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Road salt co. buys Claymont port for $17M

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Oceanport marine terminal in Claymont was recently acquired by the Eastern Salt Co. of Massachusetts. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

CLAYMONT – A large Massachusetts road salt distributor has acquired the state’s only private port on the Delaware River near the Pennsylvania border for $17 million, according to county land records.

Eastern Salt Company, a family-owned and operated company headquartered north of Boston, acquired the Oceanport marine terminal off U.S. Route 13 just south of Marcus Hook, Pa., in a Dec. 22 sale. The company did not respond to a request for comment on the sale or what its future plans for the property may be.

Brothers Leo, Dave and Dan Mahoney, of Lowell, Mass., founded Eastern Minerals in 1954, growing it to become one of the largest suppliers of road salt in the northeastern United States. Known today as Eastern Salt Company, Leo’s daughter Shelagh Mahoney serves as president and CEO.

The Mahoney family has reportedly built out a network of salt suppliers around the world, reviving a collapsed salt mine in Northern Ireland, acquiring mineral rights in a northern Chilean desert, and signing contracts in Australia, Mexico, Canada, and Egypt as well.

“We serve communities, government agencies and authorities, public and private institutions, and private contractors up and down the eastern seaboard of the United States,” the company writes on its website. “We are committed to satisfying customer requirements by providing a quality product in a timely manner, especially during the winter months when on-time delivery of road salt is crucial to keeping the regional transportation system safe and efficient.”

Prior to the sale, the Claymont port had been owned by Evergreen Property Holdings, a New Hampshire-based limited liability company connected to the Mahoney family and led by Colleen Mahoney, a cousin to Eastern Salt’s CEO Shelagh, according to county records. The sale between the siblings’ varied companies represents quite a windfall, as the port was acquired for just $635,000 in 1996.

Oceanport Industries has long operated this private breakbulk port on the Delaware River, importing road salt, cement and other minerals. | MAP COURTESY OF GOOGLE

The roughly 47-acre property is the only bulk product transfer facility in Delaware other than the Port of Wilmington and dates back to the early 20th century. It was owned and operated by Texaco as a storage facility for tanker ships docked on the Delaware River from 1922 to 1986. 

It was then operated by Oceanport Industries, a subsidiary of New Hampshire-based Granite State Minerals which was founded by Dan Mahoney. Oceanport has imported road salt, cement and other minerals for more than a decade to the Claymont area. 

The port, which includes a nearly 750-foot-long long pier, lies in a coastal zone, which would make new construction at the site more difficult. One two projects have been approved by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control in coastal zones in the last two years. Last year, Oceanport demolished a century-old warehouse on the property that had fallen into disrepair, according to county records.

Eastern Salt has been expanding its reach in recent months though. Last year, it was selected by the Massachusetts Port Authority to develop about 10 acres in south Boston into a multi-use bulk terminal. The company already has an existing salt operation on Chelsea Creek just to the north of the Boston site.

Much like the Claymont site, the Boston site is an aging jetty that has fallen into disrepair. Massport expects Eastern Salt to “make a substantial capital investment in bulkhead and apron repairs as well as some maintenance dredging.”

Although its intentions here are unknown, a similar investment in Claymont could attract additional shipments of bulk products. About 7.5 miles downstream, the Port of Wilmington, owned by Emirati shipping giant Gulftainer, also handles so-called breakbulk shipments, but it is investing heavily in the expansion of cargo container shipments. A planned $500 million expansion in Edgemoor will more than double its container capacity within the next decade.

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