Group picked for first new marine terminal in 50 years

Posted: October 18, 2010

A winning bidder has been selected to develop the Southport Marine Terminal, which could become a new commercial port-of-call on the eastern end of the Navy Yard, south of the Walt Whitman Bridge.

The group includes some of the biggest shipping interests in the world. The Southport project - years in the talking stages - crystalized with an improving economy and the start of Delaware River dredging to deepen the shipping channel for new commerce.

Details are being negotiated, with a Nov. 1 deadline for finalizing an agreement to build a port of two ship berths, and possibly more in the future.

Participants confirmed that the "provisionally selected" bidder was Delaware River Stevedores Inc., with operations at four locations in the ports of Philadelphia, Camden, and Wilmington, and Hyundai Merchant Marine Shipping Agency Inc., a steamship line based in Seoul, South Korea.

Southport would be the first new marine terminal in 50 years in Philadelphia, designed to bring jobs and millions of dollars in business to the waterfront.

The bid team also includes SSA Marine and Ports America Group, which are global marine terminal operators, and the joint owners of Delaware River Stevedores.

The design, timetable, and vision for Southport may not be known for a couple of weeks.

Representatives from the state, the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority, and the bidders have an all-day meeting scheduled Tuesday to discuss contract terms.

"It's probably a little premature" to discuss plans, said Jeff Sprawls, director of marine and terminal operations for Hyundai Merchant Marine in Irving, Texas. "We need to get through some more negotiations with the port before we can release that information."

Nov. 1 is the deadline for concluding negotiations, he said.

The other finalist for Southport was a partnership of Spanish-based contractor Obrascon Huarte Lain S.A.(OHL) and CH2M Hill, a global design and engineering firm. This bid group included Judlau Contracting Inc. and Jay Cashman Inc., for construction and financing of the project.

The state sought proposals for the terminal in May. Final bids were due Sept. 27.

Robert Palaima, president of Delaware River Stevedores, said he was hopeful Southport would become a reality.

"I think so, and hope so. But until it does happen, I don't want to say it's going to happen," Palaima said. "There are still a number of points the commonwealth has brought up, and we're going to discuss. Hopefully that will lead to some sort of agreement."

Rendell administration spokesman Gary Tuma confirmed the team would "proceed to the next phase, which is negotiations with the commonwealth on a contract agreement. There is the negotiation process still to go."

SSA Marine operates port terminals in Vietnam, Panama, Oakland and Long Beach, Calif., Charleston, S.C., Savannah, Ga., New Orleans, Houston, and Chile.

Ports America handles cargo in 80 terminals in 42 North American ports, including Newark, N.J., and Baltimore, according to its website.

Pennsylvania first sought bids for Southport in spring 2009, but tight credit and the rocky economy stalled the project.

Now, with an uptick in shipping business, and the Delaware River navigation channel deepening - from 40 feet to 45 feet - that began March 1, the project appears to have new life.

The city made more land available - 239 acres instead of an earlier proposed 181.

Gov. Rendell has pledged as much as $25 million in capital funds for environmental studies, permitting, land acquisition, utility analysis, and site preparation, including demolition of vacant housing.

Contact staff writer Linda Loyd at 215-854-2831 or

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