American Shipper

Proposed Miami cement terminal questioned

Proposed Miami cement terminal questioned

A proposed cement terminal at the Port of Miami is being questioned by residents and competitors. Residents are opposed to the idea of a bulk terminal at what is historically a cruise and container port.

   The terminal will be located on the south side of the port ' away from the cruise terminals and the ports nearest residential neighbors ' and will consist of a low profile dome for storage rather than the traditional silo.

   The proposed cement terminal, which would provide a new revenue stream for the port at a time when security costs are reshaping the port budget, received tentative approval from the Miami-Dade County Commission earlier this year. But County Inspector General Chris Mazella has asked that the proposal be put on hold pending further review, according to a report in the Miami Herald. He was quoted as saying 'We want to know who they are and what's their history.'

   The terminal contract received tentative approval as a no-bid contract that had the approval of Port Director Charles Towsley, who told the Herald the port has the authority to negotiate and award contracts without going through the bidding process. Towsley said the practice is common in the ports industry.

   The cement terminal is being developed by Sermar USA, a two-year-old local company started by Sergio Martinez. He has been in the cement business for 25 years and has a fleet of trucks that carry cement from Florida ports to cement plants throughout South Florida, the report said.

   One big name in the cement industry, Rinker Materials, has questioned the way Sermar has received tentative approval for a no-bid contract. Australia-based Rinker is one of the top 10 building materials companies in the world and has cement operations at Port Everglades and the Port of Tampa, as well as at other locations in the U.S., Australia, and China.

   'We have been repeatedly told by (Miami) port staff that (bulk operations) is not where they are going,' George Williamson, director of business development at Rinker, told the Herald. 'If land is available, we would have liked to have known about it. We would like a shot.'

   The proposal lease contact with Sermar calls for the company to demolish an old port building at the terminal site and to relocate an access road. The company would pay the port about $1 per metric ton of cement moved. Sermar estimates it would move at least 300,000 tons annually.

   The port is looking for new sources of revenue. Security costs, which are only partially covered by state and federal funds, have increased dramatically and the port is looking at a potential deficit of $7 million to cover security costs. The port has proposed a fee on cruise passengers to help cover the potential deficit, but the cruise industry has been fighting that proposal.