Investment appetite at TOC Americas 2020

Hugh Leatherman terminal. Phase 1 of the Hugh Leatherman terminal will be open in March 2021. Photo: Walter Lagarenne

Ports and terminal operators demonstrated an appetite for investment at TOC Americas 2020, despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the maritime sector.

During the Port Expansion, Infrastructure & Investment Forum webinar on 29 October, Port Everglades, Terminal Investments Limited, Georgia Ports Authority and South Carolina Ports Authority shared the key investment projects they are in the process of delivering to improve capacity, productivity and sustainability.

Port Everglades in Florida is the third largest cruise port globally and additionally operates across the cargo, real estate and energy sectors.

Jonathan Daniels, chief executive and port director at Port Everglades, said the most recent equipment order for the port is three US$41m low-profile super-post-Panamax container gantry cranes from Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries Co., Ltd. Inc. (ZPMC) in China, part of a package of six to expand the port’s handling capacity at Southport Turning Notch.

The US$471m Southport Turning Notch extension will add five additional berths to the port. Part of the work includes installing crane rail infrastructure for the new cranes, believed to be the largest low-profile container gantry cranes ever designed and built, and expected to be in service by the end of the year. The port has an option to purchase three additional cranes within five years.

The port’s Turning Notch extension is part of its updated Master/Vision Plan, which identifies 50 individual projects and US$3bn in capital investments until 2038.

Port Everglades is investing US$1.6bn as part of a phase one programme, the majority of this will be done within the first 5-10 years.


The port aims to ensure the Turning Notch project is as environmentally friendly as possible. It dredged out 15 acres of what was former landfill in the east of the port’s land and planted more than 50,000 mangroves. Dredging material has been repurposed for projects offsite.

An environmentally friendly bulkhead has also allowed water to flush through the project site and make sure the work isn’t allowing stagnant water to pool.

The overall project is expected to be completed in mid-2023.

Logistics centre

Port Everglades is also investing in a new international logistics centre, part of its new trade zone. Its checkpoint 4 was completed recently and allows more efficient movement of cargo.

The port has a strong involvement in the energy sector and the US$110m Slip 1 expansion project will enable larger tankers to dock and offload more cargo per ship at a faster rate. The expansion will enable Slip 1 to accommodate two Aframax vessels simultaneously, explained Mr Daniels.

To support its cruise operations, the port has built a US$120m parking garage to connect terminals two and four. It features solar panels built into the roof, touchless vehicle processing and an air-conditioned bridge with moving walkways to deliver guests to Terminal 2.

“We’ve taken advantage of the time, with the slowdown in cargo in cruise operations to escalate and move forward with these projects much quicker,” said Mr Daniels. “Even though we’re dealing with the pandemic we can’t stop improving our infrastructure, we can’t stop moving forward.”

Privatisation in Brazil

Terminal Investments Limited (TIL), the terminal arm of MSC group, operates globally and is involved in 53 terminals - 7 in Latin America and nine in North America. Patricio Junior, director of TIL, talked about Brazilian investment and privatisation to come.

Excess political influence is currently an issue for port operations in the country, he said. Most of the port authorities have politicians appointed to decision making roles. “It's always a mess,” he stressed.

Brazil needs free market practise, legal security and support, and enhancement of digitization mindset in logistic trade flow, alongside less bureaucracy and regulations, and a reduction in political turmoil and volatilities. “We can’t keep changing things just because we have a new government, or a new regulator etc,” Mr Junior said.

However, there is a plan to privatise most port authorities to support port infrastructure development and attract private investors.

Privatisation is currently being implemented at the Port of Santos, where TIL has a terminal. According to Mr Junior this means “lots of opportunities”.  Santos capacity is expected to increase 64% from 5.4m TEUs in 2020 to 8.7m TEUs by 2040.

“The only way to support shipping lines is to keep investing money in infrastructure. We’ll keep investing, COVID-19 won’t stop us,” he added.

Major Georgia projects

Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) is the largest port owner-operator port in the US, with deepwater ports in Savannah and Brunswick, together with inland terminals in Chatsworth, Bainbridge and Columbus.

Despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, due to record volume previously, GPA is just 0.9% down for the fiscal year, offering significant scope for investment.

GPA spends about US$200m of its own funds per annum on projects. Griff Lynch, executive director, said projects include deepening its river from 42ft to 47ft.

The first phase of its new mega rail facility with Petroleum has been opened. “When completed next year it will be able to handle 1m containers on rail alone,” Mr Lynch said. GPA currently handles around 4.5m TEUs across the port’s docks each year.

Designs and applications are currently being prepared for the approximately 200-acre Savannah Container Terminal to be built on Hutchinson Island. “It will have about a 3m TEU capacity,” when fully developed said Mr Lynch. Phase one is expected to be ready in 2025.

Hugh Leatherman terminal

South Carolina Ports Authority (SC Ports) and the state of South Carolina is investing in US$2.7bn in new capacity.

Paul McClintock, senior vice president at SC Ports, which owns and operates the Port of Charleston, Port of Georgetown, Inland Port Greer and Inland Port Dillon, said it is investing US$1.6bn, while the state is contributing US$1.1bn.

The Hugh Leatherman terminal is currently being built to help boost annual throughput and mega ship capacity at the Port of Charleston.

“We’re building the Hugh Leatherman terminal which is the only container terminal under construction in the US, and the first since 2009, said Mr McClintock.

Phase 1 will be open in March 2021 with an estimated cost of US$1bn. Phase two will be open in 2028, Phase 3 will be ready in 2033. When complete, the terminal will add 50% capacity to the port.

Charleston will be the deepest port on the US east coast by Q2 2022. The harbour will be able to handle vessels 24/7 with 52ft depth. This is a US$600m project, confirmed Mr McClintock.

A new dual served intermodal container transfer facility will be built close to the new container terminal. The US$350m investment will be capable of building 15,000ft trains and expanding rail beyond the southeast US. It will be served by barge from the Wando terminal. Intermodal Rail is up over 200%, some of that is being driven by inland ports, said Mr McClintock.


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