Pennsylvania governor backs Southport project

With a new leadership team in place, Governor Wolf hopes to see new capital investment strategies for the port facilities developed by summer 2016.

Describing it as one of his “main goals” for the Port of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf presented a strategic plan for the Southport Terminal, a 194-acre site the regional port authority is looking to redevelop having issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) at the end of September.

“I am committed to ensuring the commonwealth is a strong partner with the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority [PRPA] so that this resource remains competitive on a global scale,” Wolf said, announcing his strategic plan for the marine terminal.

PRPA, which is charged with managing, maintaining, marketing and promoting publicly owned port facilities along the Delaware River in Philadelphia, as well as strategic planning in the port district, is looking to enter a public-private partnership (PPP; P3) agreement to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the Southport Marine Terminal Complex. The deadline for responses to its RFQ is November 18.

During his announcement, Wolf introduced seven new board members to the Philadelphia Port Authority, including new chairman Gerard Sweeney, who is president and chief executive of Brandywine Realty Trust; Yassmin Gramian, senior VP of HNTB; Robert Clark, associate at Ballard Spahr; Michael Pearson, president of Union Packaging; John Dougherty, business manager of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98; Paul McNichol, partner at McNichol, Bryrne & Matlawski; and John Skoutelas, VP and general counsel for the Eastern Group, Waste Management.

The governor also plans to create an advisory committee of stakeholders to provide input on the future port, including representatives of industry, labour, and local and state government. He has ordered the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) to conduct a study to determine the best uses and economic feasibility of port development. The agency will work with the PRPA board to evaluate the existing asset and develop a Port Strategic Business Plan to maximise utilisation and employment potential. The plan is meant to complement the Southport terminal procurement process.

The strategic plan is divided into three phases, the first of which includes asset assessment that is already under way. The second phase calls for defining a vision and direction for the future port, which is expected to begin this winter. The third phase, which will begin either in the spring or summer, involves development of capital investment strategies.

Wolf also committed to a timeline including a 2016 request for proposals (RFP) issuance with a goal of enabling market-driven development of the terminal in 2017.

Located on the Delaware River, the Port of Philadelphia is the fourth-largest US port for handling of imported goods, and along with Pennsylvania's other two ports in Pittsburgh and Erie, the state port system is located within 500 miles of 60 percent of US and Canadian populations.

During the first half of 2015, facilities managed by the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority (PRPA) handled more than 3 million metric tons of cargo, up nearly 9 percent from the same period last year, and breakbulk cargoes – or, non-containerised cargoes including Cocoa beans, fruit, steel, forest products and liquid bulk – were up more than 28 percent year-over-year. The port has seen double-digit growth in all of the last five completed calendar years.