Delaware Looking for Partners to Expand Port of Wilmington

Delaware officials are pursuing a partnership with a private company or investment group to operate the publicly owned terminal and to expand the Port of Wilmington by constructing ship berths on the Delaware River that could cost as much as $500 million, reports.

The state owned and operated Wilmington port reportedly is the largest handler of imported perishable cargo, fruits and vegetables in the United States and as the largest banana port in North America, second only to Antwerp, Belgium, in volume of bananas in the world.

The port is now mostly accessible by docks on the Christina River. Expanding on the Delaware with container ship docks, cranes, and cargo facilities would open Wilmington to deeper-bottom vessels that cannot navigate the shallower Christina.

Delaware economic development office director Alan Levin told the state is seeking a long-term lease or partnership deal that would include development of a new, deepwater container terminal on the Delaware to attract ships that require 45 feet of water. The Delaware’s main navigation channel is presently being deepened by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from 40 feet to 45 feet between the Atlantic Ocean and Philadelphia.

“We are looking for individuals, an entity, that can help us get to the Delaware River,” said Levin, chairman of the Diamond State Port Corp. “The State of Delaware and the port do not have the funds to do that.”

“We have estimated the cost to build the berths that are necessary on the Delaware would be a half-billion dollars,” he added said. “Our hope is to have a partner that will not only maintain the port’s business, but grow it.

The state has received proposals from Kinder Morgan Inc., a publicly traded energy company based in Houston with operations at the Tioga Marine Terminal in Port Richmond and Fairless Hills, Bucks County. Another bidder is Delaware Terminal Operating Co., a new firm formed by the owners of Penn Warehousing and Distribution Inc., the stevedoring firm Murphy Marine Services, and Port Contractors Inc. in Wilmington.