[caption id="attachment_216595" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Enstructure will soon take over operations at the Port of Wilmington after state officials terminated the concession agreement with Gulftainer. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS[/caption]
WILMINGTON – Less than five years after their arrival was heralded by state leaders, Gulftainer has been terminated as operator of the Port of Wilmington by its state management board.The Diamond State Port Corp. (DSPC), the state-created board that manages the affairs of the port that is owned by state taxpayers, has hired Massachusetts-based Enstructure to become the new port operator.The news was first reported by The News Journal.Gulftainer has yet to respond to a request for comment on the sudden termination of its deal in Wilmington.The downfall of the Gulftainer subsidiary in the First State, GT USA Wilmington, had become public over the last two years, as leadership was changed, payments to the state were missed, lawsuit losses piled on and state leaders apparently grew wary of the lack of progress at the major economic driver.GT USA Wilmington reportedly faced cash flow deficits, forcing it to obtain a $10 million infusion from shareholders, according to the News Journal. In the last year, the state has increasingly had to subsidize the health care costs of port workers and pay for construction permits, seemingly in violation of the terms of its agreement.In October, the company's lenders forced it to install corporate restructuring consultants, along with former Delaware Office of Management and Budget Director Mike Jackson, as its new board of directors – a sign that GT USA Wilmington's financiers were also concerned about the direction of the operation.The transition to Enstructure will occur in the weeks ahead as DSPC’s legal team works through the termination and finalization of a new agreement, according to a Delaware Department of State spokesman.
[caption id="attachment_231592" align="alignright" width="300"] Delaware Secretary of State Jeff Bullock, who also chairs the board that manages the port, said he is encouraged by Enstructure's hiring. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS[/caption]
“Having a long-term investment strategy for Wilmington and Edgemoor has always been the goal for the DSPC. We are very encouraged that Enstructure will meet that goal successfully,” Secretary of State Jeffrey Bullock, who also chairs the DSPC, said in a statement.In September 2018, state, port and company officials packed the Chase Center on the Riverfront to witness Gov. John Carney and Badr Jafar, chairman of Gulftainer’s executive board, signed a 50-year concession agreement that essentially leased the public port to the Emirati company for use. The deal aimed to get the state out of managing the day-to-day affairs of the port and drive job and investment growth at the economic development engine.On May 22, the DSPC met at the Buena Vista Conference Center in Bear and quietly dismissed Gulftainer while selecting Enstructure from other bidders to take over the port. The board has yet to publicly discuss the terms of the new concession agreement, but Delaware Business Times submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for the documents earlier this week.
[caption id="attachment_231633" align="alignleft" width="300"] Badr Jafar, chairman of Gulftainer’s Executive Board, shakes hands with Delaware Gov. John Carney at the ceremony marking the Port of Wilmington concession agreement signing on Sept. 18, 2018. | PHOTO COURTESY OF GULFTAINER[/caption]
On Friday, Carney told Delaware Business Times that he was “pleased and optimistic about the new partnership with Enstructure and the Port of Wilmington.”“The port is one of our state’s most important economic engines, and Enstructure has plans to build out the Edgemoor site and create even more good-paying union jobs. We look forward to working with them,” he added.Although they may be new to the public, Enstructure has had a presence in Wilmington for two years after acquiring Port Contractors, a stevedoring and bulk handling company that has worked on the Port of Wilmington for nearly 50 years. The former president of Port Contractors, Mike Evanko, now serves as president of mid-Atlantic operations and chief commercial officer for Enstructure.Founded in 2016, the Boston-based private company operates 21 terminals and a logistics infrastructure company across the eastern half of the United States, with large presences in New England, the mid-Atlantic, Florida and the Gulf Coast. It also has experience working with the shipping of offshore wind turbines, something that the Port of Wilmington has dabbled in.Enstructure co-CEOs Matthew Satnick and Philippe De Montigny said their company “fully recognizes the importance of the Port to the State of Delaware and the local community, as well as the pressing need for strategic investment to position Delaware for the future in the maritime industry. At the port, Enstructure will “look forward to quickly bringing our experience in national and local markets, best-in-class service, and comprehensive terminal and logistics solutions to this innovative public-private partnership,” the leaders added.
[caption id="attachment_222746" align="alignleft" width="300"] The Port of Wilmington continues to be the largest port of entry for bananas in North America. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS[/caption]
Wilmington is currently the No. 1 port for fresh fruit in the United States and the No. 1 port for bananas in all of North America, handling some 200,000 refrigerated 40-foot containers a year.Dole and Chiquita both unload ships at Wilmington once a week to deliver bananas, pineapples and other fruit to much of the East Coast. Wilmington also unloads pallet ships primarily bringing fresh fruit like Moroccan clementines, Chilean grapes, and a variety of fruit juices from South America.But aside from fruit, Wilmington also handles a variety of breakbulk products from rice to salt, petcoke to even pregnant dairy cattle. It also has three major auto carriers that deliver imports here, but it does more exporting for companies like Ford, Chrysler and General Motors, as well as military equipment. After the pandemic shook global supply chains, the port has also seen an influx of timber shipments.Outside the port, Enstructure is also already reportedly working closely with a global carrier regarding the development of Edgemoor as a best-in-class container terminal.“We will continue to work closely with DSPC and our potential partner to make this project a reality,” the CEOs said.The Edgemoor project, where Gulftainer had planned to invest $500 million to develop a new Port of Edgemoor from the 100-acre former DuPont and Chemours manufacturing site at 4600 Hay Road, is of particular importance to the state as it aims to be more competitive with upstream ports in Philadelphia and New Jersey.In September 2021, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control issued its approvals for the redevelopment of Edgemoor. Its permit authorizes the building of a 112-foot-wide-by-2,600-foot-long wharf, dredging of the berth and access channel to a depth of 45 feet, and installation of 3,200 feet of bulkhead along the shoreline.By dredging the Delaware River down to 45 feet, Edgemoor could serve ships carrying as many as 15,000 TEUs [twenty-foot equivalent unit containers] from Asia, Europe and South America with a total built-out capacity of 1.2 million TEUs.Progress on Edgemoor has slowed in recent years, however, and work has yet to break ground.