NEW BEDFORD – With just five months to go before South Terminal construction is complete, questions remain unanswered about who will operate the facility and what types of cargo it might receive.
Owned by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, the port facility is engineered specifically to support the staging of offshore wind farms. Developers such as Deepwater Wind and Cape Wind have already expressed interest in using the facility.
State and city officials have long said that South Terminal will handle other kinds of cargo in between offshore wind projects. But the state still doesn’t know how the various projects and products coming into the terminal will be coordinated.
“I think we haven’t worked that all out yet,” said Bill White, director of offshore wind at MassCEC.
“Part one is that this facility is built to support offshore wind,” he said. “Part two is that it could also entertain other economically valuable trade, but there is still some uncertainty of what that would be.”
In April, MassCEC solicited information from companies interested in operating South Terminal, asking the corporations how they would run the facilities. Five companies responded to the request: Maritime International of New Bedford, BLG Logistics of Germany, Waterson Terminal of Providence, Ports America of New Jersey and Logistec Corp. of Montreal.
White said the request was to “understand the market” and how to coordinate various types of cargo.
For example, one question that MassCEC has yet to answer is whether a port operator would oversee all cargo or just cargo that is not related to an offshore wind project.
“Whether the facility would be leased directly to an individual developer or if the developer would use the existing operator is still an open question,” White said. The Standard-Times requested comment on the issue from all five companies that showed interest in being South Terminal’s operator. BLG Logistics did not respond to the request. Ports America declined to comment.
Logistec, Vice President for Commercial Operations Frank Vannelli said that if his company operated South Terminal, he would prefer that Logistec coordinate all cargo, including offshore wind components.
“Any time you look at a port opportunity, besides the immediate project at hand, you want to look at what else could be handled in between,” he said. “A wind project could be sustainable for years and while they are putting the turbines in the ocean we would be looking for the next shipments to come in.”
Waterson Terminal’s Chris Waterson agreed. He said his company has coordinated onshore wind turbine shipments at the same time as shipments of other types of cargo, like salt, coal and cobblestone.
Pierre Bernier at Maritime International said that while his company is the only one interested in South Terminal that has no experience in shipping turbine components, “I don’t think it is a disadvantage.”
“We would cooperate in our capacity as operators with the general contractors assembling the components,” he said. He added that in addition to turbine components, he envisions South Terminal handling shipping containers.
MassCEC has not yet requested bids from operators interested in South Terminal. The agency is still reviewing responses to its request for interest and does not have a time line for when it would start the formal bidding process.
New Bedford Wind Energy Center Director Matthew Morrissey said that in Europe, port facilities that deal with offshore wind components simultaneously deal with other cargo too.
“Offshore wind components are a specialized kind of cargo,” he said. “The models we see in Europe are truly multidisciplinary where you have one operator with experience in all areas coordinating the flow of all shipments.”
Ultimately, Morrissey said decisions about South Terminal operations are up to the state and that the city “wants to ensure there’s enough economic benefit as possible.”
“We do believe there has been a really strong mix of interest,” he said. “It is a very strong indication that there will be increased economic development in the city through offshore wind and cargo.”
Operates in: ProvPort in Providence, Rhode Island
Types of cargo: Salt, coal, scrap, limestone, aggregate, cobble stone, calcium chloride, steel products, forest products, copper, wind turbines, cranes, power plant components, generators, yachts, automobiles
Annual weight: One to three million tons
Turbine experience: Handled wind turbine components (blades, tower sections, nacelles, hubs and related equipment) for turbines currently operating at Narraganset Bay commission as well as for three located in Southeastern Massachusetts. Also loaded several vessels with blade molds.
Operates in: 80 locations in 42 ports, including Boston
Types of cargo: Containers, break bulk, dry/liquid bulk, project, automobiles, cruise, military, inter-modal
Annual weight: Among all locations, 12 million containers, 9 million tons of general cargo, and 4.3 million vehicles
Turbine experience: Handling wind energy components like blades, hubs and towers at six of its ports for the past 10 years.
MARITIME TERMINAL Inc.
(division of Maritime International)
Operates in: New Bedford and Fall River for loading and unloading, also has cold storage facilities in Hartford Conn., Newark Del, and New Bedford.
Types of cargo: Break-bulk, project, containers
Annual weight: 25,000 to 40,000 tons loading and unloading, 125,000 tons warehousing
Turbine experience: None, but plans to work with wind developers to coordinate.
LOGISTEC USA INC
Operates in: 36 ports in North America including Portsmouth New Hampshire and New London Connecticut.
Types of cargo: automobiles, heavy machinery, foresting products, metals, steel, general cargo, wind turbine components.
Annual weight: In all ports 15 million tons plus 350,00 containers. In New London, 150,000 metric tons of general cargo.
Turbine experience: Handled 13 wind turbine projects in seven ports over the past five years. Company ports handled 759,000 cubic meters of turbine blades, towers, turbines and nacelles.
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