Virginia Port Authority, APM in discussions
APM Terminals and the Virginia Port Authority are continuing nine-month-old discussions about possible cooperation, but it is not clear that VPA would actually “take over” or lease some or all of the APM Terminal in Portsmouth, Va., as has been reported in Hampton Roads-area newspapers this week.
VPA, its operating arm Virginia International Terminals (VIT) and APM Terminals issued a statement Wednesday saying they have been “focused on the optimization of assets and ensuring the long-term success of the port, as well as its ability to support customer consolidations and reductions in volume. These talks have included a number of potential options such as volume consolidations, lease arrangements, operating agreements and other opportunities.”
Joe Harris, a spokesman for the port authority, said some press reports have been “presumptuous,” saying “there is no signed agreement of any sort” between the port and APM. “We had to go to the street with this because the rumor mill around here was getting a bit out of hand.”
Last December, the Federal Maritime Commission approved a discussion agreement between APM and VIT to talk about a wide range of topics and cooperate both at marine terminals and rail facilities that serve the port.
“We are looking for ways to optimize the assets here,” Harris said. “If you look at the industry there has been consolidation across the board at multiple levels. This is no different, we are looking for ways to work together. It could result in a lease, it could result in volume consolidation, some sort of operational arrangement.”
While it isn’t clear how volume consolidation would work exactly, Harris said some carriers, including CMA CGM and Evergreen, have cargo going to both VIT and APM terminals either through vessel sharing agreements or direct calls.
“The discussions proceed under the ‘anything is possible umbrella,’ ” Harris said.
The APM Terminal is considered to be one of the most technologically sophisticated facilities in the country, requiring fewer workers in the container yards than in other ports. It was built at a cost of about $500 million and has a capacity of 1 million TEUs.
It is not clear that VPA and VIT have an immediate need to add capacity. Cargo volumes are down at the Hampton Roads marine terminals where 555,708 containers were handled in the first seven months of the year, 20.1 percent less than the same 2008 period. The port handled 1.2 million containers in 2008, 1.7 percent fewer than in 2008.
The VPA and APM noted their discussions are separate from an ongoing review of proposals by three groups of investors who have proposed leasing the state’s marine terminals in Hampton Roads, Norfolk and Newport News as well as an inland facility in Front Royal. Those bids are being reviewed under the state's Public-Private Transportation Act, a process expected to take many months. The state is in the process of forming a panel to evaluate those offers. ' Chris Dupin