Maryland asks for Seagirt bids
The Maryland Port Administration (MPA) on Wednesday issued a request for qualifications from private parties interested in leasing and operating the Port of Baltimore's Seagirt Marine Terminal.
The port is seeking a private partner willing and able to commit to a long-term investment that will meet the agency's objectives of a new 50-foot berth as well as increased waterborne container volumes at Seagirt.
“As ships get larger, it is critical that the Port of Baltimore have a 50-foot berth by 2014 when the completed expansion of the Panama Canal will bring more cargo and larger vessels from Asia to the U.S. East Coast,' said James J. White, the agency’s executive director. 'We feel strongly that, at this time, having a private partner contribute significant capital investment is the best option for us to go forward.'
The MPA has employed Public Financial Management of Orlando, Fla., to assist it with identifying potential private partners. It said it is seeking interested parties with good qualifications, including experience in marine terminal management, financial resources, and the ability to build the 50-foot berth.
Baltimore’s big rival to the south, Hampton Roads, is also exploring terminal privatization.
In March, CenterPoint Properties, the big Chicago-based warehouse company, made an unsolicited proposal to take over the Virginia Port Authority's three marine facilities Hampton Roads for 60 years, with the right to develop a fourth terminal at Craney Island, and operate the VPA’s inland terminal in Front Royal.
CenterPoint’s proposal was submitted under Virginia’s Public Private Transportation Act, and the state has since thrown open the process to invite competing bids from other companies.
In Baltimore, the MPA said that under a public-private partnership, it would lease the 200-acre Seagirt Marine Terminal, which opened in 1990, exclusively to a private entity. That private partner would invest in a new berth, cranes, and other infrastructure at Seagirt, and provide a revenue stream to the MPA. The MPA would continue to own Seagirt.
Ports America currently operates Seagirt. The company’s President Stephen Edwards told American Shipper, “We absolutely intend to be a bidder or a qualified party for the Seagirt process.”
The private partner would be required to meet a minimum annual cargo guarantee and would also pay the MPA for existing terminal and waterside improvements to Seagirt. In exchange, the MPA would grant the private partner a long-term lease to operate Seagirt exclusively during the full term of the lease. The private partner would be awarded the portfolio of business under contract to the MPA-Maryland International Terminals.
Statements of qualifications will be due to the MPA next month. The MPA will review the qualifications and develop a short list of potential bidders that best fits the ultimate goals for this project. The MPA expects to make a final recommendation to the Maryland Port Commission and Board of Public Works by the end of 2009. ' Chris Dupin