
   According to the GAO decision, the agency’s contracting officer last October determined that “Portus Services LLC has demonstrated adequate financial resources to perform the contract, or to obtain the resources to perform the contract, through its record of performance of similar requirements (stevedoring and related services) for Sea Star at JaxPort. Portus Services LLC has a five-year contract with an estimated value of $90 million.
   “According to Sea Star, Portus Services LLC has performed in an outstanding manner. Its employees are very proficient at operating all of the government vehicles including tanks, trucks, etc. and will go to great lengths to get the job done as safely and efficiently as possible. Portus Services LLC also has access to the financial resources of Portus Stevedoring LLC through the parent company, Portus Holdings LLC.”
   Sea Star Line operates a liner cargo service between Jacksonville, and Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, but its owners last year changed the name to TOTE Maritime to provide consistency with its ocean transportation service in the Alaska trade.
   MTCE also complained that TRANSCOM didn’t evaluate Portus’ ability to provide a qualified labor force, but the GAO said the solicitation did not require companies to identify their workforce in advance of the contract award and that even if Portus had done so, there is no indication that it would have changed MTCE’s bid.
   The Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point is the Army’s primary East Coast deep-water port.

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