Two groups named by Pennsylvania to compete for the right to develop a proposed Southport Marine Terminal in South Philadelphia represent some of the world's biggest shipping interests.
The state is expected to pick a single bidder in October to build a port facility that officials hope will bring new jobs and millions of dollars in business to the Philadelphia waterfront.
"These companies that have expressed interest in Southport have solid track records in terminal development," Gov. Rendell said in naming the two bidders late Friday.
One group consists of the Delaware River Stevedores Inc. - which has operations at Tioga Marine Terminal in Philadelphia, Beckett Street and Broadway Terminals in Camden, and the Port of Wilmington - and Hyundai Merchant Marine America, a steamship line based in Seoul, Korea.
Delaware River Stevedores' parent companies are also part of this group. SSA Marine, a Carrix Inc. company, and Ports America Group are two of the largest port and terminal operators in the United States.
The second team, Southport Marine Terminal Development Partners, includes the Spanish-based contractor Obrascon Huarte Lain S.A. (OHL) and a global design and engineering firm, CH2M Hill.
OHL builds transportation infrastructure, including highways, railways, airports, and ports in Spain, Mexico, Central and South America, Europe, the Middle East, United States, and Canada. This bid group also includes Judlau Contracting Inc. and Jay Cashman Inc., representing construction and financing aspects of the project.
The state announced May 12 that it was seeking preliminary proposals for the terminal.
A third potential bidder - regionally based Holt Logistics Corp. joined by German shipper Hamburg Süd North America Inc. - expressed interest in Southport but offered no details of a plan or financing, said one official familiar with the proposals.
Final bids are due the first week of September. In early October, the Department of General Services plans to announce the preferred bidder.
The project will allow new opportunities for attracting cargoes and "thousands of family-sustaining jobs," said the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority's chairman, John Estey.
SSA Marine operates port terminals in Vietnam; Panama; Oakland and Long Beach, Calif.; Charleston, Va.; Savannah, Ga.; New Orleans; Houston; and Chile. Ports America handles cargo in 80 terminals, including Newark, N.J., and Baltimore, in 42 North American ports, according to its website.
Pennsylvania first sought bids in spring 2009, but tight credit and the rocky economy stalled the project.
Now, with an uptick in shipping business, and the deepening of the Delaware River channel from 40 to 45 feet, which began March 1, the project appears to have new life.
The city also has made more land available - 239 acres instead of an earlier proposed 181 - at the eastern end of the Navy Yard, south of the Walt Whitman Bridge.
Rendell has pledged as much as $25 million in capital funds for environmental studies, permitting, land acquisition, utility analysis, and site preparation, including demolition of vacant housing.
Robert Palaima, president of Delaware River Stevedores, said his group was "very pleased that we were selected," but he would not discuss its proposal in detail.
"We would develop Southport into a state-of-the art marine terminal, the first new marine terminal in 50 years in Philadelphia," Palaima said. "In terms of the actual details, and the phasing, the costs, and permitting, that's still up in the air. We have provided a multiplicity of approaches."
Jeff Sprawls, Hyundai Merchant Marine Shipping Agency's director of marine and terminal operations, declined Monday to discuss his group's plans. "We've signed a confidentiality agreement," he said.
In May, Sprawls said that a deeper Delaware River navigation channel was important to Hyundai's interest in bringing container ships here.
"I wouldn't even look at the terminal unless we had assurances that there was going to be deep water," Sprawls said then. "Our ships are just too deep to navigate the Delaware at its current depth."