American Shipper

Maher files complaint against NY/NJ Port Authority

   Maher Terminals has filed a complaint against the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey with the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission, claiming the agency gave a sweetheart deal to a competing terminal after it won the business of its largest customer.
   In October 2009, Mediterranean Shipping Co. transferred its business from Maher to the neighboring Port Newark Container Terminal (PNCT).
   Maher said the port authority knew that the transfer would harm Maher and that PNCT could not handle the MSC business unless its terminal was expanded.
   After MSC moved to PNCT, Maher said the port authority announced an agreement with PNCT to expand the terminal and extend its lease.
   It said the deal allowed MSC to take an ownership interest in PNCT and lowered PNCT’s lease rates.
   Maher complained the port authority “did not provide the same or comparable expansion opportunities, rate reductions, or other preferences to Maher” nor did it “provide for a reduction of Maher’s container volume, rent or other obligations under its lease.”
   Maher said more generally the port authority has “an unreasonable practice of providing unduly preferential treatment to ocean carriers and ocean-carrier-affiliated marine terminals that has and continues to unduly prejudice Maher.”
   It add the port authority continues to give an undue or unreasonable preference or advantage to not only PNCT but other container terminals operated by APM Terminals, New York Container Terminal and Global Marine Terminal.
   Maher also said the port authority required it, Port Newark Container Terminal and the New York Container Terminal to pay $237 million in order to obtain consent to transfer ownership. Maher was sold in 2007 to a unit of Deutsche Bank and now contends that practice was prejudicial because it unjustly overcharged Maher as compared to other marine terminal operators.
   Maher also complained that in 2010 when the port authority signed a lease with Global allowing it to expand its terminal in Bayonne onto an adjacent property it was “unreasonably excluded” as a prospective operator of a terminal there.
   That terminal is seen as particularly attractive because its location in the New York Bay means ships do not have to pass beneath the Bayonne Bridge, which currently prevents many large containerships from calling the port’s major container terminals, including Maher, in New Jersey and on Staten Island.
   The FMC said it has assigned the proceeding to its Office of Administrative Law Judges and a hearing may be held after “consideration has been given by the parties and the presiding officer to the use of alternative forms of dispute resolution.”
   The port authority had no comment on the complaint. — Chris Dupin