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NEWS FLASH: Port of Philadelphia gains over $300m for upgrades

Container handling capacity will be drastically expanded at the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal, and the terminal’s marginal berths will be deepened to 45 feet.

   The Port of Philadelphia is receiving over $300 million for infrastructure, warehousing and equipment upgrades, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said Tuesday.
   Officials at the port anticipate work will begin early next year, thanks to the comprehensive capital investment program. Work on the upgrades will continue through 2020.
   At the same time, the port has suspended plans to develop a major new marine terminal at Southport in favor of expanding automobile processing at the site.
   Earlier this year, the port had issued a short list of developers to create three sites at Southport, but the Philadelphia Inquirer reported today that five of six groups on that short list dropped out of the process.
   Gerard Sweeney, chairman of the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority, told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “From our perspective, this program actually is a better result than Southport by far. It immediately creates a catalyst to reinvigorate our existing facilities, more than double container capacity, preserve an intermediate term solution for the automotive business – preserving all those jobs at a very good rate of return for the port and expands our ‘break bulk’ terminal in Tioga.”
   Improvements will drastically expand the port’s container capacity, position the port for future growth, generate thousands of jobs, improve efficiency and increase tax revenues, according to the press release issued by Gov. Wolf’s office.
   Approximately $200 million in funding will be invested in the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal, while the port’s automobile import/export facility will receive about $90 million and the Tioga Marine Terminal will receive $12 million.
   Investments at the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal will include four new electric post-Panamax container cranes, the relocation of warehouses to facilitate container growth, the construction of new warehouses, and expanding the depth of the terminal’s marginal berths to 45 feet. In addition, electrification throughout the terminal will be modernized to support the electrification of existing diesel cranes and cold ironing capabilities at the terminal.
   As a result of the upgrades, the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal will have a capacity of 900,000 TEUs, scalable to exceed 1.2 million TEUs in the future. The terminal currently has a capacity of 400,000 plus TEUs.
   Astro Holdings, Inc., the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal’s tenant, will purchase one of the post-Panamax container cranes for the terminal, and will dedicate privately-owned port acreage in the form of the Holt-owned 40-acre “Publicker” site, which is located next to the Packer Avenue facility, in order to boost container growth.
   Ocean carrier schedule and capacity database BlueWater Reporting shows the port is currently frequented by 12 liner services, nine that operate with fully cellular container ships, one that deploys multi-purpose ships, one that uses pure car/truck carriers, and one that operates with reefer vessels. Of the container services, MSC’s SAWC-USA-NWC deploys the largest vessels, which average 8,625 TEUs.
   The improvements at the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal will occur at about the same time as the Delaware Main Channel Deepening project, which will be deepened from 40 feet to 45 feet.
   Meanwhile, at the port’s automobile import/export facility, improvements will include the addition of 155 paved and fenced acres above the flood plain at the port’s Southport site; the conversion of the former seaplane hangar at Southport into a second auto-processing site; upgrades at the main auto-processing site at the Pier 98 Annex; and the establishment of a framework that offers flexibility for use of the land the port needs for containers and vehicles, as determined by market demands, according to the press release issued by Gov. Wolf’s office.
   At the Tioga Marine Terminal, improvements will be made on the main on-dock warehouse. In addition, a second warehouse will be converted into a food-grade warehouse. Other investments at the terminal will include improved rail access and the purchase of a second mobile harbor crane.